The Culture of Death.


The culture of death differs all over the world. Many of the rituals and rules surrounding death are for practical reasons, such as the climate, temperature, etc. Religious rules developed from these practical needs.Daisies

Human’s have been on this planet for a long time. But according to findings from archaeologists, rituals around burial, and disposal of the body has been around for all that time too.

I haven’t space or time to go into a history today; that will take another article. But I will say that in the 20th Century, death in England became taboo.

So that you can get the picture, I am going to describe four funerals.

The first one is an experience recently of a friend of mine. Grace was born in Northern Ireland. Very recently she went there to attend the funeral of a close friend’s husband.

The culture in Northern Ireland is to respect death and honour the deceased. Part of this respect in Grace’s eyes was getting up in the very early hours of the morning at 3 am, to travel to Bristol to catch a 7 am flight to Belfast.

When she arrived in Belfast, her taxi driver was very kind and reduced the fare. Not only that, but he took her back to the airport the next day. Again he saw this as respect because Grace was attending a funeral.

Since Billy had died, which was in hospital, a week before, he had been lying in an open casket in the front room of his own house, and people held what is known as a vigil. The old belief is that the soul takes three days to leave the body. But even if they no longer believe that the vigil is an essential part of the culture, and it also means that the closest family are not left alone, and there is always someone in the house, to talk, have a cup of tea with and draw comfort from.

The Mass was being held at 10 am. Before that, at the house, Grace found the coffin still open in the front room, with hundreds of cards beneath. After she had paid her respects, it was time for a final goodbye by Billy’s wife, to her husband. The wife sang a little song to Billy, then kissed him goodbye, just before the Funeral Director arrived to seal the coffin.

There was a parade of people following the hearse to the church, on foot. After a personal address, mass and service led by the priest, everyone went to the crematorium, where they enjoyed listening to Billy’s favourite Pop songs, including the Everly Brothers, before he was cremated. At the end of which everyone attended the Wake.

Funeral number 2, was an English Funeral. The same friend heard that a neighbour had died. When she asked her husband who out of the two of them would attend the funeral, he was surprised to think that Grace would even consider it. Grace, in turn, was shocked to realise that this attitude was normal for England.

She attended the funeral and found that no-one else in the street went.  There were only a handful of people there, even though this elderly couple had lived in the same street for over fifty years.

The coffin was brought to the church and paraded down the aisle to the words from the C of E funeral book. After a couple of prayers, and mournful hymns, led by a vicar who obviously did not know the chap who had died, the close family went to the Crematorium and everyone went home.

I attended a similar family funeral a couple of months ago, and the picture was the same. No sense of community, because there were only about twenty people scattered all over the church which was big enough to hold three hundred. I wanted to gather them all together and ask them to sit closer to the front. The body had been in the funeral Directors offices, taken out for a viewing at an appointed time, with an hour time slot. Then put back in the fridge until the funeral.

The vicar did not know anyone, spoke over the top of everyone’s head and was quite impersonal.

The few members of the family present went with the coffin to the Crematorium and the people in the church, just went home. Even though there would be a cup of tea at the house, the family had requested that only close family go to the crematorium. So that there was no sense of community or even a chance for anyone to pay their respects to the husband.

At the fourth funeral, everyone gathered outside the Crematorium, and the procession was led in by a Funeral Celebrant. She had been in touch with the family ever since the death.

After bowing to the coffin and placing a lovely photograph of the dead person on top, she took her place at the lectern and asked everyone to sit down.

She read some beautiful opening words acknowledging the family by name and saying a few words about death, and how everyone sees it differently.

The eulogy was read by the son of the person who had died, but it had been a joint effort with the Funeral Celebrant during an hours interview and meeting the family. The eulogy had everyone laughing and crying and reminded us of the character and life of the man who had died.

After the eulogy, everyone sang “Abide with Me,” not necessarily for religious reasons, but because Albert had been a big football fan.

This was followed by five minutes of reflection, listening to Leona Lewis singing “Footprints in the Sand”  while we all looked at a show of pictures on the screen above, of Alberts journey through life, his children and grandchildren.

