Austin's Blog

 

Attending a funeral in the summer 

July 31st, 2019    Author:

Attending a funeral in the summer 

Well, what a summer we’re having so far! As we write, we’re in the middle of the end-of-term heatwave and trying to stay cool in the offices here at Austin’s!

We Brits aren’t too accustomed to such hot weather and, when it comes to summer funerals, we can become a bit unsure about traditional customs. So we thought it would be a good idea to put together some thoughts on attending funerals during the balmier months, with some seasonal tips and plenty which are relevant all year round, too.

 

What to wear to a summer funeral

 One of the most common questions people ask is, what should I wear to a summer funeral?

If the weather is anywhere near as hot as it has been recently, then you need to put some planning into your outfit. If you’re in the right clothes on the day, you’ll be able to focus on what matters and the reasons you’re there, rather than worrying about what you’re wearing.

Stay cool: Choose something light, respectful and modest, so make sure shoulders and knees are covered. For men, a smart, short-sleeved shirt is fine and for ladies, skirts and dresses should be at least knee length. There is no need for a full suit in hot weather, but make sure you don’t go too far the other way and appear too casual; avoid flip flops and shorts.

Colour and print: Summer funerals can be tricky because most of our summer clothes tend to be colourful or feature large, summery prints. It may be that the family would like people to wear colour; this is something that is becoming more and more common, [see blog on personalisation] in which case just avoid anything with graphics or slogans, or that is too ‘beachwear’. You don’t want to detract from the focus of the occasion.

If colour has not been specified by the family, it’s not generally expected to wear full black anymore. Go for neutrals that suit lighter materials, such as grey or beige, or possibly white.

Style: Funerals are very personal affairs, so try not to come across in full business attire. Similarly, you don’t want to look like you’re going to a cocktail party, so no off-the-shoulder or body con dresses. Remember, family and close friends can be sensitive on the day, so dress conservatively.  (blog on funeral stress]

 Footwear: There is generally a lot of walking at a funeral. You may need to park a way away from the service, then there may be a walk to the burial or cremation, and to a wake afterwards. Churchyards can have uneven terrain and there will be a lot of standing and talking to people, so choose wisely!

Check the weather forecast a few days in advance and decide on your outfit. Then check for any stains, marks, loose buttons etc, that need attention. And don’t forget your shoes; do they need a clean?

 

What to take to a summer funeral

Once your outfit is sorted, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need with you.

While there are a few things to remember, try not to take a really big bag as it will just get in the way.

You may need:

Tissues – for you and others that you can offer around.

Sunglasses – essential in this weather!

Water – the hot weather can play havoc with tickly coughs, so it’s helpful to have some water at hand, especially during the service.

Cereal bar – funerals can be stressful and emotionally draining that we can forget to eat. Having a small snack in your bag is a good idea in case someone is in need.

Painkillers – we all know a good cry can bring on a headache, but with the hot weather as well, make sure you have something to keep it at bay.

Make-up wipe – Again, tears can play havoc with eye make-up. You or someone near you might be very grateful for a quick wipe!

Money – It’s a good idea to carry some cash in case there is a donation box or collection.

 

What to do on the day of a funeral

Arrive in good time. There is nothing more stressful than being late. You need to factor in finding somewhere to park and traffic depending on the time of day.

Know where to sit. As a general rule, the first few rows are reserved for family and close friends.

Put your phone on silent. Obvious, we know, but so easily forgotten.

Go and see the family. There is usually a lot going on before the funeral starts, but do go and speak to the family afterwards or when you arrive at the wake, to offer your condolences. If you find it hard, talk to them about a memory you have of the person who has passed away, or ask if there is anything you can do for them.

If you’re still unsure about any aspect of the funeral you’re attending, you could always ask a member of the family or someone close to them. They’ll be grateful for your attendance, as a full church is always of great comfort to any family who has lost a loved one. Or speak to the funeral director; we’re always here to help with all of our funerals here at Austin’s.

 

 

Funeral transport: Making your last journey personal

June 28th, 2019    Author:

Funeral transport: Making your last journey personal

There are many sayings in life about journeys and travel. A journey is a common metaphor for life itself and they form the basis of numerous inspirational quotes. But we’re also a generation of physical globetrotters. We plot where we want to go, what we want to do; we have scratch maps to complete, bucket lists to fulfil.

So the final journey we make after we’ve passed away is, surely, just as significant. By choosing a mode of transport and a route to take to the final resting place, which are personal to the deceased, a funeral can feel more about their life than their death. It’s not about going into the dark and unknown, but celebrating life and creating more memories.

Our blog on personalising funerals [link to personalising funerals blog] touched on transport, but here we’ll look at it in more depth.

Why is funeral transport so significant? 

There are two aspects to personalising funeral transport. Firstly, it allows the deceased to travel in a way that is very personal to them, whether this is by their own planning before they pass away, or down to friends and family fulfilling their wishes on their behalf. This might be in a vehicle they owned themselves, something they loved going in, or perhaps even always wanted to experience!

