Austin's Blog


Is it time to talk about death?

May 17th, 2016    Author:

Talking about death is something most people prefer not to do. According to the coalition Dying Matters, over 70% of people don’t feel comfortable talking about death and less than a third have discussed their end-of-life wishes with loved ones.

It’s something that Dying Matters – which promotes awareness of dying, death and bereavement – would like to see change. Its annual Awareness Week held each May aims to get people talking about a subject that they’d normally shy away from. As well as opening up the discussion about death, Dying Matters also wants to encourage everyone to think about how they could improve their own end-of-life experience when it comes – perhaps by planning their future care, making a will or writing down their funeral wishes.

One place where mortality is openly discussed is the new breed of Death Cafes, which started springing up in the UK a few years ago. The idea behind the cafés was to create an environment where talking about death was natural and comfortable. Over tea and cake, people can chat about all sorts of death-related topics – such as cremation versus burial, what makes the perfect death, how to choose a coffin – without being viewed as morbid or macabre.

Death Cafes are held in all sorts of places, including cemeteries and people’s homes. The nearest Death Cafe is currently in Bedford, or you might like to set up your own. For details, go to

At Austin’s we understand the importance of talking. We’re here to help guide you through the funeral process and answer any questions you may have. And if someone has just died, our 24-hour service means we are able to support you immediately, at this most difficult time. To discuss your funeral needs, please contact us on 01438 794420.

The Hospice of St Francis Receive Donation

May 10th, 2016    Author:

Austins were delighted to make a donation of £4,445.00 from Harwood Park Crematorium to Vanessa Howden-Smith at The Hospice of St Francis in Berkhamsted. We hope that the contribution will assist them in their valuable work at the hospice and within the local community.

Peter and Claire Handover Cheque for £4445

Peter and Claire Handover Cheque for £4445

Releasing white doves at a funeral

April 29th, 2016    Author:


Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then I would fly away and be at rest (Psalm 55:6)

For centuries doves have symbolized peace and love, and releasing a white dove at a funeral has become increasingly popular. It can bring comfort to mourners seeing doves rise into the sky as if transporting the soul of their loved one to heaven. It’s why Austin’s offer this service either at the funeral service, cremation at Harwood Park, burial or memorial service.

Last month it was reported that the trend for releasing doves could lead to a rise in the birds being left in the wild, with the RSPB saying that domesticated doves that haven’t been properly trained to return home are increasingly being sighted. For our dove release service we always use a reputable company, with homing doves that are trained to navigate their way home from distances of up to 60 miles.

At funerals, many people like to release a single white dove to symbolize the deceased’s journey onward. Others may choose a pair of doves – this marks the deceased taking their journey either with their guardian angel or with an already departed loved one, reuniting their souls in eternity. And then there are those who find comfort in releasing three doves – signifying the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – followed by a fourth dove, for the parting spirit. Customers may also wish to release a flock of doves to represent the age of the deceased (up to 100 doves can be released).

With our dove release service, doves are placed ready in a white basket and an experienced dove handler will be there to help if you want to release the dove by hand yourself. Personal messages can be attached to the doves before they are set free into the sky.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but releasing a dove can offer a moving and memorable tribute to a loved one, and can be a peaceful and symbolic way of letting go.

* If you’d like more information about Austins dove release service, please get in touch on at any of our branches or Harwood Park Crematorium on 01438 815555.

Photo courtesy of The White Dove Company

Claire Finds Out More About Vietnamese burial rituals

February 29th, 2016    Author:

Last October, Austin’s managing director Claire Austin, travelled to Vietnam to work on a community project to help build a dam in Hanoi. While taking a break from mixing concrete and moving rocks she had a look around the local villages and came across some wooden coffins. When she asked about them, she was told that families handcraft their own coffins and store them under their house until they are needed.

In Vietnam, after someone has passed away the body is kept at the house for three days so people have time to say their final goodbyes. It’s common for gifts such as grains of rice or – for wealthier families – gold coins to be placed in the mouth of the deceased. The funeral ceremony involves a big feast and musicians playing traditional music. As for the burial, to avoid bad luck the body is laid to rest according to the position of the sun.

While chatting about the coffins, Claire was interested to learn that three years after burial, the body is exhumed so that the bones can be cleaned. This may be done by a special gravedigger, who digs up the bones and carefully washes them while relatives chant Buddhist prayers and burn incense. Once the bones have been cleaned they are placed in a small casket in an order that resembles the human skeleton then re-buried. The Vietnamese do this because they believe that by now the soul will have passed onto the next life, and so am empty coffin is no longer needed.

For Claire, it was a fascinating insight into how different cultures have their own customs and rituals to deal with the death of a loved one.

Vietnamese Coffins2Vietnamese Coffins