Full Circle Grief Podcast

By David Billington

New Grief Podcast: Conversations about Loss

In our new Full Circle grief podcast series we explore grief through conversations with people whose personal experience of bereavement has given them a unique perspective on life after loss.

As modern funeral directors, we actively encourage open, honest and non-judgmental conversations about death and grief. Listening to people’s stories and wishes is a significant and valuable part of our role as we support the wellbeing of people who have been bereaved.

Why we have decided to make our own grief podcast

There are already some fantastic grief podcasts out there, many of which we subscribe to and recommend to people we support (you’ll find a link to our grief podcast recommendations at the end of this blog).

We decided to launch our own podcast so that we could share some of the inspiring stories that people share with us.

In our day to day work with individuals, healthcare professionals, death doulas, celebrants and others, people often talk to us in a very open and transparent way about grief. They share personal stories about how they have coped through challenging times or have helped others to do so.

We recognise that we are in a very privileged position and we are delighted that some of these people have agreed to share their stories more widely through our grief podcast.

In the first of our series of podcasts, A Safe Place to Breathe, we talk to grief and loss coach Laura Toop about the many challenges she has faced in her life. Laura gives a raw and frank account of her own journey through grief and mental health and how it has taken her in a new direction, both personally and professionally.

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Laura’s Story

Laura is a grief and loss specialist who, in her younger years, battled with eating disorders, her coping mechanism, following an accident that left her bedridden, aged 13, and more recently the death of her husband, her own health and the loss of her career in quick succession. She shares her darkest moments with us and explains how her life-changing experiences ended up transforming her life and taking her in a new direction.

Laura felt her life spinning out of control and she felt she needed time and space to breathe. It wasn’t until she felt she had lost everything that Laura began to see a path forwards, to rebuild, which led to her discovering strength and confidence from within and a new passion for life and living

What does a grief and loss coach do?

Our conversation with Laura begins by talking about her role as a grief and loss coach, helping people navigate loss and transition.

As someone who has undergone her fair share of counselling during her treatment for anxiety and bulimia, she understands better than most how inadequate the experience can be for many. She describes feeling patronised and talked down to by doctors and counsellors when all she really wanted was a candid conversation that would enable her to express how she felt and what she was going through.

She is now able to deliver the kind of support she always wished she had been able to access, although she points out that she has two very different audiences for her services. The first comprises senior managers, HR professionals and friends and relatives who are supporting those who are bereaved. She helps them understand how best to help people who have suffered loss or are going through major change.  Her other audience is those who are newly bereaved or further down their journey. Her approach is one of being coach rather than counsellor, enabling, encouraging and empowering people to talk and move forwards.

Her key philosophy is one that we share here at Full Circle Funerals, which is allowing people to be heard.

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Learning how to cope with a situation that you cannot control

In our first grief podcast, Laura talks frankly about her eating disorder and how it gave her a feeling of control, helping her cope with uncertainty and anxiety in her life.

People who have been bereaved often express the sense of feeling out of control and this is something that Laura talks about in her conversations with David Billington in the podcast. Dave is one of our funeral directors at Full Circle Funerals and has instigated this podcast series because he feels very strongly about the power of conversation and the benefits of talking about death. Through his own experiences, he has seen how beneficial it can be to give people a safe space to open up about death and dying.

Laura and Dave discuss the helplessness that often comes from being faced with a situation beyond control or comprehension and the anxiety that can result. If these feelings are never talked about, they can remain trapped and can impact a bereaved person’s wellbeing for many years to come.

The podcast is a way to share experiences, inspire conversations and support long term wellbeing. Dave and Laura have both seen, in their personal and professional lives, how talking about death can be life-enhancing.

Talking about death with friends and family

 One hugely positive outcome from Laura’s grief after the death of her partner was the fact that her own parents found themselves more willing and able to talk about death. In doing so, they explored their own wishes and felt motivated to put their affairs in order.

