Austin's Blog

 

Clearing the Possessions of a Loved One

December 29th, 2019    Author:

When a loved one dies, one of the most difficult tasks you may have to take on is clearing out their home. It can be a difficult and emotional time, but it’s also an important step in the grieving process and there are ways to make it easier to handle. 

 

The art of death cleaning

The first way is to do what you can now to make it easier for your loved ones. In Sweden, there’s a tradition called ‘doestaedning’ or ‘death cleaning’, which involves getting rid of unwanted possessions while you’re still alive.

Decluttering has become big business here in the UK, as many of us strive to live more sustainable and minimalist lives. But decluttering also has a much bigger impact on our families when we pass away, as they will inevitably have less ‘stuff’ to clear.

Death cleaning is described as a ‘gentle art’; it can be very empowering and there is no need to rush the process.

There will be things you realise you don’t need and can donate to a local charity – anything from clothes to excess vases (things you don’t even think about that take up space) – and then items you want to keep in the family and can offer out to people now rather than leaving them to have the discussion after you’ve passed; this could be a piece of furniture, or even jewellery.

You should of course make a will, but can also really help your family out by talking to beneficiaries about the items in your possession. It’s a sad fact that many family feuds stem from arguments over items going missing, or indecision over who should get what. For anything not specifically mentioned in your will, think about having those conversations now with the relevant people to save stress for them later down the line.

 

Emotional attachment

The second way to make this process easier is to consider timing. We all have emotional attachment to inanimate objects; some of us struggle to let anything go, while others are happy to keep one or two things that remind them of the person they have lost.

It’s strange to think that a teacup or everyday watch can embody a loved one once they pass; but items like this can, and do. By waiting until you are emotionally ready, parting with a loved one’s possessions will feel like the right thing to do, rather than a secondary loss.

 

Doing it by the book

The next way is all about making sure everything is kept clear between family members. When someone dies, the distribution of their estate is placed in the hands of the executor.

Assets are distributed in accordance with the terms of the will, but when it comes to all of the smaller items that aren’t in the will, it’s sensible for the executor to put measures in place to ensure each family member can agree what is happening to each item.

The best way to do this is to go around the property and make an inventory of everything inside. Then you can sort items into categories such as; throw away, donate to charity and keep, ready for everyone to get together and make the final decisions.

If you jointly decide to sell some items, it’s sensible to keep a receipt book of all of the proceeds so that you can refer to it if questions are later raised.

 

The perfect keepsake

Finally, there are some lovely ways of making your loved one’s possessions into perfect keepsakes. For example, you may have a selection of their ties, which can be made into a cushion cover, or a shirt into a teddy bear.

You may want to create a memory box of possessions that you wish to keep, such as photos, certificates, newspaper cuttings and birthday cards.

Sometimes it can be as simple as keeping their old watch on your bedside table next to a photo. Do whatever works for you and, most importantly, take your time.

Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

April 26th, 2017    Author:

Death and dying are not something most people naturally want to talk about. In fact, one research study found that people would rather discuss money or politics with family and friends. So it’s often not until a loved one dies that our thoughts turn to their wishes concerning their funeral.

Unfortunately, according to the study, only 30% of people had let someone know their funeral wishes. It also found that because of people’s reticence to talk about death, only 25% of respondents had asked a family member about their end of life wishes and just 7% had written down their wishes about the care they’d like if they were unable to make decisions.

With Dying Matters Week  taking place next month, it’s hoped that people will be encouraged to think about and discuss death and dying. During the week there will be nationwide events on this important subject, including coffee mornings, healing woodland walks, spiritual ceremonies, talks and film screenings.

It may be a good time to open up the conversation with loved ones and ask them questions such as how they would like to be looked after in later life, whether they’ve made a will and what kind of funeral they’d like. Perhaps they have a particular song they’d like or they have a favourite colour they’d like incorporated into the ceremony.

Talking about death doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing. Chatting about it is a great opportunity to think about what you’d like and to let friends and family know your wishes. When the time comes, it will help them to know that they are doing the right thing and that everything is as you wanted it.

* For help and support planning a funeral, please contact 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

https://www.austins.co.uk/additional-support.html

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 http://deathcafe.com/

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.