Austin's Blog

 

Small but beautiful funerals

April 14th, 2021    Author:

Since the start of the pandemic many families have had to limit the number of mourners that can attend their loved ones’ funerals due to strict Covid rules.

Last week we heard the very sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. The funeral will be televised and, as expected, only 30 people will be able to attend in person. There will be no processions, no streets lined with wellwishers; that’s quite the change from any other royal funeral where hundreds would usually be invited.

It’s been reported that Prince Philip did not want a big state funeral, which got us thinking about all the positives of smaller, more personal funerals that have the deceased at the very heart of them.

On the day of his funeral, the Duke’s coffin will be transported in a specially-adapted Land Rover hearse that he helped design himself. Prince Philip always had a special love for Land Rovers and so it is very fitting that he chose for his final journey to be made inside of one.

Being closer to death

If there can be anything good to come out of this pandemic, it has to be that it has helped us talk more about death and hopefully become slightly more comfortable around it. As we’ve said in many of our blogs before now, it is good to talk about death. While it can be hard to start with, there is no escaping it and talking and planning is a very good way to reduce stress and anxiety.

The fact that Prince Philip thought about how the Land Rover would carry his coffin is a wonderful example of this. These sorts of actions take a lot of stress off of those left behind and make funerals extra special on the day. Funerals can be scary things but having personal touches help to make them less daunting.

Smaller than expected

Some people might actually find it easier with restricted numbers at funerals. It can help reduce social anxiety on the day and worries about making sure you’ve told everyone who may wish to attend. There are many parts of a funeral that can cause anxiety from having lots of people waiting to speak to you on the day, to the pressure of hosting a big wake or planning a faultless service. Sometimes just you and your loved ones is all that is needed.

If you are, however, struggling with the restrictions then there are lots of things you can do to make sure the funeral is just as special as it would be in more normal times:

  • Get creative – if you find local restrictions have caused disruptions to services then try and be creative. For example, instead of relying on a florist you could pick some flowers from your own or a friend’s garden. Although not as grand, this will give the ceremony a very personal feel.
  • Record messages to be played out at the funeral – just as you would have a poem or something similar read during the service, this can be pre-recorded by a loved one who may not be able to attend for that extra personal touch. One review we recently received from a customer showed how powerful online can be: “The celebrant Robby Evans expertly delivered the tribute and the service with reverence, enabling the emotion of the occasion to be captured not only in the Chapel but also for those joining online.”
  • Create your own memorial at home – light a candle next to a photograph of them to bring you closer together, or why not play their favourite music?
  • Create a virtual memorial online – this is a lovely idea for people to post pictures and memories of the person who has passed in a central place for everyone to see, like a virtual book of remembrance. There are lots of ways to do this online.
  • Plan an event for the future – when restrictions ease why not host a memorial service or simply enjoy a meal with friends at your loved one’s favourite restaurant
  • Scatter the ashes at a later date – this doesn’t have to be done at the same time as the funeral. While funerals are time-dependent, you can wait to scatter the ashes at a time when more of you can get together or even travel to a special place.

Let us help you to create the funeral your loved one deserves. We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – https://www.austins.co.uk/contact.html

Arranging funerals in Covid times

March 7th, 2021    Author:

At the end of January, the UK marked the loss of more than 100,000 people to have died within 28 days of an infection with COVID-19. This was a terrible milestone that none of us could have imagined we would reach even just a year ago.

The pandemic has hit everyone hard and every one of us has had our own battles to face. Our thoughts go out to you all and to everyone who has lost a loved one to this awful disease.

Here at Austin’s we continue to do our best to give those in our care the farewell that they deserve, while also supporting their families. Our staff work hard with care and compassion despite the added pressure that we, as so many other essential services, have experienced over the last year.

What has changed for the funeral sector?

The National Association of Funeral Directors has carried out some research, which paints a picture of the increased pressure on our industry.

Across our UK workforce of 20,000 people, we have seen a 30% increase in our services compared to what we would usually expect in a typical January.

Some areas of the UK have a wait of up to five weeks between someone passing away and their funeral taking place. Similarly, some crematoriums have a three week wait and mortuary space is also at full capacity in some areas.

Of course, none of this comes without increased emotional and mental stress for funeral staff, but we’re pleased that this has been recognised and that specialist helpline support is available should staff need it. We are, after all, only human and deeply affected by seeing the scale of this pandemic first hand – both on those who have lost their lives and those left behind.

The importance of funerals

Unlike other life events, such as weddings or christenings, funerals can’t be delayed or repeated in the future. It is for this reason, as well as the inevitable burden on people’s mental health and wellbeing, that the government has allowed funerals to continue, albeit with restrictions in place. It is so important that people are able to grieve properly and a funeral is pivotal to this.

