We are delighted to bring you this Guest Blog by Poppy Walker, The Children’s Celebrant, who talks about the privilege of supporting families following the death of a baby or child.
My name is Poppy, and I work as a celebrant under the name “The Children’s Celebrant”. Because that is what I do – create amazing ceremonies for babies and children to mark the most important milestones in life. I love babies and children, and it is the biggest honour to be part of a family’s life through their biggest moments – welcoming babies at naming ceremonies, creating new families at weddings, and walking beside them as they say goodbye at funerals. I believe that every child deserves to be celebrated, and every family supported, and it is the ethos behind everything I do.
What does a Children’s Celebrant do?
There are two sides to my funeral work, both of which I believe are important and rarely talked about in society today. One side of my work is creating funerals to honour babies, children and young people who have died, as well as baby loss memorials for babies who sadly died early in pregnancy.
The other side is working with families where there are bereaved children or grandchildren to create personal and inspiring funerals; remembering and honouring their loved one, while creating a safe space for the whole family to grieve and say goodbye.
Every child deserves to be celebrated…
Working with parents who have lost children is always a humbling experience. Every child is unique, and every family has been on such a huge journey to this moment of having to say goodbye. The amount of love that needs to go into a baby or child’s funeral is immense. Because no parent should be having to say goodbye, it is against the natural order of things.
It is my job as a celebrant to work with the families to create a safe space to say goodbye that is unique, personal, and most importantly, brimming with love. The way I do this is by creating a celebration of life that wholly reflects the little life we are celebrating, that captures their young spirit and brings it into the space, that communicates the sheer joy and love that child brought into the world, that celebrates them and the incredible impact their lives have had on their family, their friends and the world. From referencing favourite books and TV shows, to bringing to life memories and sharing the light that your child has given to the world, together we can create a ceremony that honours your child in every way possible.
…and every family supported
When a loved one dies, everyone grieves. It is a common misconception that children don’t grieve – the fact is they just grieve in a very different way to adults. It is such a privilege to help children and their families through what is probably one of the toughest moments of their lives.
The funeral may only be a small part in the process of grief, but it is the last goodbye before life “returns to normal”. Where everyone, children and adults included, have to return to school or work, and their focus switches from the intense grief and funeral planning of early days of grief, to learning to live with their grief as their life moves on without their loved one. I believe that creating a truly personal celebration of life, and a safe space to grieve and say goodbye, can be a major help and support to the whole family as they navigate the next stage of their grief journey.
Some parents want the children to be present at the funeral of their loved one, and personally, I think it is beneficial for both the children and their families for even the littlest relatives to attend. Because although it can feel scary and new and very sad, it also gives permission for children to grieve, be a part of the collective grief, and have their moment to say goodbye. Even if they are a baby or toddler and won’t remember the moment, by being present you can tell them that they were there, that they were surrounded by love, and that they had the chance to say goodbye.
But sometimes it is inappropriate or impossible to have children at the funeral. That’s where a dedicated children’s ceremony is a great way to make sure that even the youngest members of the family have a safe space to grieve, share their memories and say goodbye. This could be a stand alone ceremony, or it could be done alongside another part of the journey, such as at the ashes scattering or interment, or on a special date such as a birthday.
Children of all ages respond really well to being included in a funeral ceremony. Whether that is through displaying crafts and drawings to their loved one on and around the coffin, having their memories and anecdotes told as part of the eulogy or tributes, or (for the older and more tech savvy) being able to produce a video or photo tribute. This contribution to the ceremony provides an outlet for their love and their emotions, which they may be struggling to understand and process.
I offer a range of services to help families with grieving and bereaved children, from additional meetings with the children of the family to listen to their memories and stories, through to craft and letter writing sessions, all of which are bespoke and tailored to the families’ needs. And throughout the ceremony creation process, I am also there for the bereaved adults, to be there to support them through what is such a devastating time, grieving yourself while watching your children or grandchildren grieving too.
For more information on what I do, please feel free to visit my website www.thechildrenscelebrant.co.uk or find me on Instagram @thechildrenscelebrant. And any questions, please do reach out; I would love to hear from you.