Do We Need A Celebration Day?

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. Now with a further three offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – the business continues to prioritise meeting the needs of local people. Recently, the BBC published an article debating the merits of a national Celebration […]

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Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. Now with a further three offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – the business continues to prioritise meeting the needs of local people. Recently, the BBC published an article debating the merits of a national Celebration Day. Community Co-Ordinator, Becky, adds her thoughts…

The campaign for a national Celebration Day began in 2022. Founded by a group of individuals from different backgrounds, the idea to create the chance to collectively celebrate those we miss was discovered. The first occasion took place in 2023, with the group designating the latter May Bank Holiday to the cause.

The topic was debated via the BBC, with people arguing for the sense of community and support this will bring in a non-religious and inclusive way, but also against the idea that there are already lots of memorial occasions, and that this might be unnecessary.

I, for one, can appreciate the value in this kind of occasion. Bereavement is a different experience for everyone – and each experience of grief can vary – and there will be some people who will always choose to be very private and isolated in their feelings. Others will wish to share their thoughts more readily – everything from how much they miss a person, to anger and upset at the perception that missed opportunities are being rubbed in their faces (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day can be particularly good examples of this kind of pain).

Memorialisation is an individual experience too. Lots of people find the first year following a death particularly challenging – the ‘first firsts’ without that person is often when their absence is felt, whether it’s your own birthday, theirs, or the marking of another special occasion – and some will choose to mark these occasions, whilst others would rather lock themselves away and wait for the day to pass. I don’t mind sharing my own preference here, and what I find is that this depends on what my relationship with the person was like. There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve opted to mark the person’s birthday when it arrives for the first time following their death. I’ve got a birthday cake or a drink, and spent some of the evening in quiet reflection, thinking about what the person means to me and wishing them well. I don’t have any religious beliefs, but would term myself as a little spiritual, so I see this as a time to experience the positive benefit they had on my life, and be grateful for having had the chance to meet them.

When I’ve initiated this practice, it’s helped me to process my grief – I’ve woken the next morning comforted by having recognised the impact that person continues to have on me, knowing that I can access my memories of them whenever I like, and that whilst I don’t get to make any new memories, what I have is ok.

Not everyone is confident to experience this kind of occasion alone, nor do some people want to! All responses to bereavement are valid, and due to the varied nature of this emotion, I think that what matters is accessibility to something that will serve individual needs positively.

Whilst I can’t see myself making use of a national Celebration Day currently, it might be something I’d like to do in the future and, if there are others who will benefit from it in the here and now, I support that need.

I empathise with those who struggle with public displays of affection that others may share towards their living loved ones, and fully understand that it’s hard to watch someone enjoying something that you very much miss. There is sadly no easy solution to this pain – it’s very difficult to avoid shops, advertising, or social media posts. I wish that I had an answer to this, but there simply isn’t one.

Freeman Brothers has supported another fairly new event – National Grief Awareness Week – since it began in 2019. We appreciate the ethos behind the campaign: taking place in December, it recognises that the dark winter days can be particularly tricky for those who are bereaved, and that bereavement doesn’t have a timeline. Whilst it’s lovely for there to be a positive and uplifting occasion such as Celebration Day, not everyone feels this way, and we like to support those who otherwise might not reach out due to their experience of feeling isolated.

As time goes on, there will always be changing needs of various communities, and our hope is that these will continue to be met via a range of options being available.

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Written by Becky Hughes

Community Co-Ordinator

June 5, 2024

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