As with all essential services at this time, it’s crucial to get the balance right so that mourners have their opportunity to say goodbye, while keeping themselves and those working in the sector safe.

 

What has stayed the same with funerals?

 

When a loved one dies, you can still select your funeral director as usual and talk through all the funeral plans with them either over the phone, or in some cases in person. We currently have some of our branches open by appointment only.

You can still have beautiful flowers and an order of service, you can choose the coffin, have pre-recorded music play during the service and travel in a Covid-safe way to the ceremony in funeral cars.

And even though numbers are obviously limited, you can still invite everyone who would have attended the service in person to watch it live through a streaming service. We have found that more families are now streaming the service to family and friends.  Although it’s not the same as paying your respects in person, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate the life of your loved one with as many people involved as possible.

How can you help to play your part?

You can help to ensure funerals continue to take place safely by making sure you remember a few key points.

Firstly, please only attend a funeral if you have been invited directly by an immediate family member. If you are not invited, ask if they are streaming the service. Please don’t gather outside the church as this will still cause public health issues.

On a similar note, if you are organising the funeral, do be careful around how you advertise the details such as the date and venue. People turning up unexpectedly will cause problems and no one wants to be turned away at the door. You could consider other alternatives such as an online condolence page that people can add their messages to.

If you are attending a funeral, please follow the guidance of your funeral director carefully. This includes wearing a facemask, limiting your numbers to the required amount and staying socially distanced.

Lastly, if you are having a charitable collection on behalf of your loved one then this should be done online only so that no cash has to be handled, therefore reducing the risk of transmission.

Those who represent funeral workers say we too are providers of care, but the very final care. We are here for you throughout the pandemic and beyond, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or concerns you may have.

Funeral flowers and floral tributes

November 23rd, 2020    Author:

Celebrations or commiserations, happy times or sad, flowers do a wonderful job of saying what we sometimes can’t find the words for. They are a symbol of hope and love; in the words of French artist Henri Matisse, “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

Throughout history flowers have been used to celebrate and mourn our loved ones. We wear a beautiful red poppy to remember those who have given their lives in battle, while the pretty blue forget-me-not flower is long-associated with dementia.

Of course, floral arrangements have always been part of funerals. Years ago they had more practical uses, mainly to cover the smell of decaying bodies. It is believed one of the first known uses of funeral flowers was in the Shanidar caves in Iraq. Here, skeletons were found covered in deposits of wildflowers, including hollyhock, thistle, cornflower and grape hyacinth.

Today, flowers are a token of the love and respect for the person who has passed away, and a comfort for the family left behind.

 

Choosing funeral flowers

The flowers you choose for a loved one’s funeral might have a personal meaning – perhaps they always had a vase of tulips on their windowsill, or you remember the scent of roses in their garden.

If you don’t have a personal association, or if the floral tribute is for someone outside of your close family, you might want to choose flowers based on their symbolism. For example:

  • Lilies: a traditional funeral flower that is thought to represent the soul of the deceased returning to a peaceful state of innocence.
  • Roses: popular flowers for funerals that come in a variety of colours, but red roses are typically chosen by the spouse or partner to signify their love.
  • Gladioli: a traditional funeral flower that makes wonderful standing fan sprays
  • Carnations: fragrant and long-lasting, pink carnations are often chosen to symbolise the enduring love of a mother or grandmother
  • Chrysanthemums: yellow flowers can represent hope and happy thoughts.

 

Personalising your funeral flowers

The Co-op recently carried out a survey to find the most popular flower types chosen for a funeral. The report showed that roses were the top choice, followed by lilies, carnations, sunflowers and daffodils. They also found out that a quarter of Britons would like a personalised floral tribute at their funeral.

This could reflect their favourite hobby, sports team, a much-loved pet or something else entirely! In fact, florists up and down the country have had a number of out-of-the-ordinary requests over the years, from a dartboard to a vegetable patch, and handbag to a packet of Werther’s Originals!

 

Sending flowers to family and friends

It’s not uncommon for people to only request family flowers at a funeral, so before you send any on the day itself, make sure to check the funeral announcement carefully. Charity donations in lieu of flowers is fairly common, but remember you can always send a floral gift to their home before or after the funeral if you would like to.

You could send a bouquet or wrap of cut flowers, but bear in mind that some homes can get overwhelmed with flowers in the first few weeks. An alternative idea is a potted plant or planted basket.

A potted hydrangea looks beautiful and can be moved outside and planted up in the garden too. Orchids are stunning and always give a lift to any indoor space. With a little TLC, plenty of potted plants can keep bringing joy to the recipient for years to come.

 

Alternatives to flowers

Plant a tree or shrub: You could plant a tree or shrub in memory of the deceased and as a long-lasting tribute to them. A rose that can be planted outside is also a nice thought. You could send this directly to the bereaved, or plant it on their behalf.