Laura describes how her father talked openly about how the challenges he had watched his daughter face after her partner’s death had made him think about his own situation. He realised that even little things, like making sure paperwork and computer passwords were accessible to his wife so that she wouldn’t struggle to access important information, could make a big difference to the distress experienced by someone who is newly bereaved.

He also opened up about his own regrets about Laura’s childhood and the part he felt he had played in the development of her eating disorder.  Laura had no idea he blamed himself. This presented the whole family with a unique and precious opportunity to share their emotions and offer forgiveness. By reframing how they looked at the past and their current situation, they were able to move forward together in a far more positive way.

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Overcoming anxiety about death

Talking about death is not always an easy thing to do. Our grief podcasts are intended to spark conversations and remove some of the apprehension people feel when tackling the subject of death and grief.

We hope that by doing so, it will be easier for people to find ways to open up to those closest to them about how they are feeling and perhaps even start a discussion about their own funeral wishes.

We have some fascinating and empowering conversations lined up to share with you in the months ahead. You can listen, download and subscribe to the Full Circle Funerals grief podcast wherever you usually get your podcasts.

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/109XPDlofGGxW8oJVg0nue

You may find it helpful to read a little more about funeral wishes https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/funeral-plans-and-wishes/ and download our funeral wishes document to help you think about what you might want.

There are lots of other useful and interesting podcasts on grief and loss. Read our grief podcast recommendations https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/bereavement-support/podcasts/

 People express their grief in many different ways. Sometimes this can be through art. If you have found a creative outlet for your experiences, you may want to share it in our gallery. Find out more about Art After Loss https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/bereavement-support/art-after-loss/

By Lisa Lund, National Bereavement Service

Lisa Lund
National bereavement service logo

For those who want to offer emotional support to someone who is grieving – whether they’re a partner, relative, close friend or colleague – it can be difficult to know what to do or say.

You may ask yourself, what if I say the wrong thing? Could what I say add to their distress? It’s completely normal to feel unsure as to how to support a loved one through a very tough time, and as a result we can feel confused, distanced from the bereaved and our efforts can even feel ineffective.

The good news is there are lots of things you can do to let your loved one know that you’re by their side, from listening to them about their feelings to helping them with everyday tasks.

Here, we’ll have a look at the different ways that grief could affect someone and some common beliefs and misconceptions that people might have about grieving. We’ll also talk you through the ways you can help to support someone in your life who has experienced loss.

 

How does grief affect us?

Grief is a natural response to the loss of a loved one. It’s very common for people to feel shocked or “numb” when they first find out about their loss. Many people experience disbelief or a sense that what’s happened isn’t real.

While each person reacts differently to loss, many people have described feeling strong denial or confusion, while others say they have felt anger, yearning, guilt or sadness.

Most people have heard of the “five stages” of grief, and many of us can even name them. The stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – were first developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a psychiatrist whose work did much to soften the stigma around terminal illness and grief.

The five stages, which were originally developed to describe the emotional journey that patients follow, rather than their loved ones, have become shorthand for what is actually a very complex process.

The five stages of grief don’t typically happen one after the other. In fact, everyone grieves in their own diverse ways and can experience a wide array of emotions. As well as the original five stages, people who are grieving can experience many more emotions and could find themselves “skipping” stages, repeating them or experiencing multiple stages at once.  For example, they might experience an immediate period of melancholy or depression only to later have feelings of anger or denial. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and it’s essential that the bereaved receive support and validation no matter what way they grieve or the timeline the process follows.

 

Supporting the bereaved person

Whether you’re a friend, family member or colleague, you can play an important role in helping the bereaved receive the understanding and support they need. Here are a few key ways to do so…

 

Ask… then listen

Begin with the simplest of questions, ‘How are you?’. If you know the person well you may feel comfortable asking them directly whether or not they want to talk about their feelings.

The bereaved person might find it soothing to discuss their feelings, or share memories of the deceased. And while you may encourage them to speak with you about it, ultimately you should take your lead from them in each conversation. After all, they may want to speak in detail about their feelings, but just as equally they may not.