There was a story in the news recently of a man who’s dying wish it was to have his coffin transported in the bucket of the JCB he drove for 30 years. There are some beautiful pictures online of the JCB taking him on the short journey from his home to the funeral, followed by his family and friends on foot. (https://metro.co.uk/2019/04/24/granddad-taken-funeral-bucket-jcb-9294632/)

The second aspect is about those left behind. Depending on the transport chosen, they can walk alongside, drive, or, in the case of a hand pulled bier, even carry their loved one themselves and be beside them right until the end. In some cases, following a traditional black hearse in a funeral car may feel quite distant and unfamiliar for the bereaved, perhaps even a bit stressful. It’s important to see how something as seemingly insignificant as the transport can help our stress and mental attitude at such a difficult time. [link to funeral stress blog]

A study by the Co-op revealed that more and more people want their funerals to be personal and celebratory affairs with Land Rovers and rainbow-hued vehicles to take them to their final resting places – and companies are responding to these wishes up and down the country!

 

What types of transport are available?

At Austin’s, we can arrange various modes of transport and always do our best to make your wishes happen. Aside from our traditional black hearses and limousines, we can offer…

  • A motorbike hearse with a sidecar for the coffin, from the classic style Triumph through to the iconic Harley Davidson
  • A VW campervan, which can also be accompanied by stretched Beetle limousines and a fleet of VW buses
  • A variety of different model Land Rovers
  • A 1950 vintage lorry
  • A hand pulled coffin bier, which has been in the Austin’s family for generations
  • A horse-drawn carriage with black or white horses

Around the world there are all sorts of options available, from New York taxi hearses to hot rod hearses. Another story that made the headlines was about a lady who arranged for a motorcycle hearse and a procession of Harley Davidsons to lead her funeral procession, after having her first ride on a Harley two years prior – aged 97! (https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/staffordshire/cannock/2018/11/03/great-grandmother-taken-to-her-final-resting-place-with-a-harley-davidson-funeral-procession/) You’re never too old to develop a new passion!

The final journey

Aside from the mode of transport, the final journey our loved ones take can also be made very significant by taking a personal route.

Earlier this month, the funeral of a long-serving paramedic and firefighter was reported in a local newspaper. He had a funeral cortege of emergency vehicles, which stopped briefly at the ‘Old Fire Station’ before continuing to the church, and then passing the fire station where he worked one last time before proceeding to the cemetery.  (https://uckfieldnews.com/emergency-vehicles-to-join-funeral-cortege-of-bruce-davy-uckfield/)

Whether your loved one’s wish is for one last tour of their hometown, a final blast down the bypass in a motorbike hearse, or even a brief stop at their favourite pub, you can make their final journey memorable and unique.

Talking About Death

May 14th, 2019    Author:

Talking about death

Hands up, how many of us have had a conversation about death? If not, you’re not alone. It’s a tough thing to talk about. We avoid the enormity of the subject with phrases such as ‘kick the bucket’ and ‘pop your clogs’. And if we do happen to mention in passing that we’d like to be buried, not cremated, it’s usually followed up very quickly with a change of subject!

In fact, 55% of people prefer to say ‘passed’ or ‘passing’, while only 29% will say ‘dead’ or ‘dying’. If it’s hard to even say the word, how can we expect to have a conversation?

Unfortunately the simplicity of the language we tend to use to talk about death reflects the basic nature of the conversations we are having with our loved ones.

Why don’t we talk about death?

It is said that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life, so why is the latter talked about so much more? You can’t scroll through social media these days without seeing a tax reminder or an advert for bookkeeping software!

One reason we don’t talk about death is because we’re all living longer. Even though death is a natural part of life, many of us don’t experience the loss of someone close to us until later on in our lives. Illnesses and diseases that would claim the lives of our ancestors are no longer a threat, and so we are not as close to death as they were; hence it’s a fear of the unknown.

Another reason is that it is seen as a taboo subject; people think they might jinx themselves for bringing it up. Trust us, you won’t!

Dying Matters Awareness Week

The Dying Matters Coalition aims to raise awareness of the importance of talking more openly to friends and family about dying, death and bereavement. Their annual awareness week runs from 13-19 May 2019 and the theme is ‘Are We Ready?’ [https://www.dyingmatters.org/]

They’ve put together some quite astonishing facts, which show how ready we really are:

  • Just 35% of adults said they had made a will
  • Just 30% had let someone know their funeral wishes
  • Just 7% had written down wishes or preferences about the care they would want if they couldn’t make decisions
  • Just 25% had asked a family member about their end of life wishes
  • Just 33% had registered to be an organ donor

Why is it important to talk about death?

