How to Plan a Celebration of Life If No Instructions Were Given

By: Myles O'Riordan
Thursday, February 4, 2016

For centuries, a funeral was the end. Once the casket is underground, the story ends, and life goes on for everyone else. In modern times, however, people are beginning to realize that grief is a complicated process, and many people don’t want their loved one's life to end with shoveling dirt onto a casket. With a Celebration of Life, you celebrate the life your loved one led, rather than remember their end.

But what do you do if the deceased left no instructions?

What Would they Want?

As someone who knew the deceased, whether you were a spouse, child, friend or family member, you need to sit down and think about what they would want to do, if they could. Would it be a feast at their favorite restaurant? A small gathering of family and friends to play softball? Don’t just do something that you want to do, make it special, even if it just an evening of watching home movies.

Drawing up a Guest List

When you’re deciding on who to invite, remember to think of friends as well as family members. Friends of the deceased will have their own stories and memories to share, and you shouldn’t deny them the opportunity. Of course, it goes both ways. People often behave differently with friends than they would with family, and they may have an entirely different perspective than you do.

When you’re creating your guest list, you should take the nature of the event into account. A quiet evening going through photo albums will be a much smaller get-together than a trip to watch the local team play.

Stress Management

No matter what you’re organizing, or how much help you have, any kind of event organization is going to be stressful. Throw in the storm of emotions that come with a death or the anniversary of a death, and you have a recipe for disaster. Start delegating responsibilities to people you can trust. Don’t try to do everything, even if it is just a small family get-together. Assign cooking or cleaning duties to someone else, or get someone to take care of contacting the guests and making sure they can be there.

Above all else, remember why you’re holding this celebration. It’s to commemorate a loved one who is no longer with you. This is a time for sharing memories, not stress and frustration. What matters is sharing your joy, whatever kind of celebration you plan on holding.


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