Celebrating Life

Each culture, each nation, and even each family, has its own traditions. They appear in many aspects of our lives: from food to wedding celebrations and all the other celebrations throughout the year. We also have traditions when it comes to death and grieve: for example, we write an obituary, we gather together or we organise a funeral followed by a get-together... Let’s travel a bit, at least virtually, and cross the Channel to Ireland. There, we might be invited to a quite surprising “Irish Wake”. An Irish Wake is actually a mix of a wake and a “party” thrown after the passing of a loved one: friends and family gather together to eat and drink, to dance and sing and, more importantly, to remember the life of the deceased and share memories. In short, it is a genuine celebration of life, to ensure a “good passing away”! Even if we should not abandon all our traditions  - and while everyone copes with grief differently -, below are some ideas to celebrate a loved one’s life and to swap sadness with laughter.  

Celebrations of life are really a thing?

Indeed! Besides Ireland, it is mostly Anglo-Saxon countries, such as Canada or the United States, that helped popularise such events. The aim is to shed a new light on grief: to get away from more traditional funerals that may feel cold and impersonal to favour a more joyful event in honour of the loved one. Of course, a celebration of life does not automatically translate into “a huge party with 200 guests inside a tent” and may also be organised with a smaller group. Furthermore, depending on everyone’s wishes, needs or availability, this celebration of life may either be organised a few days or several months after the passing (some may choose, for example, to organise it on the following “birthday” of the deceased, to help them cope). 


How to organise a celebration of life?

As always, everyone is free to organise this celebration according to his wishes.At home, in a park, in a formal or informal way, with a small or a bigger group: there are numerous possibilities. Below, you will find a list of ideas, from the simplest to the craziest ones, to honour the life and the soul of a loved one. 


Some "traditional" ideas

Nothing revolutionary here, as some of those ideas are already being used during more traditional funerals, but it is still worth thinking about them:

  • To play the deceased’s favourite songs;
  • To prepare his/her favourite drinks and dishes;
  • To create a video tribute with pictures displaying important moments from the loved one’s life;
  • To have the relatives make a speech, remembering their best moments with the deceased;
  • To have the relatives write down memories in a notebook;
  • To choose flowers related to the deceased: his/her favourite ones or flowers that represent the colours of his/her alma mater or favourite sports team;
  • To ask the guests to donate money to a charity that was of importance to the loved one;
  • To suggest that the relatives plant a memorial tree;
  • To ask the guests to dress up in a specific colour or to wear a specific piece of clothing... 


Thinking big

Some may also opt for far crazier ideas (remember that celebrations of life are particularly popular in the US):

  • To lift a sky lantern (that may be decorated) in honour of the deceased;
  • To design a tattoo that reminds you of the loved one and then go to the tattoo parlour together (with friends and/or family);
  • To release boats into a river;
  • To put his name among the stars;
  • To turn his ashes into a firework...


Do what you actually like

As said earlier, everyone has his own traditions. And, per se, a tradition is meant to repeat itself and to last. Sometimes, however, traditions may also leave some room for new concepts. While some Anglo-Saxon countries had decided to revive an old Irish tradition to cast a new light on death and grief, above all, it is important that you organise something that speaks to you and that helps you better cope with grief, adopting some of those ideas or not (there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to organising an end-of-life ceremony)! And that you keep celebrating life, no matter what.