 

Offer help

Let the bereaved person know you are ready to support them. This could include offering to attend an event held in honour of the deceased, or offering your company on holidays such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or Christmas. It may help to be aware of dates and anniversaries which could cause strong feelings to surface so that you can offer support in those times.

Ask if there’s anything they need, and if they seem unsure, you could suggest specific things, such as cooking them a meal or doing their shopping.

 

Be observant

Many people report physical symptoms which come as a result of acute grief, such as stomach pain, loss of appetite, intestinal upsets, sleep disturbances and loss of energy.

Mourning can place significant stress on the body’s natural defence systems, and loneliness and feelings of isolation could worsen existing health issues. As a friend or family member, you may wish to be observant of the physical and emotional health of the bereaved, and gently suggest seeking the help of a doctor if existing health problems worsen or new symptoms emerge.

 

Be patient

Being nudged or pushed to confront many difficult emotions at once can be unnecessarily painful, and put a strain on your relationship with the bereaved. Therefore take a slow and patient approach to supporting your loved one, and remember that processing and healing after loss take a great deal of time. Mourning can progress over months and years. Avoid setting a specific timeline for someone to “move on”, or comparing them with others’ experiences or expectations around grief.

 

Resources that can help

There are many organisations that offer emotional support, and a phone call or online chat following a bereavement.

Many charities and organisations have come under strain during the pandemic, however, either as a result of decreases in funding, an increase in enquiries, or adjustments to new ways of working and/or staffing. NBS has recently launched an all-new grief support and counselling helpline, to help charities and other organisations that have been overwhelmed or lack the resources to offer a full-time support and counselling helpline.

The dedicated free-phone number, giving people direct access to bereavement support, is available from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 2pm on Saturday.

For those who prefer not to speak to someone about the difficulties they’re experiencing over the phone, NBS has also introduced a live chat feature on its website. The live chat function automatically appears as a pop-up when a visitor accesses the site and they can choose to get in touch through it, or continue browsing. Providing real-time responses to questions or concerns from the same trained advisors who answer NBS’ phonelines, the live chat facility is an alternative contact method that ensures those in need of help following a bereavement can reach out in a way that’s easiest for them.

No matter how people choose to get in touch, NBS can provide immediate help with support and counselling services developed in partnership with the expert team at St Giles Hospice. On a case by case basis, NBS can provide assessment and signposting to further assistance, which will either be provided by trained specialist bereavement support volunteers, or, where counselling is required, by a BACP-registered practitioner.

Visit the National Bereavement Service’s website

By Sarah Jones

Sarah
Rainbow card

When someone you care about is hurting it can be hard to know how to help them. Receiving gifts can be helpful for the person that is bereaved, as these can be a reminder that someone is thinking about and cares for them. Sending a token of your thoughts needn’t be expensive – below we have collected some of our favourite, inexpensive gift ideas that you might want to consider gifting.

1. Friend I’m here for you – Made by Laura Jane (£4.95)

‘Maybe I can’t stop the downpour, but I will always walk with you in the rain’ reads the small notecard that accompanies this bonny figurine of a child in a hooded raincoat. A small gesture to remind those you care about that they have someone to weather the storm with.

2. “In Loving Memory” Remembrance Votive Candle with Gift Bag and Card – Angel and Dove (£10.99 but quote FULLCIRCLE10 for 10% discount on all their products)

Lighting a candle in memory of someone is one way to visualise remembrance. Angel and Dove have created a token candle which may be gifted in memory of someone which the person missing them can light to create a visual expression of their thoughts.

3. Pocket Flower Forget Me Not – Little Glass Boutique (£5.00 incl VAT)

These small mementos come attached to a card which can be removed so they can be held in the hand, or perhaps kept in a pocket as a reminder that those one cares about are never far away.