The children who were present then went up to the catafalque and placed a flower on top of the coffin. Followed by those who wanted to, just to touch the coffin and say goodbye.

After a short committal prayer, the curtains were closed, and the Funeral Celebrant then closed the procedure with appropriate words including a poem about taking up the reins of life without the dead person.

We left the church to the sound of Acker Bilk!

There was then a Wake in the local football club premises.

I will leave it to you to assess what you think would give the most satisfactory way of saying goodbye and support loved ones left behind. It may be one particular funeral described here, or it may be a combination.

The moral of the story is that it is possible to do things differently with death.

The lady who founded the group that I trained with, Jane Morrell, had a vision of “Changing the face of funerals in England.”

The culture in England is one of secrecy. The body is quickly removed from the place of death, often even while it is still warm, whisked away to have “mysterious things” done to it.

We may have a chance to see it; all made up to look good, for a while at the appointed time in the funeral directors office.

On the day, the hearse turns up either at the Crematorium or the church, and there may be a good ceremony or not.

(Have you noticed the disrespect from other drivers when they see a funeral procession lately?)

This culture makes bad things even worse, and the funeral is something to dread even more, than just the saying goodbye.

Jane was inspired when she had that vision. We do need to change the face of funerals. We need a better culture of death.

If you want to read more about death, please visit my website



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How to Save Money on Funerals



Are you being sold down the river with TV adverts saying that the average cost of a funeral is £7500?SDC13832

It would be nearer the mark to say that it is more like £3500. But you can do it for even less than that.

  • Is the subject of death taboo to your family?
  • Do those around you know what you want to happen?
  • Do they know your tastes in music or poetry?
  • Do they know your personal beliefs?

They may know what you don’t want, but do they know what you do want?

Have you had the Big Conversation with loved ones about death?

Whether you have or not, I am offering a chance for you to find out all that there is to know and how you can save your family more grief, money, and searching when the time comes. You can find it all in a FREE report by sending me an email with no ties to newsletters.

Also, the chances are, that even at this present time, you are wondering about funeral arrangements in the near future for a loved one.

You don’t know where to start. You simply have not done this before.

And it is worth remembering that death can apply to anyone at any age. 

Many people say that because they have no beliefs, they do not want a funeral. But you can still have a funeral with no beliefs, and just celebrate the life.

Death and all that it entails is not a subject that is discussed openly and honestly these days. People shy away for various reasons.

The family is expected to find the money for a funeral, and there is no way that they could afford the prices that are bandied about.

The FREE report will help you to find out the easy way because I have done the research for you, studied the subject and am also a professionally trained Funeral Celebrant.

I am offering a unique opportunity for you to create a Funeral Ceremony Will and also find ways to save money on the funeral.

Starting at just £25 I will create a Ceremony Will in which you can state what you want to happen in the event of your death. The details are in the report. But receiving the report does not obligate you in any way.

Many families get involved in further grief trying to arrange a funeral for someone. Arguments ensue, there can be a feeling that something was missing, or a feeling of dissatisfaction and wondering whether the deceased person would have wanted that. There may somehow be a lack of closure.

Someone in the family cannot accept the deceased person’s beliefs or non-beliefs. But if there is a Ceremony Will in with other legal documents such as the funeral plan or legal will, saying what they wanted to happen, there can be no dispute.

The report tells you everything you may want to know about funerals. It describes what happens first after death, and what happens next. If you do have any questions, please ask me.

It describes what choices there are, covers burial, cremation, and other choices, and gives some surprising information about where you can hold a funeral. Did you know for instance that you can hold a funeral in your back garden?

All you have to do is to let me have your email address with no subscribing to newsletters. I will send the report back as a PDF attachment.

Very soon there will be an opportunity to sign up for newsletters. Meanwhile, if you do not want to be added to a mailing list, please state that in your initial email, but until then, this is the way to go..

I do hope that I can be a support you in this difficult subject. But there is a thought that once you have sorted out the matter of what death means to you, it enriches your life. My personal experience is that it is true. 


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What is an Independent Funeral Celebrant?



Hi there.

Have you been wondering about how to have a funeral for someone who is not affiliated to any church or perhaps does not have any particular set of beliefs? 

