The Greater the Love the Deeper the Grief

As a celebrant I also have the profound privilege to conducting funerals and memorial ceremonies.  This is a beautiful piece on grief by Julie Yarbrough.


The most fundamental truth of grief is this: we grieve because we love. Love and grief are inextricably linked. If we did not love, our hearts would not be broken by death. The greater our love, the deeper and more profound our grief.

Grief is the most equal-opportunity experience in all of life. It is the great leveler of emotions, place, and time. For at some age, at some time, everyone will know the sorrow and pain of grief. Grief is indifferent to our race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We’re not emotionally insulated from grief because of where we live, how educated we are, or how much money we have or don’t have. Grief doesn’t care whether we’re dressed in a business suit, a blue uniform, a hoodie, a tee shirt or a clergy robe.

The love of grief is passionate — we cherish and memorialize the one lost to us in death. We remember, and will never forget. The love of grief is compassionate — it reaches out, reconciles, restores and builds up. This love is why we endure the suffering of loss and persevere in hope. Despite every evidence to the contrary, love never fails.

When the reality of senseless violence and tragedy overwhelm our individual and collective hearts, grief leaves us reeling, especially as we struggle with the “why?” We want to make sense of it all, yet there are no real answers. What we experience instead is grief, the intuitive response of our mind, our body and our spirit to the death of one we love. And often we find within the love of our grief the best response to life’s worst tragedies. Without fully understanding the “why,” we seek some redemptive value, so that death will not have been in vain. We harness our grief-born love first to change our own heart, then slowly the world. And if not the whole world all at once, we start where we are to influence for good, trusting that our small ripple of love shared with others will one day become an exponential sea change.

If we scrutinize the faces of survivors, friends, colleagues, and loved ones photographed at their moment of most intense grief, we see clearly the inestimable shock and sorrow of personal, individual grief. When we read beyond the headlines, we’re reminded that each life has its own unique story and that the lives of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people — neighbors, school friends, church communities — are unalterably affected by the untimely death of one they know and love.

We are forever changed by death. Our experience of grief may leave us disillusioned, fearful, and hate-filled. Or grief may leave us convinced of the goodness of life with a greater capacity for love despite the certainty that evil is present in the world.

In the face of intentional violence and death, those of us who are helpless bystanders are forced to stretch, to think and feel beyond ourselves. And so we join hands and hearts with reverence for life and spiritual respect for the mystery of death to grieve in unison each individual soul — the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands and all other relationships of spirit and bond that connect us to one another as divinely created human beings.

Julie Yarbrough is the author of Beyond the Broken Heart, a grief ministry program, Grief Light, and other grief resources. Website: 

“We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses
of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”
Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Have You Thought About What You Want For Your Funeral?

Funerals are as individual as you are.  Each of us have a story to tell.

As such a funeral should be carefully crafted to reflect the person who has died.

I am well known for telling my friends and family what I want for my funeral  – I’ve even told them what I want for my tomb stone.

“I told you I was sick”.

As a mother and step mother to six incredible kids, mother is the last on the list when she is sick.  I’ve often told them they would step over me in the kitchen if I passed out, the main concern being: “What is for dinner”.

I’ve planned it all, I want a big red curtain on the stage like in the theatre.  I’ve even picked out my songs.  “Days like this”  by Van Morrison,

“When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this”.

And  Harrry Connick Jnr version of  “Good By Joe”:  “Goodbye Joe me gotta go me oh my oh”.

OOHHHH and I want lots and lots of flowers.  LOTS

Why am I telling you this?

Well I’m really concerned that as a Western culture we don’t embrace death.  In fact we do everything we can to avoid it.  If we don’t discuss these things, chat about them with each other then how will we ever know?

Do you want to be buried or cremated?

If you want to be cremated where do you want your ashes scattered?

I have a friend who since her mother has died has taken on the task to travel to as many countries as she can.  In each place she scatters a bit of her mother.  Her mother never got to travel.  She figures better late than never.

My husband insisted as he was dying of cancer that he wanted to be cremated.  In fact for as long as we had been married he had wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered over the Murray River.  Then weeks before he died he insisted that he wanted to be buried?  He changed his mind.  So we buried him.

