I Discovered a Strong Connection with People Suffering Loss and Grief
A Privilege To Be Part Of Peoples Important Day
After 26 years studying, researching and working with people who were experiencing loss and grief I discovered a strong connection to work with people in this area.
Four years ago, I became a Certified Thanatologist – “Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement”. This is an international accreditation with The Association for Death Education and Counseling.
In my work as a marriage and funeral celebrant it has been my privilege to work with people on the most important and memorable days of their lives. I own an Australian registered training organisation called Australian Celebrations Training www.australiancelebrations.com.au
My Early Celebrant Days
When I first became a celebrant I was focussed on designing marriage ceremonies that would be a lasting memory for my couples, what I didn’t predict was the lasting memories being a celebrant would personally give me. Being a celebrant has taught me more about people and life than any other career endeavour I have undertaken, and for that I am grateful. To be invited into personal and intimate moments in a person’s life, whether it is a marriage, a name-giving for their baby, or their parent’s funeral, I have learnt what a cherished position I have been afforded.
The stories on this webpage are parts of the jigsaw that represents my desire to assist people with their celebrations, healing and grief.
I designed and performed my first funeral 17 years ago and since then have celebrated many services for very special people ever since. Whilst I find all the ceremonies rewarding, there is something about sacredness of funerals that I find deeply fulfilling. I have always loved listening to stories, and writing stories. So, I guess it makes sense that I can enjoy both as a ritual maker.
It always amazes me that you can meet a family for less than a week, under grieving conditions, and how they trust you to listen to them, design and perform the ceremony, for someone that means so much to them. I don’t know that there are too many opportunities in our careers to be so intimate with a new acquaintance. Performing funerals that dignify the life that was lead, and support the people mourning to begin their healing, is a treasured position for me as a funeral celebrant.
When a funeral ceremony or a memorial service is underpinned with the storytelling of a life lived it has an individual and powerful presence. Listening to families voice their stories of that person, is always illuminating and often inspiring. For many years I specialised in infants’ funerals which gave me a differing insight into grief. In my work with young families I have also performed many rituals for beautiful babies that were miscarried. It has been my great honour to have these families teach me how to support other families with this need for ceremony.
I became so enthralled with the storytelling at a funeral that happens in a person’s autobiography – the eulogy – that I decided to study and become a Personal Historian. People love to hear real stories about real people, and often family and friends hear stories they never heard before about someone they love. I believe that everyone has a story and every story matters.
Life as a Teacher
Since 1982 I have been a trainer/teacher in some way. I started firstly with teaching a method of hydrotherapy to assist people with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. In the mid 80’s I began working in marketing universities and I studied my first degree in Business. During the following years I taught at colleges or universities predominantly in a part time role in business subjects.
Since 2003 I have been a curriculum designer, trainer and assessor in my own training company Australian Celebrations Training, which is a training company for marriage and funeral celebrants’ qualifications. Some of these courses offer grief and loss training, which has become my passion, so in a large way it brought me to the path I now find myself on.
When I teach/facilitate in loss and grief I feel constantly reminded of the saying “we are all teachers”. With all the wonderful experiences and knowledge, I have gained from others over the years, I feel like those thoughts and experiences when spoken with another, come from more than just myself, I feel like all those teachers have come together to assist me to work with others in their healing.
My spirituality – Humanist
I welcome anyone’s faith, culture and beliefs as their human right to enjoy. The Humanist Institute has an ethos that I find warm and succinct, “We envision a world in which every individual’s worth is respected, and human freedom and behaving responsibly are natural aspirations.”
It is difficult in a few sentences to fully explain where my thinking on this topic rests – I think it never rests when you are considering the beauty of the people and our world. I have met, studied, and loved some amazing people over the years on their own quest for “Is there a God?” and of course that is an individual endeavour for anyone to pursue. What I do know is that there are elements in life that hold mystery and magic, and it’s up to all of us to endeavour to live well with ourselves and each other, as we travel through our lives.
In 2016-2017 I served as a volunteer Humanist Spiritual Care Team member at Gold Coast University Hospital and Robina Hospital.
- Advanced Diploma of Meaning Centred Therapy (Logotherapy) Studies – in progress
- Advanced Diploma in Transpersonal Counselling
- Dignity Therapist
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy workshops with Dr Russell Harris
- Mind-body Wellness
- Moving beyond theory: Practical counselling skills for working with children
End of Life Care
- International Death Doula Training, Quality of Life Care
- Stillbirthday Doula (USA)
- Foundation for Infant Loss Training (UK)
- Clinical Pastoral Education (Humanist)
- Attended Spiritual Care Conference Gold Coast 2017
- Guest speaker at Queensland Institute of Pastoral Education, topic was “End of Life conversations for the not so religious”.
