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When I was 14 years old, I found out that my maternal grandmother was in a coma. (I’d seen her just a few weeks earlier at a family celebration and she seemed fine.) I was at school in Colorado, and she was on a respirator in New York. I knew instinctively that I would never see her again. I was inconsolable, and sobbed for hours on end. The next day I received the call. She was gone.
My Bubby (Yiddish for grandmother) was the love of my life, and the suddenness of her passing broke my teenage heart.
I flew to New York for her funeral. It was a traditional Orthodox Jewish funeral. Men sat here. Women sat there. Everyone was civilized and well behaved. Rabbis I’d never seen before spoke words that had nothing to do with MY grandmother. I couldn’t find her in the service, and I couldn’t find myself either. There was no place for the enormity of my grief, and no mention of her life as an immigrant from war-torn Poland, wife of a diamond cutter and Cantor, mother of two daughters, and doting grandmother of six.
I left the funeral and New York feeling grief-stricken and anchorless. A few months later, when my friend lost her grandfather, I sat with her in the hallway of our high school and bawled my eyes out. I re-lived the loss of my grandmother again and again in these kinds of situations, and I believe this is because I never had a designated space to pay my final respects, and honor who she was to me in a way that made sense.
I didn’t want pithy expressions of condolence. I didn’t want to sit in a chair with my legs crossed and listen quietly like a good little girl. I wanted to wail, and pound my fists on the ground, and pull my hair out of my head, and demand to know why! I wanted to tell stories about the times we shared together, about her outrageous head of silvery-white hair, her love of fresh rye bread and The Young and The Restless, and the way she’d flag down the cars of passerby in Borough Park, Brooklyn to ask for rides downtown (in Yiddish) so she could go shopping.
My desperate need for personally meaningful ritual fell on deaf ears, and got buried somewhere deep inside my heart.
People often ask me how I got into the work of funerals, memorials, and celebration of life ceremonies. I have many answers, but this is one of them: because I don’t want anyone to suffer the loss of someone they love, and be left without a space to grieve them adequately, the way that I did when my Bubby died.
A personally meaningful and expertly facilitated funeral, memorial, or end of life ceremony is the foundation upon which true grieving and healing happens. A good funeral, memorial or celebration of life ceremony honors the deceased’s life, but it also provides an all-important container for their family and community to express grief and praise, and digest the reality of what has happened.
It might seem counterintuitive, but we actually need to grieve our losses so that we can recover our sense of wellbeing and connection to life, and return to some sense of normalcy.
There’s no need to be afraid. In The Moth Podcast “House of Mourning” chaplain Kate Braestrup reminds us to walk fearlessly into the house of mourning, for grief, she tells us, is just love squaring up to it’s oldest enemy, and after all these mortal, human years, love is up to the challenge.
As a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant specializing in end of life ceremonies, it is my privilege to create unique, personalized and meaningful funerals, memorials and celebration of life ceremonies that reflect the truest expression of your loved one’s life, honor your need for grieving and healing, and help you adequately mark this profound life cycle passage.
Whether you’re mourning the end of a life cut tragically short, or celebrating the fullness of a long life well-lived, your funerals, memorials and celebration of life ceremonies need to feel relevant and true. This is what will help nurture and sustain you through your grieving.
My job as a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant is to take the time to get to know you, ask thorough and thoughtful questions, and create a ceremony (with music, readings and rituals) that is well-rounded, cohesive, and deeply meaningful to you and your community.
I create and facilitate custom:
Funerals, Memorials and Celebration of Life Ceremonies
Wakes, Living Wakes, and Vigils
Grief Sharing Circles
Final Disposition Ceremonies
I don’t shy away from the tough stuff, including traumatic or violent death (such as suicides, accidents, and overdoses), infant or pre-term death, and pet loss.
In addition to being a Certified Life Cycle Celebrant with specialized education and training in end of life ceremony creation and facilitation, I am an ordained earth-based minister of prayer with the Center for Sacred Studies. I am also a core member of the Santa Cruz local Natural Deathcare Initiative.
Words of Praise
“You made it the most beautiful day I wish I never had to have. You were very healing for many who attended. Many people have reached out to me to tell me how truly special the day was, and how wonderful you were.” A.M., Santa Cruz
“Your beautiful ceremony for our son was amazing! It is obvious to me that you have a gift and that you have worked hard to perfect it. Weeks later we are still talking about how powerful and healing your ceremony was.” C.R., Santa Cruz
“You are masterful in your honest and compassionate space holding. I feel deeply impressed by your genius in this area.” B.S., Santa Cruz
“Naomi did an amazing job helping my family to create a beautiful memorial service for my father. She has boundless empathy, and delivered a service that was heartwarming, honest, touching and truly honored the person that he was. Highly recommended.” J.M., Santa Cruz
“I am incredibly thankful that Naomi was with me during my process of grieving and releasing. After my partner passed away, I wasn’t sure who to turn to, as I don’t belong to a religious congregation. Naomi was able to offer a compassionate, authentic approach to memorializing him. She helped me navigate the whole process, and put together a beautiful ceremony to help me say goodbye to my dear one.” L.L., Santa Cruz, CA
So, if you are looking for someone who holds an honest and deeply compassionate space, who is committed to helping people reclaim their rites and rituals so that they can mourn and celebrate in ways that feel absolutely true to them, please contact me at [email protected] or at 303 506 8319.