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October 19, 2018 Beyond The Dash

Celebrating Life at the Time of Death

Bringing death positivity into bereavement rituals

Celebrating Life at the Time of Death
Sharing food, company and special memories is a meaningful way to honor life, even if the pain of grief is fresh. (Shutterstock)

Ancient traditions inform many aspects of modern life. When it comes to celebratory milestones, like weddings, most families feel empowered to celebrate in their own way, even if that means taking a less conventional approach. 

Mourning rituals are usually not elaborately planned or eagerly anticipated, leaving many families unsure about incorporating modern ideas into memorialization. However, modern mourners are slowly (but surely) bringing bereavement rituals into the 21st century with the Celebration of Life. 

A different approach to bereavement

A Celebration of Life is a memorial service that focuses the attention of mourners on the special life that was lived, rather than the events and aftermath of the death. Though dwelling on circumstances surrounding a death is a common grief reaction, the memorial is a time to reflect on the deceased person's character and achievements, rather than the manner in which they met their demise. 

It's important to share memories with family, friends and guests at a memorial service. This will likely be the last chance mourners will have to speak openly about the deceased person with others who knew them well. 

A Celebration of Life can be as formal as a full memorial service or memorial, or it can be a casual gathering with the deceased's closest loved ones. (Shutterstock)

Celebrating life means considering more than just a loved one's birth and death date. When you look at the life of your loved one, the stuff that made up the time in between these two dates is what was truly special and inspirational. If you're looking for a way to celebrate the life of your loved one, consider writing their story on Beyond the Dash. Our digital memorials are free, and last forever. 

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Some old-fashioned folks find the idea of celebrating life at the time of death to be disrespectful. In part, this is due to the misconception that a Celebration of Life is about celebrating the death that has occurred. This is certainly not the case!

The death positivity movement advocates for greater openness about death-related matters. Knowing that death is inevitable, this movement believes that some deaths are 'good,' such as in cases where the dying person had good pain management, clearly laid out their wishes in a will, and had a good life. If this is the case, and the person who has passed lived to a ripe old age, why should mourners resist a natural death? Even if the death came early, or happened under other tragic circumstances, it can still be a time to focus on the person's life. 

Every death is painful, but those who are death positive believe that grief doesn't have to be about dwelling on ourselves. Paying tribute to a wonderful life while positively expressing sadness is a healthier way of coping. Those who choose to celebrate life are no less bereaved than those who mourn more traditionally. 


Celebrations of Life are criticized for having the potential to gloss over the horror of grief. Though it's wonderful to frame a loved one's memorial in a positive light that enhances their accomplishments, it's also important to remember that a funeral is a chance for mourners to express sorrow and openly grieve. 

There is no use in trying to stifle grief at a funeral, or any other place. A Celebration of Life pays tribute to a lost loved one as best as is possible under tragic circumstances. But it's still a funeral, and should be sensitive to the needs of the bereaved. 

Honoring the dead

Though a Celebration of Life is a meaningful way to pay tribute to the dead, this is not the case for all families. Ultimately, the memorial service should be a reflection of the deceased person's passions, character and wishes. There is no harm in looking back on your loved one's life with love and respect, even if your heart is broken from losing them. 

Your loved one had a remarkable life. Tell their story, and we’ll publish it online for free.

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