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funeral and memorial services by wendy haynes

creating a meaningful farewell ceremony at home, public funeral ceremony or memorial service 

With the Living

Ceremonies at home are a means to honour those who are terminally ill while they are still with us in form - whether they are conscious or unconscious. A ceremony at this time can offer peace, support, connection and an opening to acceptance of the changing relationship as your beloved transitions from life to death. 


The ceremony or circle can be a very quiet gathering or, depending upon the wellbeing and vitality of the dying person, can be with music and stories, photographs and reflections.


Wendy brings her sensitivity, care and consideration for listening to what's important for those who will be in the circle whether it's grandparents, siblings, young children and/or estranged family members reconnecting. Relationships are always ever-changing especially in the presence of death and therefore, so are the needs at any given point in the ceremony. Wendy's skill and experience in holding this sacred space is invaluable.


Listening to the pulse of what is present as we meet death is sacred and can be profound for all who gather. As a family, it might seem awkward or uncomfortable to create a circle or ritual on your own. Wendy brings her calm, quiet presence to provide a safe place to express love and care, and give acknowledgement of whatever emotions are present whether that be gratitude, quietude, fear or uncertainty.


At Home with our Dead


Once your beloved has died, depending upon the circumstances of death,  you may choose to have the deceased's body 'resting' at home. 


After John's* sudden and unexpected death his body needed to go to the coroner for a week. This gave the family time to connect with Wendy who helped them to make arrangements to bring John's body back to the family home for a 'wake'.


John's wife, Sarah and their two young children, his three grown children from a previous marriage and a few close friends stood with Wendy at the gate as the funeral director drove into the yard with John's coffin in the back of the hearse.


Ceremoniously, the family took the coffin and carried it inside. At each new transition - the arrival, before taking the coffin from the car, before entering the house...stopping to take a collective breath, mindful of the grief and slowing down to be present, to breathe in the love.


After the funeral director had left, a quietness descended over the house as we formed a circle around the coffin. and John's body was tenderly, yet with some effort, lifted out of the coffin and placed on double bed that had been prepared with a 'cooling plate' where his body would lay.**  His two younger children, curious and quiet, were supported by family friends.


The afternoon light filtered inside dancing shadows on the family photograph and the rocking chair which sat next to a small stack of children's books. The strings of Bach's swooning soothed some ragged nerves and lent an air of lightness.  


Wendy informed and guided the process, initiating a sense of calm and presence that was very reassuring - and she also inspired us to trust our own knowing of what to do.  After some time, and a cup of tea, Sarah, supported by Wendy, washed, prepared and dressed John's body in private with an informal and intimate ceremony wherein his wife had the space and support to acknowledge the many different aspects of her relationship with her beloved. Sometimes there were tears, other times we heard laughter. 


The following day, gathered around John's body, the 'two sides' of his family came together (with a subtle, air of strain as there had been many years of estrangement until recently). Wendy facilitated this sharing circle with kindness, attention and evoked within us a depth of listening and presence that was very healing and connecting.  It was extraordinary the stories that were shared, as leading questions or prompts were placed into the circle. It was very harmonious and held a deep quality of togetherness. There were more tears and also more laughter.  We spent the afternoon decorating John's coffin with music playing, sometimes with stories, sometimes talking about everyday things and shopping lists. At other times just sitting and looking. 


Wendy's last visit was on the day of the public funeral ceremony. John's body had been placed into this gorgeous handpainted coffin in the lounge room. Kids toys were in the corner, his favourite books on a table that had been strewn with flowers from the garden. With his wife and children, Wendy welcomed his parents, one grandparent, his ex-wife, siblings and their families - there must have been 30 people and yet it felt quiet and comforting. The ceremony of farewell, guided by Wendy was incredible. She said very little yet so much happened in that short space that held us together as a family. This felt like such an important step before the huge community ceremony that afternoon at a local crematorium. People openly wept and recalled stories, laughing at funny memories and telling stories that some of us hadn't heard before.


The funeral director arrived and, as he drove John's coffin out of the gate, we cried... a lot. This would be the very last time his body would leave his family home. 


We had lunch, which was a surprisingly joyful affair. The kids raced around on their bikes and we prepared to get ready.  The wider community of family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, students, sports club members... overflowed the chapel. The funeral ceremony was amazing too and it felt like our time together over the last few days had matured and deepened for the immediate family and friends. 


*the names have been changed for privacy.

** In the Coffs Harbour region the local bereavement group Mindaala has for loan a 'cooling plate' that can be borrowed for up to five days to assist in keeping the necessary regulation of body temperature. Wendy can help you to organise this.


We are reimagining what is possible, for saying farewell, for healing, for connecting with love, life and loss. Wendy offers her support for planning and conducting the ceremonies you may wish to have.


Death within a family or community produces heightened emotions and experiences which can be confusing and even surreal. The range and power of emotions - shock, loss, anger and regret alongside love, joy, respect and gratitude can be overwhelming. Wendy's insightful wisdom will guide you through this experience - one which will be unique to your family, your friends and to you. Her ideas will give you the courage needed to gently navigate through this difficult time. 


Ritual and ceremony at the time of death can be rich with meaning and inspiration. They provide a great opportunity to start the healing process. Inspiring Funeral and Memorial Ceremonies is a practical guide to creating heartfelt and personal funeral and memorial ceremonies.
  • Planning and writing a funeral ceremony
  • How to write an uplifting and inspiring eulogy
  • Selecting and supporting speakers
  • How to choose a funeral director or celebrant
  • Dealing with challenges
  • A wealth of inspiring words and stories
  • Examples of actual ceremonies
Buy Wendy's Funeral and Memorial Ceremonies Book

what people say about wendy's funeral book

"This book offers the reader an opportunity to understand and explore the possibility of creating a meaningful, appropriate and beneficial celebration of a life. It is presented in a way that takes your hand and heart, and leads you expertly through the process step by step, and gently lets it all unfold, so that you feel it is possible and you can do it."

- Zenith Virago, Co-author of The Intimacy of Death and Dying

what people say about wendy's funeral ceremonies

Quotation MarkIt seems odd describing a funeral as 'perfect' but that's exactly how we would describe Dad's service. Thank you so much Wendy for making it so. Your presence and advice before, during and after the ceremony gave us the confidence we needed to celebrate Dad's life with dignity and joy - just what he would have wanted for us.

The Terkelsen family, NSW
Quotation MarkWendy's knowledge and guidance was a real blessing to me when my husband died.  She helped direct the proceedings of the funeral with skill and kindness. People came to me after the ceremony and said "When I die, send for Wendy." Knowing Wendy, it is easy to see why.
Quotation MarkI have known Wendy both personally and professionally now for many years, her dedication to the profession of celebrancy is unrivalled as is her knowledge and understanding of what people need at these important times in their lives.

Linda Scholes, Eumundi, Queensland

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Ceremony and Speech Books by Wendy Haynes, Wedding and Civil Celebrant

Having conducted over 1,500 ceremonies, Wendy put her experiences into writing and is the author of many popular "do it yourself" books.

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