For well over 100 years, funeral homes have been the place we go to honor our loved ones with faith, family, friends, and community.  In North America, the practice moved away from home funerals to funeral homes, after the American Civil War. And for these many years, funeral homes and funeral directors have served their communities social and faith-based values.  

A New Landscape

Over the last 20 years, a new social landscape has emerged.  Families and communities are demanding more options in the face of high funeral industry costs, spiritual & religious upheaval and sustainability concerns.  People more and more have been searching for affordable funeral options that are meaningful and authentic.

The People Drive Change

Various grassroots movements drove this change.  There are some people even advocating for the return to the home funeral.  The baby boomers were the generation that drove the desire to customize all things. There are now several options for how we memorialize our loved ones and how we lay to rest their remains or ashes.

The term Celebration of Life has come to encapsulate much of the antithesis of the sober, traditional practices.  While some of us are still learning about this new ritual, a common question remains: What are the differences?

The Funeral Home Consideration

In the funeral home, the first obvious difference is that it’s an inflexible location.  People have reported they feel funeral homes can be cold, impersonal, unreflective and sometimes out of date.  Many funeral homes were built a very long time ago and the smaller room sizes don’t always facilitate or encourage larger gatherings for receptions to share memories and eulogies.   Even with some new and large renovated facilities, there is something of a somber tone.  As it should be, many people are raw in their grief in the early days of loss.  There are many seeing their loved ones in their casket for the first time. I believe the traditional nature of the funeral industry is that it extends to all elements.

Funeral Homes Can Be Restrictive

The funeral home staff may be unaware of how to deliver a creative, custom experience.  Funeral directors take on a lot in their education and it does not include creative, custom-designed events.  The at-times cookie-cutter options extend to various elements such as traditional funeral flowers, clergy and a lack of stylish decor to reflect your loved one in the reception room, and on their memory tables.  The ability to customize quality menus and refreshments for receptions and Celebrations of Life is a challenge for some.  The latest technology and environmentally sustainable options may not be available. 

I worked in funeral homes for more than half of my life. The people there are doing difficult and admirable work.  There are still many people whose social and faith values are well represented in the funeral home setting and those people should and will continue to choose that option.

Others are looking for something else.

The Celebration of Life Difference

A Celebration of Life can be held almost anywhere.  In your home, cottage, golf course and right here in Toronto, at one of the hundreds of beautiful venues.  An art gallery, historic site, a stunning modern event space, or even a favorite restaurant. The chance to choose from such a variety sets the atmosphere to reflect the deceased in a very personal way.

A Personalized Experience

It can be tailored to the number of guests, location, available parking, accessible, on the water, etc.  The family gets to set the tone with custom menus, video tributes, flowers, inspiring memory tables, colors and decor.  They decide if there is a service or not.  They decide if the venue matches their sustainability options.  A specialized memorial director can handle all the details both practically and creatively with compassion.  The use of the latest technology will provide convenience to families in all the planning stages.

I am heartened to see the movement of people who have reclaimed what is a meaningful and authentic memorial to them.

Families should explore their options in this new landscape and choose what is best for them, their unique loved one and their grieving process

As with many things, the term funeral, memorial, or celebration of life can be just a feeling unique to us as individuals or a frame of mind.  You can have a Celebration of Life at a funeral home and it simply means your family is focusing on the most positive and joyous aspects of the person who died.  And a Celebration of Life can be held anywhere, called a Memorial and maintain a quiet and dignified tone.

I’m pleased to share more information with anyone in loss who needs some help, support, or direction with their Celebration of Life.

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