4. Feather Bereavement Fairy Gift – Lotty Lollipop (£10.95)

The hand painted figurines can be personalised by adding a name to the bottom of the figure. The wings may prevent them from being comfortable cuddled like the other small mementos on this list, but they would make a sweet décor addition with a subtle nod to the person that is missed.

5. Thinking of Your Miniature Bouquet of Paper Roses – Marvling Bros Ltd (£4.99)

Giving flowers is a popular way of letting someone know that they are being though of. This matchbox sized faux-bouquet can be kept much longer than real flowers and can be reopened when comfort is sought.

6. Card with rainbow light catcher – Jayne Britton (£4.50)

The removable light catcher attached to this card can be hung in the light – a colourful reminder of the words from its giver.

7. “Sometime all your need is a bear hug” matchbox gift – Liberty Bee (£7.98)

Another matchbox gift to be held comfortably in the palm. The whimsical nature of this bear token means it could make a great gift for younger people and children.

8. Name a star – thegiftexperience.co.uk (£9.99)

Looking at the night sky, up into the stars can be comforting to some people that have lost someone special to them. Some like to think that amongst the stars is where the person they miss now exists. Naming a star after someone is a way of solidifying this connection.

9. Personalised message heart shaped coaster – Sophia Victoria Joy (£6.00)

Personalise this coaster with the name of the mother’s child.

 10. Personalised memorial candle – Lollyrocket Candle Co (£8.00)

Lighting a hand poured candle whilst thinking of someone that has died is one way to create ritual around a moment of remembrance. These candles can be personalised for a small additional cost.

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By Maxine Heppenstall

MAxine
Lawyer

Taking Care of Yourself

In these difficult times it is more important than ever to take care of yourself and your family.

Many people are rushing to make Wills at present, but the importance of Lasting Powers of Attorney should not be overlooked, and the documents should (ideally) be prepared together as part of your lifetime planning.  Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney can only be executed when the person making them has the requisite mental capacity to do so.  As mental incapacity can strike at any time through accident or illness or general deterioration, it is important to get your affairs in order whilst you are fit and well.

 

Wills

Making a Will allows you to say who inherits your estate after death.  The Will does not take effect until death and therefore does not dictate what you can do with your estate in your lifetime – it is yours to do with as you please whilst you are alive.  If you spend all you have – so be it!  The Will simply takes care of what is left of your estate on death and accordingly should be drafted to protect and provide for those who are left behind.  A Will should be reviewed on a regular basis, at least every 3 to 5 years, to ensure that it still meets with your wishes.  Family circumstances can change quickly, and your Will should adapt accordingly – if it is very specific in its content then it will require a regular review.  If it is more general in content, it may extend that review period.

Making a Will at any time, whether you are 18 years old or 80 years old gives you the opportunity to choose who will deal with your estate after death, who will care for any children under the age of 18 years at your death, who will care for any pets you have at your death, and making a Will allows you to make specific gifts of items or sums of money to particular people – whether they be family members, friends or charities.  Those who are parents should look to protect their children and those who are grandparents should look to distribute their assets as they wish.

Without a Will, the law dictates who will deal with your estate after death and more importantly who will inherit your estate after death – don’t let that happen.  This is a particularly important point for those who cohabit with their partner and do not marry or enter into a civil partnership.  Those who choose to cohabit offer no protection for their partner without making a Will, unless they hold all their assets in joint names with their partner (in which case the assets pass by survivorship), which is not always the case.

 

Lasting Powers of Attorney

Making a Lasting Power of Attorney allows you to say who deals with your affairs in your lifetime.  There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorney – one that relates to your property and financial affairs, and the other that relates to your health and welfare.  The two Lasting Powers of Attorney complement each other and enable you to say who should look after your affairs in the event that you are unable to.  A Lasting Power of Attorney relating to your property and financial affairs covers everything from dealing with your income, capital and expenditure, to selling your property for you.  Appointing someone you trust is vital as it is a very important role for someone to take on, and it should not be taken on lightly.  A Lasting Power of Attorney relating to your health and welfare covers everything from your Attorney being involved in your daily routine and respecting your wishes for day to day living, to making life sustaining decisions.  The major difference between the two documents is that a Lasting Power of Attorney relating to your property and financial affairs can be used whilst you still have capacity – perhaps for convenience.  However, a Lasting Power of Attorney relating to your health and welfare can only be used when you do not have the capacity to make a decision yourself relating to those matters.

