Austin's Blog


The fashion for Victorian mourning

February 14th, 2017    Author:

After her beloved Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria dressed in black for the rest of her 40-year reign. It sparked a mourning fashion for women, many of whom would refer to journals or household manuals such as The Queen and Cassell’s for advice on what to wear.

The dress code was dictated by different mourning stages, which for a widow would last at least two years. In the first stage – full mourning – a widow would wear head-to-toe black, including a scratchy crape veil. Depending on the household income, her dress might be made of paramatta silk, cashmere or a cheaper fabric like bombazine.

After a year and one day, the widow moved into ‘second mourning’. At this stage – which lasted nine months – she could wear her veil lifted back over her head and also allow herself a little ornamentation, perhaps some fabric trim added to her dress or a piece of mourning jewellery.

The last stage was three to six months of ‘half mourning’ during which time widows could gradually move to a less sombre way of dressing. They could dispense with their black mourning dresses – known as ‘widow’s weeds’ – and wear their normal clothes, albeit in respectful colours such as grey, purple, violet and mauve. For this final mourning stage, the fashion became less formal and stiff, with the introduction of fabrics like velvet and silk along with lace, fringe and ribbons.

In the Victorian era, men didn’t apply such a strict fashion code. While a widower would mourn for two years, he’d simply wear his usual dark suit with black gloves, a cravat and hatband.

Wearing mourning clothes became less fashionable in the Edwardian era and its popularity dwindled further after the first and second wars. Today, many people reserve dressing in black just for the deceased’s funeral, though there’s no formal dress code for wearing black or a dark colour to a service. In fact, any colour goes so long as it’s in keeping with the wishes of the deceased or their family.

If you’re arranging a funeral, it’s useful to let attendees know any special clothes requirements. Your loved one might have talked about wanting their funeral to be a sea of bright colours or there may be a favourite colour the deceased always wore. They could perhaps have been known for their spotty scarves or mismatching socks, which you could ask people to wear at the service. These personal touches can help to reflect your loved one’s personality and strengthen people’s memories of them.

* If you need help planning a funeral, please call us on 01438 316623

Music to Say Goodbye to …

January 25th, 2017    Author:

At a funeral, it can be wonderful to hear a song or piece of music that reflects the personality of the deceased, or that you know was a favourite of theirs. Hearing it played can add to the memories you have of them as you say goodbye.

Some people choose their own funeral music long before they’re gone, perhaps including a special playlist in their will. For others, it may rest on their family and friends to pick something appropriate. It doesn’t have to be a religious hymn – it could be pop, country, jazz, rock or any other musical genre the deceased loved listening to.

Some people go with a favourite TV or film theme – the theme tune to Coronation Street and the Morecambe and Wise Show’s Bring Me Sunshine are popular choices. Others might go for a sports-related song like You’ll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers. And many people delight in choosing a humorous tune such as Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

At Harwood Park Crematorium, we have a huge music library with a pre-recorded playlist that covers all genres of music, including 100 pieces of specially recorded organ music. You can also bring in your own selection of music to play on our hi-tech audio system. Or for something truly memorable, you might want to have a live music performance during the ceremony and for this we have a vocalist, guitarist and keyboardist. On request, we can record the performance onto audiotape for you.

* To talk to us about music at Harwood Park Crematorium, please call us on 01438 316623

Dealing with Grief at Christmas

December 22nd, 2016    Author:

December can be a particularly difficult time for those dealing with grief. While everyone around you is filled with excitement about the coming Christmas festivities, you’re left feeling lost and consumed by sadness. These emotions can be especially raw if your bereavement is very recent or if this is the first Christmas without your loved one.

Everyone experiences grief differently and how you cope with Christmas will be personal to you. Some people find comfort in holding onto their usual festive routine and traditions, remembering that’s how they did things when their loved one was still with them. For others, making changes can make Christmas feel more manageable. You might decide to eat Christmas dinner at a restaurant rather than having it at home, or open Christmas presents before the Queen’s Speech instead of after, if that’s what you normally do.

It’s a good idea to sit down in advance and talk to your family about how you’d all like to celebrate. This gives everyone chance to communicate how they feel about dealing with Christmas and to suggest ideas that may help make it less painful. It’s also an opportunity to recognise that this will be a very sad time and remind yourselves that it’s OK to feel sad and to cry.

At this time of year, you will be thinking a lot about the person who’s no longer with you and you will have many memories of your time together. You might want to share these with others – perhaps a dinner party with friends where each of you recalls a special moment with the deceased. Or it could be something you’d prefer to do privately. Maybe you could buy an advent calendar and each time you open a new window spend a few quiet moments with your memories.

However you choose to celebrate without your loved one during this difficult time, our thoughts are with you and from everyone at Austin’s we wish you a very peaceful Christmas.

* Austin’s are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Please get in touch with us on 01438 815555.

Should you take children to a funeral?

November 12th, 2016    Author:

Should you take children to a funeral?

When a child attends a funeral or cremation, it can help them to understand that death is final and gives them the chance to be with their family and friends to say goodbye. This can be an important part of the healing process.

The first thing to do is to ask your child if they’d like to go to the funeral. Sit down and talk to them about what this involves – who will be there, what will happen and why you are doing this. If your child is given clear information, they can make their own decision about whether or not they want to go.

If your child doesn’t want to go to the funeral

* Reassure them that this is OK and that not everybody goes to a funeral.

* Ask them whether there’s anything they don’t understand about funerals or if they have any more questions.

* Let them know that they can change their mind – even if it’s on the day of the funeral.

* Perhaps ask them if they’d like you to tell them about the funeral when it’s over – again, reassuring them it’s OK if this isn’t what they want.

* Talk to them about how they’d like to be involved in saying goodbye without going to the funeral. They might want to help pick the funeral flowers or to write a poem to be read out at the service.

If your child wants to go to the funeral

* Ask them if they have any questions about the funeral or if there’s anything they don’t understand.

* Explain that it’s OK to cry and it’s OK not to cry, and that they may even want to smile or laugh. Reassure them that whatever they feel like doing, that’s alright.

* You might want to ask someone trusted to help take care of your child during the ceremony.

* Include them in the planning of the funeral and look at ways they can be part of the service. They might want to write a poem or some special words that can be read out. Perhaps they could draw a picture of the deceased, which could be printed on the Order of Service. On the day, they might simply want to keep a special memento in their pocket.

After the funeral…

Whether or not your child wants to go to the funeral service, they can still be involved with commemorating the deceased’s life. Sit down together to talk about ways they’d like to remember their loved one. They might want to:-

* name a star

* plant a tree

* launch a balloon

* make a memory board

* You can download our free booklet, Talking to Children About Death, at