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Discovering the sacred

My personal reflections after taking my first funeral.
November 29, 2023

There is something special about the first time one steps out into a new experience. As a leadership trainer and coach and seasoned public speaker, I am aware that growth always occur in the "stretch zone" that slightly challenging place just outside our comfort zone.

Leading my first funeral however expanded my stretch zone and shrank my comfort zone considerably.

I trained to be a celebrant because I am convinced that significant life transitions have the potential to be life defining in important ways. How these life transitions are marked has a huge effect on how we move forward in our lives and how we integrate our experiences in ways that lead to personal growth even transformation. My first funeral was special in many ways but perhaps one in particular. It made me realise afresh how sacred the whole of life is, including death.

What do I mean?

Being invited into a place of intense grief due to the loss of a loved one is in itself a sacred experience. we spend much of our lives defending our hearts and our lives from the "intrusion' of strangers. We have developed well honed strategies to keep ourselves safe. Mostly our strategies serve us well, occasionally they hinder us (especially when used with our significant other). But when planning a funeral with a celebrant we find ourselves in a surreal space in which we, at our most vulnerable and raw invite a total stranger into the sacred space of our heart and crack open our pain. And that is sacred.

I am grateful that my own grief and pain has created a pathway to connection with others in this space. I am unafraid to hold this space while a loved one is remembered. I can share in the loss of another without becoming lost myself. I can listen with true empathy and compassion. And that is sacred.

Taking the funeral service of a young woman was a challenge. Holding two ever present realities of the specialness of a life lived and the absolute tragedy of a life lost too soon. And yet, even here, my own experiences have laid the foundation of being able to surf the waves of emotional turmoil and maintain my own equilibrium. In this new and unexplored space I found myself at peace in the chaos and able to extend that peace in the funeral service. And that is sacred.

As I reflect on my experience of this first funeral I am overwhelmed with gratitude. There can be no greater privilege than being invited beyond the defences of another into the back stage of their life experience. There can be no greater joy than giving vocal expression to the uniqueness and specialness of another's life in eulogy. There can be no greater honour than being trusted to hold a space while others confront and adjust to a personal pain that I can find no words for. And that is sacred.

I will never tire of this work. I will always treasure life in its beginning and its end. I will always be in awe of the capacity of the human spirit to reflect the divine. And that is also sacred.

If you’d like a no obligation conversation about how I can help with your ceremony, please get in touch and I’d be delighted to arrange a virtual meeting to discuss your needs.
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Kairos celebrancy, leadership and coaching - About Tania WestKairos white logo
We all have “defining moments” in our lives and I am passionate about helping you mine the gold in them.

Make the most of your “defining moments” whether that’s a celebration around a significant rite of passage, a new relationship, a significant crossroads in your marriage, or a leadership opportunity that requires you to up your game.

Tania West, co-founder and working director of Kairos.
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