Without Lasting Powers of Attorney in place, your legal next of kin have to apply to the Court of Protection in London for a Court order to become a ‘Deputy’ to enable them to deal with your affairs.  This can prove to be a lengthy and expensive process at a time when time may be of the essence, and family tensions run high – don’t let that happen.  The process of applying to the Court involves an application form being completed, together with a schedule of your income and capital and an assessment of capacity carried out by a medical professional.  There is an application fee payable to the Court.  Your proposed ‘Deputy’ will also need to complete a Declaration and in due course will need to take out an insurance bond to protect your assets.  The Deputy will need to prepare an annual report of your income, capital and expenditure.  Again, it can be an onerous task, one that can be avoided by making a Lasting Power of Attorney – you are able to choose who you wish to be your Attorney, rather than the law dictating who the next of kin is and therefore who is entitled to apply to Court to be appointed as your Deputy.

 

So, don’t delay – take care of yourself today!

Mrs Maxine Heppenstall

Private Client Solicitor & Director

Walker Foster Ltd, Skipton

[email protected]

01756 700200

Visit the Walker Foster website here

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By Andrew Watkins

Andrew
Candle

So as we say our farewells to AB,
we say thank you for all that you gave to us in life,
the warmth of your love;
your humour and friendship;
your help, guidance, and wisdom;
and the joy that you brought wherever you went.
Whilst we miss you terribly,
we are thankful that you now have the peace you deserve.

AB, we send all our love to surround you now.
As we think of our continuing journey in this life,
we promise never to forget you,
we will honour your memory by living our lives as you would want us to,
and we will take the joy and pleasure you had in life and share it freely with others.
Fare-well and thank you, AB!

The time has come for us now to bid AB farewell.
AB, we let you go now in peace, thankful for all you have been, treasuring your eternal love and promising to support and love each other in the coming days and weeks.

The separateness, the uniqueness of each human life is the basis of our grief in bereavement.
Look through the whole world and there is no one like AB, but s/he still lives on in your memories, and though no longer a visible part of your lives, AB will always remain a member of your family and of your circle, through the influence s/he has had on you and the special part s/he played in your lives.  As we let AB go in peace, we also take her/him with us as we leave here, in that most special of places, the depth of our hearts.

We have been celebrating and remembering with affection and gratitude the life of AB, the many good times we shared and the love s/he freely gave to us all.
So in sorrow, but with deep love and affection we now commit ab’s earthly body to be transformed into the elements of the universe.  But as we do, we promise to cherish her/his memory and
look for memories of the good times in the beauty of the earth we see around us.

To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose on earth, a time to be born and a time to die. Here in this last act, in sorrow but without fear, in love and appreciation, we commit AB’s body to its natural end.

We’re coming to the end of this celebration of AB’s life. But before we go our separate ways we  pause for a moment to reflect on all that we have heard and shared.  Perhaps to recall our own personal and favourite memories of AB… (Pause)
Just as a child is welcomed into our lives, there is also a time to say goodbye when someone leaves us. So now we say goodbye to AB.  It may be difficult, there may be tears, but it is important that we do this, but knowing they leave with us treasure beyond words.

Now is the time to return AB’s body back to the earth that for xx years s/he has called home.  Just as the elements came together to create you, so now we ask those same elements enfold you and keep you safe as once again you become part of something greater that each of us and more than we know or understand.

