Helen France, Funeral Celebrant Kent and East Sussex


Losing a loved one is an emotional experience that most of us will have to face at some stage during our life. It can be a very difficult time as we grapple with emotions such as exhaustion, shock, anger, pain and grief. And just when one longs for time and space to grieve in peace, there is the process of registering the death, the heavy burden of dealing with complex administrative tasks, official forms, insurance companies and many other unwelcome, stressful and unfamiliar tasks.


Just communicating the news of the death and the funeral arrangements to family, relatives and friends can be a long and daunting affair. During this time of upheaval, it can be an enormous relief to have comfort and assistance from an experienced and sensitive professional. We lead such diverse and busy lives, we put such a lot of thought into how best to spend our days, that we all deserve to have the richness and wonder of our life, our interests, our thoughts, feelings and actions remembered, honoured and celebrated in the best way possible. And, of course, no-one wants to have the life of a loved one dismissed by a speaker who sounds remote or uninterested; or who rushes, mumbles or talks in a monotonous or mechanical way.

So what will an independent celebrant do for you? First of all, the celebrant visits the bereaved family to learn about the life of your loved one. Often this is very healing in itself. Having been a therapist for almost twenty years, I have a lot of experience of being with people during very difficult times in their lives, and bereaved people really appreciate my sensitive, gentle, thoughtful and caring support. I am also a skilled speaker with a particularly fine command of the English language. During my visit, people often find that they can let out all sorts of pent up thoughts and emotions because they no longer have to put the feelings of family and friends first. When I visit, we will also look in detail at what made your loved one’s life special, and also about whether you would like music, poetry, readings, and contributions from family and friends.

Sometimes there are delicate and sensitive issues which need to be handled with great care and discretion. There may be things in the family history requiring tact and diplomacy. Having a celebrant deliver the funeral tribute (also known as the eulogy or address) means that family and friends are relieved of a taxing and potentially distressing task. Death is never easy and the presence of a mature, tactful, and sensitive celebrant can significantly ease the burden of bereavement for all concerned.

Working closely with your funeral director, my aim is for everything to be done in the most helpful, sensitive, dignified, professional and compassionate manner possible. By using a professional celebrant you will have a first class funeral that you will be able to look back on as a special and beautiful occasion.

A really beautiful funeral can be a very powerful ceremony that both honours the deceased and helps you say your own very personal farewells. It can bring healing and release, and the funeral tribute may also provide new insights into the life and times of your loved one. A good funeral draws people together in a special way as people join together to honour the life of the person who has died. Often people meet who may not have seen one another for years. And a good funeral can prompt us to reflect on our own lives, and to use the occasion to re-evaluate the direction our lives are taking and the balance of our priorities.

Sometimes people are unaware of just how much freedom they have regarding the content of a funeral service. Music that holds special memories for you can be very poignant. You can have recorded music, or friends and family may wish to sing and play musical instruments. Friends and family can also contribute anecdotes, readings and poems, or if you prefer, they can be read by the celebrant. The one constraint can be time: if the service is in a crematorium, you do have to stick rigidly to the time slot allocated for your funeral service and you are not allowed to overrun in order to be fair to those attending subsequent funerals.

You can have as much or little religious content as you like. If you use a vicar or minister, they will generally be restricted to working within the framework of their particular religion. Humanist celebrants conduct funerals with absolutely no religious content at all. Even such a universal text such as the Lord’s Prayer is forbidden if you use a humanist celebrant. As an independent celebrant however, no such restrictions apply, and my training enables me to work with people from any religion, and I really welcome the opportunity to take funerals for peoples of all faiths and backgrounds, including atheist, humanist, agnostic, pagan and multi-faith services.

At this moment of grief and loss the sensitivity, kindliness, compassion, professionalism and the reassuring familiar face of your celebrant can help to make this most difficult of times just that little bit more bearable.

Helen France, Funeral Celebrant Kent & East Sussex - Helping you bear the burden of bereavement.


Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W H Auden

“Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. Life was a fever-dream made up of joys embittered by sorrows, pleasure poisoned by pain; a dream that was a nightmare-confusion of spasmodic and fleeting delights, ecstasies, exultations, happinesses, interspersed with long-drawn miseries, griefs, perils, horrors, disappointments, defeats, humiliations, and despairs — the heaviest curse devisable by divine ingenuity; but death was sweet, death was gentle, death was kind; death healed the bruised spirit and the broken heart, and gave them rest and forgetfulness; death was man’s best friend; when man could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.” – Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth

“I can remember how when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind — and that of the minds who suffer the bereavement. The nihilists say it is the end; the fundamentalists, the beginning; when in reality it is no more than a single tenant or family moving out of a tenement or a town.” – William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

“Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there’s a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.” – Helen Keller

The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
Is yours
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

Leo Marks

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