On becoming a funeral celebrant

Here’s the second update.

There’s no doubt that the death of a loved one, and particularly one as loved as Nicky was,  changes everything. I have written a lot about the family and our grief, about sadness and in recent times our gentle rehabilitation but I haven’t talked about about the wider impact of her death on our lives. I haven’t once mentioned work. Practically too her death changed everything.  I could no longer commute daily to London, I could no longer find (much) meaning in (much of) the media work I have done.  When our lives were eviscerated by Nick’s death all my established perspectives on personal ambition, professional achievement and the pursuit of wealth became like strange derangements. So for both practical and personal reasons I could no longer do what I did.

I should say at this stage that I am grateful to old friends and colleagues who have helped me out with offers of work over the last few months, it’s kept me afloat. Thankyou.

But I needed to find a new thing.  Something that I believed in, and genuinely believed I could be good at. Something that was important, meaningful, and that was inherently of value. Something that employed my love of people, of listening to them and writing about them. Something that deployed my skills and pleasure in recounting stories and my aptitude for organising events. Critically too it had to be something that acknowledged and responded to the events of the last year.  I had to find a positive in something so negative and do something creative and useful with that experience, Nicky asked me to do as much as she died, but at the time I didn’t know what it was.

Simon Smith, Humanist Funeral celebrant, in his suit, in the park.

Simon Smith, Humanist Funeral celebrant, in his suit, in the park.

So, over the last six months then I have been in training to become a Humanist Funeral celebrant and I am now qualified as one of Brighton and Hove’s two funeral celebrants accredited by the British Humanist association.


Yes, it’s a strange thing I know, and I am sure there are some raised eyebrows out there,  but believe me, this is the best thing I have ever done. Humanism has for a long time provided a philosophical framework for my beliefs, and when Nicky was dying it was a source of great comfort for both of us.

As a funeral celebrant I will create non religious services for cremations and burials. The training has been brilliant and has allowed me to face up to and understand more about my own and others’ bereavement and grief. I am not troubled by other’s grief, it’s not mine, but it is an honour and a privilege to make my experience of use to others, and to perform the simple and meaningful task of organising a funeral service that celebrates the life of their loved one.  Rituals or  rites of passage are fundamental to our ability to face transitional moments in our lives, they are for the living, not the dead and they should be beautiful, memorable and meaningful. That’s my job. This is part of recovery, to face up to death with a life that acknowledges death for what it is, and makes the best of it.

I am freelance, to get work I am on the BHA website and market myself to Funeral directors as a celebrant. Brighton is of course knee deep in celebrants of one flavour or another, but I am very happy to be specifically  a Humanist one and will I hope, be able to do this until someone is around to provide the same service for me.

In due course I’ll be doing weddings too, that’ll be more fun.

One comment

  1. Hi Simon,

    Firstly, congratulations. It is a great and positive achievement and I am extremely pleased for you.

    I wanted to let you know that recently I have conducted the service for 2 of my closest family members – 4 years ago for my brother and 6 months ago for my mum. It was hard as hell and draining beyond my experience of emotional tolerance. But you, more than most, will appreciate that. I would rather not have done it, but we could not think of anyone who could speak for us at the chapel. If you had been available at either occasion, I would have no hesitation in asking you to help us celebrate these lives. I cannot think of anyone as compassionate, eloquent and experienced as you and believe that you will be a great help and comfort to many over the coming years.

    Good on you Simon!


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