Tag: Civil celebrant

Why Dying Matters Awareness Week marks a time to talk for us all

* image via dyingmatters.org

It’s Dying Matters Awareness Week — a chance to talk about death and our end-of-life choices.

Many of us don’t have an open discussion with our families about our funeral wishes.

Indeed, recent research by Humanists UK found that 20 per cent of people were left feeling unsure if the funeral was what their loved one would have wanted.

Dying Matters, which runs the week as a public campaign and is part of the charity Hospice UK, found:

  • fewer than one in ten (8%) have put in place medical and/or emotional support for the end of their lives (dropping to 6% among over-55s)
  • just three in ten (31%) adults know how to make arrangements to ensure they die in the place they would wish to

We need to break that taboo and open up the discussion around dying.

After all, most of us would agree the most important element of a funeral is to honour the life and wishes of the person who has died.

In my work as a civil celebrant, I put the life we are celebrating at the forefront of the whole ceremony.

That’s why, family members often tell me afterwards that the service I led did them proud.

Covid-19 has forced death into the public consciousness yet many people remain unaware of the support available to them to plan for a good death.

It’s time to talk.

Read more about Dying Awareness Week via Dying Matters.

Read more about the Dying Wishes campaign by Humanists UK.

Liked this? Read also: Bereavement in the new normal: life after Covid for Saga Magazine.

Bereavement in the new normal: life after Covid for Saga Magazine

There is no new normal post Covid.

Every one of us is, after all, grieving to some degree.

That’s the idea behind my first feature for Saga Magazine, an article I have been working on this past week.

My article explores, through case studies and expert comment, the loss we have all experienced during the pandemic and how we, both collectively and individually, can hope to move forward.

Psychologists talk about the five stages of grief, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

But for one of my case study interviewees, Kerry, whose husband died last November, the whole experience has been an emotional rollercoaster, not a linear route.

“Sometimes at night, sleeping on his side in an empty bed, I call out to him. ‘Jeremy, where are you? Where are you?’ When there’s no response, I feel so alone.”

Kerry started keeping a diary as a means to express her grief, a key element of finding a path through the darkness.

“I started writing a journal to record the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been through. It’s my substitute for counselling,” she says.

Amongst the expert interviewees for the feature is Julia Samuel, the pyschotherapist and author whose book Grief Works I read and admired. She told me:

“The only thing we can be certain of in life is change. We have to grow with the change. When we try to suppress it, we do not thrive.”

Julia explained how, for every death, at least eight people are affected, often many more.

With the UK death total from the pandemic currently nudging 140,000, a lot of people have been touched by tragedy in the past year.

How do they – we – all find a new normal?

“When grieving, it’s like having less layers of skin, so you feel raw,” said Julia. “My advice is to intentionally do things to soothe yourself.”

Read the full feature in the June issue of Saga Magazine — subscribe here.

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

Liked this? Read also: Why 1,546 is more than a number – it’s a true national tragedy.

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.

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.