Austin's Blog

 

Why It’s Good to Talk About Death

October 5th, 2018    Author:

It may sound strange but discussing death can help us to appreciate our life and remind us to cherish and enjoy it.

That’s the concept of Death Cafes, which allow people to meet up in a relaxed setting to talk about what’s often viewed as a taboo subject. Over tea and cake, it’s an opportunity to share your thoughts, learn about other people’s experiences and to talk about your own.

The first Death Cafe was opened in London in 2011 by Jon Underwood, who got the idea after reading about ‘Café Mortal’ events in Switzerland where people gathered in public to talk about death. Since then, 5,000 Death Cafes have been held in over 50 countries.

It’s not just cafes where people can meet up – Death Cafes are held in restaurants, tents, parks, community spaces and people’s homes. They’re usually small gatherings of around six to twelve people and last for one or two hours. At some cafes, groups meet up each month, while others may run several sessions then take a break or get together a few times a year.

The most important thing about the cafes is that they are welcoming and informal. Everyone gets the chance to introduce themselves and explain what’s brought them there – though if you feel more comfortable not talking, particularly if it’s your first time, that’s perfectly fine. There are no set questions or topics, so each group can discuss whatever comes up as they get to know each other.

A discussion might be about end-of-life care, how to talk to someone who’s been bereaved or perhaps a more philosophical theme. Death Cafes aren’t designed for grief support or counselling sessions but exist to bring people together who want to discuss death and dying without being viewed as morbid.

For those who go to a Death Cafe, it’s a way of coming to terms with the inevitable, understanding and preparing for it – and embracing their life and being inspired to live it fully. You can find out more about Death Cafes at https://deathcafe.com/

* Austin’s are here to help you with funeral planning. Please get in touch with us on 01438 815555.

Therapy dogs at funerals

July 16th, 2018    Author:

In the latest trend in America, therapy dogs are being brought into funeral homes to help comfort mourners. The four-legged friends are present when families are making arrangements and can also attend funerals and wakes.

According to America’s National Funeral Directors Association there has been a rise in the number of therapy dogs being used at funeral homes in the past few years. And it seems the idea is increasingly popular. An NFDA survey found that over half of respondents would be interested in having a dog at a funeral or memorial service.

There has been lots of research on the benefits of having pets. Stroking an animal increases serotonin and dopamine, which is known to lift your mood, and it also helps lower stress and blood pressure. Having a dog around is a distraction for people who are feeling lonely after losing their loved one, and can be great for kids who’d rather talk to a furry friend than an adult.

At American funeral homes, it’s been noticed how the atmosphere changes when a dog enters the room. The family starts to feel more at ease and to talk more openly about their loved one, which helps the funeral director to plan a meaningful funeral.

Earlier this year, after reading about the trend in America, a funeral director in Shropshire decided to take his dog into work. Basil the Beagle was such a hit as a ‘comfort companion’ that some families even requested that he attend the funeral as well. So watch this space – funeral therapy dogs might become a regular sight in the UK.

Austins are happy to discuss you bringing your faithful friend along to our branches or to the Crematorium.

*  Thank you to University of the Fraser Valley for the use of this image.

* For help and support planning a funeral or cremation, please contact Austin’s on 01438 815555.

How to write an obituary

April 24th, 2018    Author:

An obituary gives notice of a person’s death along with details of the funeral service and memorial information. You might want to write a short obituary for the local paper and a longer version to be read as a eulogy at the service. This can celebrate the deceased by including more about their personality, their achievements and significant life events. A detailed obituary makes a lovely lasting tribute that can be used on a memorial website or as a remembrance in a family scrapbook.

Here are a few tips that we hope will help you when writing an obituary…

Announcing the death

The obituary should start by detailing the name and age of the deceased along with their place of residence and the time and place of death. Use language that you feel comfortable with – some people prefer to say ‘died’ while others might want to write something like ‘passed away’. It’s also up to you whether you state the cause of death. In the case of sudden death, it may help you having to repeatedly explain the cause to people around you.

Listing the family
As part of the obituary, you need to list surviving family members as well as immediate family who preceded the deceased, starting with the closest relative first. Write the relative’s first name followed by the first name of their spouse in brackets and then the surname – for example: Helen (Rory) Jones. If the couple aren’t married, follow this format: Helen (Rory Brown) Jones. With a large family, it may not be possible to list everyone so here you can keep it to numbers, such as ‘ten grandchildren’.

Notifying mourners
An important part of the obituary is to let mourners know details of the funeral service and this should include the time, date and venue plus the officiant’s name. Similar details should be given for the burial or cremation.

Leaving a special message

It’s not compulsory but you may want to end the obituary by thanking a particular hospital, hospice or care home. You can also use the last part of the obituary to inform people about making a donation rather than leaving floral tributes, or sign off with a line from a poem or prayer.

Showing a photo
You don’t have to include a photo with the obituary, but it will help the notice to stand out and make it easier for friends and neighbours to spot in the newspaper. For this reason, it’s best to use an up-to-date photo of the deceased so that they are easily recognisable.

* If you have any questions about writing an obituary, please contact Austin’s on 01438 316623 or come in to any of our branches

Austin’s charitable donations

March 27th, 2018    Author:

We believe in helping those most in need in our community, which is why we set up Austin’s Charitable Foundation. Each year, we’re delighted to be able to support a charity by donating a proportion of our annual profits along with money donated from sources including our funeral service CD and Christmas carol concert.

Since we started the foundation in 2002, we’ve raised over £100,000 for charities such as the North Herts Samaritans, Cancer Hair Care, the Hertfordshire Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre and Road Victims Trust. Earlier this month, Austin’s was thrilled to hand over a cheque for £5,414.30 to our 2017 charity recipient Stand-By-Me. This local community-led service supports children and young people following a bereavement and helps them to understand and deal with grief.

 

We’d love to raise as much money, if not more, for our 2018 charity, Resolve – which supports people through their recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. If you’d like to help the local community in memory of a loved one, information on how to do this is available from all our funeral offices and at Harwood Park Crematorium. You can also download a donation form

With your help, Austin’s look forward to donating money to deserving causes for many years to come.

 

[photo caption]

Claire Austin hands over a cheque to (right) Shirley Avery, fundraising trustee at Stand-By-Me and (far right) Helen Gray, foundation director of Hertfordshire Community Foundation

 

* For help and support planning a funeral or cremation, please contact Austin’s on 01438 316623.