Now is the time to say goodbye to AB.
Ab is now free from any pain or distress s/he may have encountered.
Now is the time for us to let go of any times we hurt AB, and remember the love we shared
Now is the time to say to AB, we forgive you anything that you may have done to hurt us and send you on your way with our unconditional love.
Now, though we may be sad, is the time to remember the laughter we shared, the fun we had and the joy of being in each-others company, trusting that in time these tears of sadness will be replaced by tears of joy.
Goodbye AB, and thank you for being you, and being part of our lives.

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By Sarah Jones

Sarah
Funeral experts by experience: What matters to them

Why do funeral research?

The concept of Evidence Based Practice first originated in the health-care sector over 30 years ago and has been routinely used by health professionals ever since. It aims to improve outcomes by using documented evidence from professional practice and research to solve professional problems and identify the “gold-standard” approach.

Funeral experts regularly claim that a “good funeral” will help people to achieve better long-term grief outcomes. Involvement, participation and feeling satisfied with the funeral planning experience are all regarded as protecting people from “pathological grief outcomes”. However, an in-depth literature review conducted in 2018, left me feeling shocked by the lack of evidence!

EBP has now been embraced by many other disciplines, including education, management, librarianship and literacy development (Clyde, 2006) but it is almost completely lacking in the funeral industry. Should a group of people who claim to be “professionals” not aim to base their practice on something other than anecdotes?

Funeral Experts by Experience – Funeral Factors

Having realised that we no one has asked bereaved people about their experienced of arranging a funeral this meant that we also did not know with confidence what was important to them. Funeral directors and bereavement professionals felt that they knew but we felt it was important to ask the “experts by experience” (bereaved people) about their experienced and recommendations.

In 2019, we completed the first phase of a research project supported by academics at University of York and funeral industry representatives (including Terry Tennens from SAIF, Fran Hall from The Good Funeral Guide and Julie Dunk from the ICCM). This study identified five “funeral factors” which bereaved people consistently reported were important to them when arranging or attending a funeral. The report is available for everyone to read and the findings have been presented at professional conferences (such as the ICCM, NAFD and Humanists conferences) and referenced in academic literature.

The five factors we identified were:

Were the funeral wishes known?
Was decision making inclusive?
Was the funeral director responsive?
Was there the right level of contact with the body?
Did the funeral meet expectations?
For this that are interested, more information about the study (and the report) can be found at https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/learning-together/research/

Funeral infographic

Physical care of the body

Funeral Experts by Experience

During our research, some people shared their opinions about how people are physically looked after once the funeral director has been called, and this has raised more important questions. For the next phase of the research project, we are exploring this further.

In this second phase of the Funeral Experts by Experience project, we are asking volunteers to share their experiences and recommendations about how funeral directors physically care for people who have died. We are looking for members of the public who might be interested in volunteering to share their experience and views with us – this will involve a short interview over the telephone, or by videocall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaTkuskAPQU

As with the first phase of our research, all the rich data gathered during the interviews will then be analysed in detail to look for themes and patterns. These themes will then be presented in a report for discussion, shared and individual reflection and to inform good practice and standards.

ICCM information

Funeral Director Practice

The funeral industry is currently unregulated. There is no mandatory code of practice or national minimal standard and membership to trade association is optional. There are various funeral training providers but no mandatory professional qualifications for funeral directors. This means that funeral directors will have their own views and practices and no single organisation currently knows what these practices are.

In addition, we are also asking funeral directors to share their views and practice regarding care for people who have died. We would like to understand practice and experiences before the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. We are asking funeral directors to complete a short online questionnaire so that we can try to better understand practice across the UK.

Funeral director views and practice can then be compared with bereaved people’s expectations and recommendations and this could be the start of a very meaningful conversation about best practice

What next?

The ultimate questions that we would like to answer is whether a funeral has any impact on long term wellbeing. To understand this better we are working with academics from University of Leeds, York and Bradford and considering the best research methods to explore this very important question. Watch this space!

Clyde, L.A. (2006), “The basis for evidence-based practice: evaluating the research evidence”, New Library World, Vol. 107 No. 5/6, pp. 180-192.

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