Category: Celebrant

Why 1,546 is more than just a number — it’s a true national tragedy

Today marked a grim milestone for the UK with the highest ever daily death toll — yet.

The 1,546 people whose deaths were recorded today, all of them having died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, brought the pandemic death toll in the UK to over 100,000.

Commentators reacted with a mix of anger, despair and weary resignation.

But it’s easy to focus on the numbers on the numbers [see BBC graphic above] and forget the human cost.

Each one of those 1,546 deaths represents an individual tragedy, and a grieving family left behind to pick up the pieces.

I know from my work as a funeral civil celebrant that every family is different. Every family copes with its personal loss in its own individual way.

And family members take comfort from the opportunity to celebrate the life of their lost loved ones.

I work with those families to remember the person behind the statistics. We remember their achievements and cherish their shared memories.

Every one of the 1,546 souls lost today deserve the dignity of a highly personal service, one directly tailored to the needs of the individual family.

After all, that’s how the latter will find the strength to carry on.

As Julia Samuel, the author of the book Grief Works, says:

“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”


I’m available for civil celebrant ceremonies in the Northwest region.

Liked this? Read also: How to share your story for National Grief Awareness Week.

Why our own innate resilience is key to the art of not falling apart

Christina Patterson understands loss.

The journalist and broadcaster often talks about how she has survived cancer and is the last remaining member of her family, having most recently lost her brother.

“I am,” she says, “the end of the line.”

Yet she still finds ways to celebrate life with her love of the arts and her relationships with others.

Christina documents her story of loss with honesty and eloquence in her book, The Art of Not Falling Apart.

I enjoyed her writing but also admired her resilience, a topic she discussed as a guest on the latest edition of the What I Believe podcast from Humanists UK [pictured above].

The knockbacks she has survived in life have, she explained, built her sense of resilience. She has not only overcome them but gone on to build a career as a freelance writer and commentator.

We don’t all have Christina’s resilience.

It’s hard to bounce back when life sends a curveball. It’s hard to stand up again when events conspire to knock us down.

It feels even harder to remember that now as we draw to the close of a year that many people would probably rather forget.

But we do bounce back. As Christine reminds us, there are fleeting glimpses of beauty in even the darkest skies.

She finds it in poetry and nature; others will locate it elsewhere. The secret is to grasp it wherever you find it.

After all, she says, loosing her entire family has only strengthened her resolve to keep on embracing life.

She says:

We’re all trying to work out what really matters to us during this pandemic. There is certainly something to be said for reminding us how short and precious life is.

In my role as a civil celebrant, I meet people who are living with loss.

It’s raw and painful but, as we work on a eulogy about their loved ones and gather to celebrate their lives at a civil ceremony, I see their resilience shine through.

Christina Patterson’s writing helps to remind us resilience is hard-wired into all of us — we just need to let it flourish.

More about The Art of Not Falling Apart.

Liked this? Read also: How to share your story for Grief Awareness Week.


How to #SHAREYOURSTORY for National Grief Awareness Week

The dome of St Paul’s Cathedral was illuminated in yellow tonight.

The lighting up of this and other landmark buildings around the UK, accompanied by a live evening song transmission, was part of events to mark National Grief Awareness Week [pictured above].

The organisation behind it, The Good Grief Trust, wants to talk about grief and grieving in a more open, honest way. The Trust is also developing an online bereavement-support guide.

Psychologists have talked for years about the five stages of grief, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Having started working as a funeral celebrant, working with families often at the early stage of their grieving journey, I can readily see how the idea of a smooth, linear progression through the five stages has become outdated.

Grief is, I’ve come to know, individual to each person and each family.

Yet, despite the fact that one person dies every minute in the UK, we still don’t know how to talk about grief, nor how to reach out for support when we need it.

As Trust founder Linda Magistris, says: “Grief is just love with nowhere to go.”

By listening to the family as they talk about their loved one and celebrate the life they lived, it can help them channel that love into the tribute I eventually write and deliver at the ceremony.

The first stage of grief is to simply acknowledge it.


Find a directory of resources at Good Grief Trust – Find Support.

Liked this? Read also: What the songwriter Nick Cave can teach us about grief.


What the songwriter Nick Cave can teach us all about grief

Nick Cave is an artist whose music I admire.

I am, as a writer, always drawn to the narrative of his storytelling lyrics.

But, after the tragic death of his son, Arthur, in an accident, Cave has also become something of a reluctant spokesperson for all of us who have lost someone close.

I’ve started a new freelance role as a civil celebrant, having done my first funeral ceremonies over the autumn.

It’s early days but I’m learning how best to work with the families I meet — how to demonstrate my sympathy and empathy while also doing a professional job.

My role is ultimately, after all, to write and present a script that celebrates the unique life of the individual.

But the people I meet are grieving, struggling often to make sense of the tidal wave events engulfing them. It’s easy, flippant almost, to offer words of hope but hope is exactly is exactly what they need.

Nick Cave found le most juste this week, writing on his website, The Red Hand Files.

Talking about his struggle with grief after Arthur’s death, he describes how:

“I closed my eyes and imagined lifting him from my heart — this tormented place in which I was told he lived — and I positioned him outside of my body, next to me, beside me.”

Cave describes how he found comfort in a simple visualisation:

” …perhaps there is a way to summon and release them from your despair so that they can attend to you — allow them to become your spiritual companions in that impossible realm, to look after you in their imagined presence, and guide you forward until things get better.”

It takes time for someone to reach the stage of grief whereby they can even consider releasing a lost loved one from the maelstrom of their heart. But it will come.

As Cave says: “I felt increasingly empowered, as I allowed him to accompany me from my boundless grief.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is help to move that process forward by finding the right words of comfort and closure when words often fail.

That’s why I’m here.

Read more at The Red Hand Files.

  • I’m available for civil ceremonies in the Chester, Northwest England and North Wales region. Contact me for details.