Seed cards: These have become quite popular as wedding favours but are an equally nice idea for a funeral. Send a packet of wildflower seeds with your condolence card for the recipient to plant in the weeks or months ahead. When they look out onto the wild flower display they’ll always have a memory of their loved one and feeling of support.

Send a photo: This is a good way to share a special memory too. Send a photo you have of the deceased along with a story about it. If you don’t know what to say to someone, or what to write in the card, then this can really help get your feelings and emotions out.

Gift of time:  Whether it’s over the phone, on Zoom or in person, taking the time to talk to those grieving will mean so much to them. You don’t have to send anything physical for them to know you’re thinking of them. You could also offer to go shopping or run any other errands.

Food basket: Food can be of great comfort, especially a home-cooked meal delivered to someone’s home or a thoughtful basket of goodies that they can dip in and out of when they fancy. It’s often the last thing on people’s minds when they are experiencing loss, so having someone take care of the odd meal for you is a great help.

We’re here to help with any questions or requests you have about floral tributes so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

Overcoming your fear of funerals

September 22nd, 2020    Author:

If you’ve ever felt anxious at a funeral, you’re not alone. There are many different reasons why people might feel stressed or nervous in the lead up to the funeral of a loved one, friend or acquaintance.

Necrophobia is a specific phobia of death, or things associated with it, such as funerals, coffins and graveyards. Most of the time, however, our worries and nerves are linked to other things such as social anxiety or difficulty expressing emotion. It’s important to remember that anxiety is among the many emotional and physical symptoms of grief, and nothing to be ashamed of.


Why do I feel anxious about funerals? 

Any one of the below reasons could apply to you. By understanding what it is that is making you feel anxious, you can find ways to help yourself feel better.

The feeling of sadness: Attending a funeral is like facing your grief head-on. Whether it takes place days or weeks after the person has passed away, it is always on your mind as you move through the early stages of the grieving process. You may feel anxious about being surrounded by sadness and mourning on the day and worry how you’ll cope. Or you may be concerned about feeling awkward around other people’s sadness and not knowing how to react to them.

Fear of death: You may be worried about specific elements of the funeral, such as an open coffin (not particularly common in the UK) or the coffin being lowered into the ground or taken to the crematorium.

Public speaking: If you have been asked to do a reading at a funeral, or are putting pressure on yourself to read the eulogy, then your stress levels might be quite high. Funerals can (in normal times) have hundreds of mourners, so it’s no mean feat if you’re not a confident speaker.

Social anxieties: They say some families only meet up for weddings and funerals, so it’s possible people you haven’t seen for quite some years will be at the funeral. Knowing how to approach them, what to say and how to keep the conversation going can all be reasonable fears after time apart.

Fear of regret: Of course there’s also the worry that we avoid things to reduce anxiety on the day and then regret it later. Many people choose not to speak at a loved one’s funeral and then wish they had a few months down the line. Try not to be hard on yourself and never feel that you are letting anyone down.

Saying goodbye (again): If someone’s death has been quite long due to illness, or you’ve had to wait a long time for the funeral, it can feel like you’re saying goodbye all over again. Attending the funeral can feel like digging up lots of emotion for a second time.

Ways to cope with funeral anxiety

If any of the above sound familiar to you then there are things you can do to help combat the anxiety.

First off it may help to remember that everyone at the funeral is in the same boat, and many will probably have similar emotions and concerns. This also means that they’re going to be preoccupied with their own grief and not, as your anxieties may lead you to believe, focused on others’ and how they’re coping with the day.

Here are some simple steps to stop your anxiety taking over:

  1. Find someone to support you – Having a shoulder to cry on really does do the world of good. Try and sit with someone who you can share your feelings with and let them help support you through the day.
  2. Don’t pile the pressure on – Even if you have a role on the day, such as reading the eulogy or a pallbearer, remember that it’s OK not to be OK. Everyone will completely understand if you have a few tears, or need to pause for a bit to collect your thoughts.
  3. Break the day down in your mind – If you’re struggling to see through all the ‘brain fog’ then think through what the day might look like in your head and see yourself moving through each of the parts. If you notice something feels particularly uncomfortable then pause for a bit until you feel calmer about the situation. This will help to have a clearer mind and make your anxieties feel more manageable.
  4. Look after yourself – Practice mindfulness techniques to help you soothe your thoughts and breathing. Run a hot bath or light a candle and try and relieve the stress and tension you have been feeling.
  5. Do what works for you – There’s no ‘one size fits all’ here. Do what you need to do to understand and accept your feelings and find coping strategies that work for you.

You needn’t let nerves and fear stop you from paying your respects or saying goodbye to someone who’s played an important part in your life. Open up to people, talk about your anxiety and let them help you find ways to cope.