- Perinatal Loss and Bereavement Workshop – Gold Coast University Hospital
- PD Health Care Ethics – Applied Ethics, Multifaith Academy
- Internationally Certified Thanatologist – Certified in Thanatology: Death, Dying and Bereavement”. This is an international accreditation with The Association for Death Education and Counseling.
- One of 12 Certified Thanatologists in Australia
- Die Wise – Making Meaning of the Ending of Days – Stephen Jenkinson
- Eldership – Stephen Jenkinson
- Death Café Facilitator (Brisbane)
- Deathwalking Training – Natural Death Care Centre by Zenith Virago
- The Intimacy of Death and Dying – by Zenith Virago
- Greening the funeral
- Writing the Soul Home workshop
- Carnival of Life and Death – Natural Death Centre Australia
In grief and loss
- Grief Recovery Specialist® International
- Certified Creative Grief Support ® International
- Bereavement Counselling (Summer School) Bereavement Care Centre, with Mal and Dianne McKissock
- Palliative Care Training Program Hopewell Centre
- International Funeral Celebrant Trainer
- Grief Educator
- Internationally Certified Funeral Celebrant
- Asist – Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.
From Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement
- Strategies for supporting bereaved and grieving adults
- Living Hope suicide bereavement training program
- Exploring the many facets of grief following the death of a parent
- Engaging in effective brief contact or single-session grief and bereavement support
- Grief and Loss across the lifespan
- Techniques of Grief Therapy: Accessing the Back Story of the relationship by Dr Robert Neimeyer
- Techniques of Grief Therapy: Processing the Event Story of the Death by Dr Robert Neimeyer
- Mindfulness, Spirituality and Transilience: In the context of bereavement support
- Understanding and supporting Perinatal Loss
- Iceberg Theory: Counselling below the surface presented by Benjamin Wolfe
- A Practitioner’s Guide to Care of the Dying presented by Dr Louis A Gamino
- Counselling Clients with Complicated Grief presented by Dr Louis A Gamino
- Master of Business (Marketing) QUT
- Bachelor of Commerce (Marketing) Griffith University
- Post graduate certificate in Educational Marketing (Southhamptom)
- Commonwealth Registered Marriage Celebrant (Australia)
- Certificate IV in Celebrancy (marriage and funeral)
- Certificate IV in Training and Assessment
- Certificate IV in Small Business Management
- Certificate in Copywriting
- Diploma in Web Content
- Rotary Scholar GSE 2001
- Since 2003 owner and trainer of Australian Celebrations Training (www.australiancelebrations.com.au)
- Approved contractor for professional development for celebrants by the Attorney-General’s Department of Australia
- Author of 2 Certificate IV Qualifications – nationally recognised – Celebrancy and Small Business management
- Author of 97 E-Books on professional development for celebrants
- Author of course – Directing Life’s Ceremonies
- Author of Funeral Celebrancy qualification – nationally recognised
Seasons of Grief
You will notice on the tree logo, that the four seasons are represented in the differing leaves – snowflakes, autumn tones, spring tones, and then the flowers.
Why Seasons of Grief Logo?
I always imagined that there were no set stages to how a person travels through their individual experience of grief. But one thing that remained common as an experience was that as a person you have changed, and you can’t ever go back to the previous version of yourself, after loss and grief. I then began to see that through people’s loss, their also became some gain. People seemed to have the ability to become more than they were, because of their pain and wisdom. A renewed version of themselves. Sometimes something unexpected is born. From this locus, I began thinking that grief moves and changes like seasons. I saw summer as growth, autumn as change, winter as loss, spring as renewal. The images of trees have always appealed to me. The words that mean something in the design of the tree logo were:
- Life giving
- Reaching to the sky
- Holding steady to the earth
- Branches that connect
- Beginnings and ending
- Shade and comfort
- Strength and vulnerability
- Entwining giving a foundation
One of the most frequent questions in these sessions was – “If I start talking about death, with my loved one who is dying, isn’t that distressing for us all.” When people don’t know what to say, or how to talk about death, it then becomes the elephant in the room. Some people reported they had no familiarity with death, and relied on a “Hollywood” version of a good death. They also expressed that they were not aware of how challenging and emotionally intensive it would be.
For the person who is dying it can give them the open opportunity to have conversations that they so desperately want. To put at rest what is on their minds; or for them to partake in plans; and for them to feel reassured that their loved ones will be care for when they have died. Without doubt, talking to a dying person can be difficult, but it can also be restorative. Knowing what your loved one’s wishes are is important and loving, and can give comfort to the newly bereaved person knowing that they honoured those wishes.