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My mother is 86, she has led a very creative and colourful life.  Her great grand children call her ‘super gran’.  When she dies she wants me to assemble the grandchildren and great grandchildren and have them paint her coffin???

She has joked about handing out ‘tasers’ to everyone at the funeral and the last person standing is the one who inherits her house. lol..

We have joked about putting pop corn in the casket and as it is filed into the crematorium – going out with a bang… or pop pop pop.

Is this making you uncomfortable?  It shouldn’t.

These are all examples of how our death should reflect how we have lived.

We all respond differently when death comes into our lives and we will inevitably have different needs in terms of the ways in which we honour the deceased and our grief.

Ritual and ceremony at the time of death can be rich with meaning, healing and inspiration.

Whether the ceremony is a funeral or farewell service, a celebration of life, a memorial or a wake, it is a powerful and often painful rite of passage that signifies a farewell, a time of letting go and the beginning of a new relationship with the person who has gone.

The ceremony is about creating a safe space where the individuals life can be honoured and affirmed.  It is important to acknowledge the person’s beliefs, and values, their stories and personality, the essence that made the unique, giving space for the expressions of all that was felt for the person who has died.

It is also an important part of your grieving process.  A time when we hold a space for grieving.

“You need to allow yourself time to grieve. You think you won’t be able to go on, but you do cope. People say time heals, and it does … I am still standing, but it is still difficult for me at times.  But you never lose the love that you shared together.” (Merna Curnow, 2009)

It’s an interesting conversation to have.  Let’s face it.  Every one of us is going to die.  Its just a matter of when.  We will all one day be a memory, lets do the best we can to leave a good one.


Featured Art by: Liezel Van Der Linde

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A blessing for you who are tired of loss

A blessing for you who are tired of loss

by Cameron Semmens


What doesn’t kill you just really, really hurts.

You say you are tired of loss…

I’m sorry for your losses.
I wish there was another way.

May these losses
grow your sense of appreciation for life
and joy
and the simple things.

May you, in time,
feel differently towards these losses – may you see
the subtle and hidden gains
within every loss.

What doesn’t kill you
just really, REALLY hurts…

but may these hurts
deepen your compassion;
broaden your empathy;
and stretch you into hidden potentials.

I wish I could say the losses will end, but I can’t –
they won’t.

The best I can offer –
may all your future losses be

and gentler,
and framed within community and love

than all your past losses.

I’m sorry for your loss


by Cameron Semmens, 9 April 2017

The Weight of Things Un-named

The Weight of Things Un-named (on where to go with the heavy things)

by joelmckerrow

Joel McKerrow is a perfomance poet and brilliant word smith.  Joel wrote this article for his blog onefootintheclay and you can follow him on his blog or on Face Book 

“Pain too is a baptism.
Perhaps in the end they are one and the same sacrament–
A Dying,
a drowning,
a beginning again.”

My friend had twins in 2015, one of them drastically sick. She has spent most of his five months with him in hospital. On New Year’s day he stopped breathing. The ambulance came, rushed him again to the hospital. I do not know what will happen with the little boy. Neither does she. What a way to start the new year. She told me that it is, “hard to know where to go with these experiences”. I wholeheartedly agreed. No words.

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These things too heavy for the naming, what do we do with them? Where do we go when the loss comes? When our shoulders bow under its weight?

Another friend lost her daughter twenty five years ago. She still carries around her absence. It has become more familiar to her than her presence. My parents lost two children, twins, right after they were born. It is not something we talked about growing up. Too heavy. I shall never forget the phone call to tell me that one of my high-school sweethearts, only a few months before her wedding, had suddenly and inexplicably died in the night. I was a wedding photographer back then, had three weddings to shoot that week, the camera, it was the heaviest that it has ever been.

And I am not just speaking of death. There are other things too heavy for the naming. Like touch unwanted. Like keeping his secret. Like blade on wrist on tiled floor. Like slamming the door. Like the drop of your stomach when you have been found out. Like the drop of your stomach when you find them out. Like the silent emptiness that fills a space once all the people and the laughter have left. Like the crippling feeling that no matter what you do it is never enough. Like the loneliness that comes after a night on social media. Like bruised eye hidden under dark glasses. These things too are a loss and a grieving and most often we do not have the language to speak of them. So where do we go with them? The unspeakable things. Where do we take them?