These figures speak for themselves and highlight just how much we need to start talking about death – for everyone’s benefit. Here are four more good reasons to start a conversation:

  1. A ‘good death’: Talking about dying and your wishes makes it more likely that you – or your loved one – will die as you wanted to (for example, at home) because plans can be made in advance. This will bring comfort to those left behind, knowing the deceased had a ‘good death’ and that it was as they wanted.
  2. The grieving process: Once we start being more open about death, we can help others through the grieving process by having a conversation with them.
  3. A time to reflect: By choosing to talk about death, it can help us to reflect on our own life and goals we still wish to fulfil. From here, we might want to create a bucket list, or start to make plans for our own funeral. It’s not as morbid as it seems; we plan for every other stage of life!
  4. Reduce stress: As we spoke about in last month’s blog, talking can greatly reduce stress and avoid family disputes when someone passes away. Have the conversations with your loved ones early on, such as the type of funeral you want and whether you want to be buried or cremated.

How can we talk more about death and dying?

There are so many books and resources out there that can be a good starting point, as well as some brilliant TED talks that really get you thinking about death as a natural process.

Death cafes are a way to get out and talk to others about it. They allow people to meet up in a relaxed setting and talk over tea and cake, share their thoughts and learn about other people’s experiences. They’re all over the country. Take a look at:

https://deathcafe.com/

There has also recently been a ‘Departure Lounge’ set up in Lewisham shopping centre to get people talking about death. It’s done up just like an airport lounge and features a pile of suitcases with messages and questions about the final journey we all face. More will be rolling out across the country this summer.

And of course, we are here for you too. We’re committed to the continued provision of a caring, sympathetic and sensitive service to the bereaved and their loved ones for many years to come.

Finally, for all you Harry Potter fans out there – a few words from the mighty Albus Dumbledore: “After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” So start a conversation today and let’s get talking about death.

Dealing with Funeral Stress

April 25th, 2019    Author:

Stress Awareness Month: Dealing with stress and grief

We all know what it’s like to feel stressed. Stress can be emotional (like feeling overwhelmed or anxious), mental (such as struggling to make decisions or stop worrying) and/or physical (suffering from headaches or having problems sleeping). When you combine stress with grieving for a loved one, things can become even more difficult and we can struggle to find a way forward.

If you’ve been watching After Life on Netflix, you’ll know how Ricky Gervais’ character, Tony, takes on a completely opposite persona to his former ‘happy go lucky’ attitude, in an attempt to push away those trying to help him after losing his wife to cancer. He goes through all sorts of emotions as his grief takes hold, which also affects those around him.

Stress Awareness Month

As April is Stress Awareness Month, we thought it would be helpful to put something together on dealing with stress around death, and specifically, funerals. On the back of more and more campaigns around opening up about mental health (Time to Talk – https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/time-talk-day) and talking about death (Dying Matters – https://www.dyingmatters.org/), we hope we can help to make the process just that little bit more manageable for everyone.

Take the pressure off

When a loved one dies, things can move fast. The first couple of weeks are when you’re feeling all sorts of emotions, but this is also the time that a few things need sorting. The important thing is not to put too much pressure on yourself to get everything organised immediately; prioritise what needs doing straight away and don’t worry about anything else.

It’s quite usual for the family to contact a funeral director immediately after a death. A medical certificate, which will give the cause of death, is required in order for the death to be registered and once all the required documents are processed, the deceased can be taken into our care. You can then take your time to start organising the funeral, knowing your loved one is safe with us.

Your loved one may have spoken to you about their wishes for the funeral, but if not, we’re here to talk through all of the options with you. Take your time to reflect and think things through.

Causes of stress

There are many things, alongside time pressures, that can cause stress at this difficult time. Recognising them early on will enable you to get help where it’s needed.

  • Family disagreements – it can be very hard when everyone has different ideas of what they want to happen. The best way to avoid any dispute is by having the conversations with your loved ones early on, such as the type of funeral you want and whether you want to be buried or cremated.
  • Money worries – funerals can be expensive and money troubles are a great source of stress. Funeral plans enable you to pay towards your own funeral so that your family don’t have to worry.
  • Bottling things up – as we said at the start, we can feel all sorts of emotions when we lose someone; from anger to isolation. Make sure you talk to someone, whether that be a vicar, a friend or someone independent, such as a counsellor.
  • Feeling out of control – it can be very daunting to try and get everything right. The best way to feel in control is to understand the funeral process in advance, so you know what to expect.
  • Meeting family/everyday demands – if you’ve got a family, your own business or other responsibilities in life, it can be even more difficult to juggle everything. Always ask for help if things get too much.

How to reduce the stress of organising a funeral

Here are some simple ways to keep your stress at a manageable level when things get tough:

  • Look after yourself – try and get some sleep and eat well-balanced, regular meals
  • Ask for help where you need it, such as with completing legal documents or making decisions
  • Keep in touch with your funeral director who will help you to prioritise what needs to be done
  • Take your time with the planning
  • And, most importantly, keep talking

Coping at the funeral

The funeral itself can be stressful, but by seeking help to plan everything in advance you can allow yourself time to take everything in without unnecessary stress.

Make sure you surround yourself with a good support network on the day and don’t try to make everything perfect. What you say and do will come from the heart and you’ll have plenty of people around you to share memories with. Take the day one step at a time and be kind to yourself.

 Talking about death with your family will reduce stress for everyone when the time comes. We’ll talk more about this next month during Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May). In the meantime, if you need any help or assistance don’t hesitate to contact us.