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Fear of Funerals

Fear of Funerals

An interview with Sally Cant – founder of The Celebrants Training College

Sally Cant has a passion for funerals. That might sound a bit dark, morbid even – considering the longevity of her career as wedding celebrant. Celebrating the brightest, happiest days of a person's life is quite a contrast to stepping up to becoming a funeral celebrant. But it's one of the best decisions Sally has ever made.

When people ask Sally how she could possibly "enjoy" working as a funeral celebrant. She answers: 'It wasn't always like that. When I first started as a wedding celebrant, nearly twenty-three years ago, I never gave any thought to funerals. They were the furthermost thing from my mind. Funerals are sad, and I'm emotional. Why would anyone want to put themselves front and centre of a funeral?'

Sally recalls a comment from her mentor back then – a person she considers to be one of Australia's best funeral celebrants. 'She told me the real test of me being a celebrant would only come once I was involved in funerals. I laughed at her. In some weird, egotistical way I was annoyed. How dare she?'

Initially, Sally chose to ignore her mentor's comment, happy in the knowledge that she could be a great celebrant without ever considering funerals. But it turned out Sally's mentor knew her well, and a seed was planted.

Only one year into her career as a marriage celebrant, a close friend of Sally's suffered a series of strokes. His health declined to the point where he knew his life was compromised. Sally was stunned when he asked if she would conduct his funeral. 'It's extremely difficult to deny a dying person a wish,' says Sally, 'but I seriously couldn't see myself being able to agree to his request.' What Sally did agree to was scribing her friend's life, resulting in her closely sharing his last months of life. 'I learned so much about him I never knew. I felt extremely honoured to be in this moment with him, and although at times it was difficult, it was rewarding on so many levels.'

'When the inevitable happened, his family were really hopeful I would step up and take on the role of funeral celebrant.' Sally describes how sad and emotional she was, and although she had no idea how she would manage, she agreed to step up to the plate and conduct the funeral. It was a daunting experience for her: 'I knew many of the people at the funeral would know me personally and professionally, and would have high expectations. Yet I had no understanding of protocol or anything to do with funerals.' Fortunately, Sally was able to draw on the experience of two professional celebrants who gave her assistance over the phone. 'Which I'm eternally grateful for.'

For the first thirty seconds of the funeral, Sally says she didn't cope: 'My voice wavered and my knees shook. I was sure I could hear my knees knocking!' Sally says she's not a religious person but she swears her dead friend was standing beside her, holding her arm for the entire funeral – a very long and detailed affair with nine speakers in all.

Today, Sally says the influence of that first ceremony will stay with her forever. Although, working as a funeral celebrant is the most difficult role she's undertaken (other than being a parent), it's also been the most fulfilling. 'It's hard to put into words how rewarding it can be to assist a family in their most difficult of times,' she says.

What advice does Sally have for celebrants considering moving into funerals? 'Do the course. Then decide. You might surprise yourself.' Sally has met many celebrants who have completed the Independent Funeral Celebrants Course, then found themselves, perhaps two or three years down the track, asked to conduct a funeral. 'It might only be then that they decide the time is right, and they just need a simple refresher over the phone, or a coffee chat, to feel confident enough to take the role on. Our college is always there to assist a graduate should they need help.'

Sally is confident that once a celebrant gets the courage to assist a family with the planning of a funeral, then goes on to conduct the service, the results will be amazing. The feedback she's received from every graduate who has conducted funerals after completing the Independent Funeral Celebrants Course has been the same: 'It will change your life.'

'I know that feeling,' says Sally. 'It's the same feeling I have every time I'm asked to assist a family. It will challenge every part of you, and it will be the most rewarding experience you will ever have.'

What Makes The Celebrants Training College Differe...
Face-to-Face Training arrives in New Zealand
 

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Wednesday, 23 January 2019

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