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Usually I run to the water. Moving water. When nothing makes sense anymore I turn to the ocean and to the river. I have found that grief is a grindstone and so is the ocean. They break us apart, they rough away the sharp and the piercing. They smooth us out, even as we hide in their depths. When a child dies those who are left behind are forever scraped across the rocks of their despair. When any un-named weight falls heavy upon you, it is always the same. No words. Grief.

So I let myself sink under the water and stretch out my lungs beneath the spray. A surrender. Let myself be smashed. The wave that breaks and turns and tosses and smooths me down. The grindstone of grief. On the beaches is where we pick up the pieces. Sea-glass green. Pain too is a baptism. Perhaps, in the end, they are the one and same sacrament. Pain and baptism. They are both a loss of breath and a coming home to the depth. A dying, a drowning, a beginning again. The ocean decides when she is finished with us. She gives us back to the world of men. On the beaches is where we pick up the pieces. Smashed now being made smooth.

And I am not saying that this is the answer or the cure, to place yourself in running water. I am not saying that there is an answer or a cure. As much as we demand such. What I am saying is that the swirling ocean is as good a place to hide as any. To hide like grain of sand, like the smashed glass. What I am saying is that the only place of healing I have found is the unfolding of oneself into the arms of something much larger than oneself. A surrender.

Some say we should turn to God in such moments of despair. And I guess this is my way of doing so. The ocean. God. Enfolding my own story of that which cannot be named into the hands of some larger story. Weight held by weight. Like my son holds his hand in my hand. I do not know what this looks like for you. I do not claim to know where you should go with these experiences, this weight. I only know my own attempts to pry gripping fingers away that I might be able to let something out into the ocean. To not hold the grief back. To give myself to the waters of surrender that they might someday smooth me out.


On the beaches is where we pick up the pieces. Shattered glass turned sea-glass green. Hold it in your hand. You hold what was, what is, what ever could be. You hold it all in this moment. It still doesn’t make sense. But you no longer need it to do so. It still hurts, it always will. It is still heavy. The weight of things un-named. But somehow it becomes just light enough to keep on walking.

Bio Urns and Ocean Urns

I have had so many conversations with people who have organised cremations for their family.  Then they stall.  Knowing what to do with the ashes is the next difficult decision. I chatted with one lady who had two aunts, two parents and the beloved dog in jars in the pantry.

A Bio Urn could be a good option.

Bios Urn is much more than an urn — it’s a catalyst for life. It is made using 100% biodegradable materials, and is respectful to the environment in all the ways possible. Built with a special capsule that meets the needs of any type of tree, it’s the perfect medium to allow for the proper growth of a tree or plant when planted with the remains of your loved one.

Creating a living memorial, such as planting a tree, can be a profound way to honour someone who has died.

Create A Living Memory

It can be a symbol and anchor to reflect on a person’s life, the changing nature of grief and our relationship with the deceased.  It can also become a beautiful place of reflection and remembrance.

In The top part of the urn the seed is kept separate from the ashes. The tree grows in the upper compartment, until the urn itself begins to degrade. After time the entire set becomes part of the sub-soil and fertilizer for the tree.
When purchasing the Urna Bios you receive everything you will need for you or your loved one to become a tree. The parts come sperately in the one box until the urn is ready to be used. The ashes are then placed in the lower part of the urn and the seed in the top part with the soil.

Urna Bios recommend planting the urn in a forest surrounded by other trees and vegetation. It is also recommended that the right season is considered when planting and it is a good idea to replace the seed they provide you with either a small plant or sprout.

Perhaps this system isn’t for everyone but you must admit it really is putting the cycle back into the cycle of life.

For more information on the Urna Bios visit their website.

This is another site you can go to.  Bios urns.

There are also other urns called journey urns and floating urns for a water memorial – also known as:



The Journey Urns are perfect for ocean and deep water burial, they are engineered to float only momentarily and then gracefully sink. Once they have reached the bottom, they will break down natrually over time.

The Shell urns are engineered to floate for approximately 5 minutes before descending gracefully. These urns are individually hand painted and come with a protective carry case for convenient and discreet transportation.

Click here:  you can purchase these from your crematorium but click the link to find out more information from Arrow Bronze.