A remembrance ceremony is a requirement by Medicare for all hospices to do each year.
The ceremony does not have to be expensive. As in life, we use the resources which present themselves and weave 'what is' into a beautiful thing to come together in community and remember...
Here are are some ideas which we have done or attended:
Schedule Before the Holidays.
Thanksgiving and the end of year holiday and Christmas are a difficult time for someone grieving. It is hard to 'celebrate' when our hearts are weighted down by loss. Schedule the celebration in the fall before this time.
Be sure to send your bereaved some helpful holiday survival information on grieving & mourning.
Weave in the Local Context
This year we created a Candlelight Remembrance Celebration on a Wednesday night, which just happened to fall on Halloween this year. We incorporated the festivities of the local neighborhoods kids. (It is hard to be sad when presented with a 2 year old bunny rabbit or a 3 year old Spiderman.) The children helped lighten our spirits as we came in but the service itself was very contemplative. A Five Candle Remembrance Ceremony. If you wish to know more about it. Email us and we will give you the PDF.
Collaborate with Other Chaplains
This year we also had three hospices join to do one ceremony. Small hospices can do this, especially if the chaplains are friends, which we were (and still are). It shared the load; we consolidated ideas, harmonized in singing a hymn, and it was a completely lovely afternoon.
We created a ceremony of stones and roses. Upon arrival, we gave everyone several colored glass pebbles (because one chaplain had them left over from a wedding...) which they held during the ceremony. After the names were read, each person came forward and let go of the pebbles they were able to and threw them into the water (big container that held the roses) , they kept some pebbles ( such is the nature of grief...we release only in good time) and each person picked up a red rose. Lots of opportunity here to normalize grief and explain about the grieving process etc.
Use Candles for an Evening Ceremony
This is an easy way to set the tone of the sacred within the most secular of venues. Add some iPhone hymns or soothing background music and you have set a safe place for all to be welcomed.
Hold it in Nature
There is a lovely Japanese Tea Garden near one of the hospices I support. We have offered several celebrations there, if we want to meet before sunset (when it closes). Their gazebos are beautiful, just the right size, and free.
We are borrowing the beauty of the nature to set a place for remembering well. Other ideas include local parks or senior centers which rent out space. Small churches or other religious venues might allow you to gather for little or no money if you give them enough notice.
Read the Names with a Bell...
Reading hundreds of names can be a bit much. We have switched readers every ten names and rung a Tibetian bell for creating a bit of space and the sheer pleasure of hearing it ring.
Please comment with ceremonies of your own here, if you feel so moved.