And yet, you would like to have a funeral that would give the family a chance to say a meaningful goodbye.

When you come to arrange a funeral, very often the choice seems limited to either a religious one, or a secular.

In a church, or in the Crematorium.

But it does not have to be one or the other, you can have an amalgamation of both.

You may also, like a friend of mine recently, like to arrange your own funeral service, because you feel strongly about it. We got together and wrote a script for a funeral that is meaningful to her, and will save her family a lot of worry when she dies.

So here is what is happening in the world of funerals.

An Independent Funeral Celebrant is someone who will assist you in organising and leading a funeral ceremony. In the 21st Century, many people are unafilliated to churches or other religious or even non religious groups. Often when someone dies, the family do not realise that they have a choice. An alternative to a priest of other officiant, is the INDEPENDENT FUNERAL CELEBRANT.

They will visit you in your home and get to know you and the deceased persons beliefs, background and wishes. From this they will help you to construct a funeral that is meaningful and become an important ritual to enable closure and the last chance to focus on the loved one who has died. The Celebrant will then lead the ceremony for you or organise it so that family and friends can take part. 

I can now do this for you. This is what my leaflet says about me. 

Patricia is deeply compassionate and has been offering care, support and friendship all of her life.

She will gently guide you and your loved ones through a Funeral Ceremony which will be part of the healing process of losing a loved one.

We all need loving support at these times, and she will help to create a funeral which will be remembered as a positive experience to enable you to move on.

I am in the final stages of my training at this moment, (April 2016) But can now take funerals with the supervision of Green Fuse, with whom I am training.

If you want to know more, then you can contact me on my email and make arrangements for a short informal chat.

I am also available to give talks at groups, or organisations.



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Hallo Death, How Are You?


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Have you ever thought about interviewing or saying hallo to death?

I would like to introduce you to a friend, coach and writer who has written this article for us. Her name is Jane Duncan Rogers. 

After the death of her husband Phillip, she wrote a book called “Gifted by Grief” so without any further ado, here is Jane’s article.

Also here is a link to the latest news from Jane and her workshops. 

Please also see more information about Jane at the end of the blog.


Hallo Death, How Are You?

This might seem an odd question to ask. Who really wants to know how Death is? Most of us, most of the time, want to pretend it doesn’t exist. That is, until it barges into our life, sneaks stealthily in through the window, or surprises us by jumping out from behind a bush.


When that happens, we get a shock. The shock of an accident; of a life-threatening diagnosis, a suicide, or death through drugs. There are numerous forms in which Death visits.


However, we can lessen the impact of the visit by becoming friendlier with Death before it visits of its own accord. It’s not that we won’t be shocked, that may still be there. It’s just that if we have familiarized ourselves with it at least conceptually, then its visit can be accepted as less of an imposition, and more of part of being a fully alive person.


Okay, okay, I know this is all fine in theory. But when you are alive and kicking, then the theory is all we have!  And to get to know Death you have to start from where you are in relation to it. That will be informed by your upbringing, your experience of it so far in your life, and the other myriad ways your friends and family relate to it too.


So here’s some questions to ponder on:


  1. What’s your first reaction to the word ‘death’?

I’ve always been interested in this as a concept, have read a lot about death and dying, and have felt intrigued by it, rather than frightened. How do you feel?


  1. How do you feel when you hear someone you know well has died? Is it different if you were very close to them, as opposed to someone you just knew slightly? How?


Answering this question (even in the abstract) will help you come to terms with the meaning that death has in general, but also specifically when it enters your own life in a bigger way.


  1. How do you feel about dying yourself? For me, its’ back to curiosity. Now I can’t say that for sure, as I’ve never been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, or come close to dying. But from the standpoint of an alive body, curious is the right world for me. What about you?


  1. If you were going to have a conversation with Death, what would you say? What do you think you would hear? (I recommend actually doing this in your journal. Use a different coloured pen for Death and your own words. If you find it difficult to do, you can make it easier by designating a chair as being one that Death is going to sit in. Then go and sit in it, and behave as if you were Death, having a conversation with you. Then you can embody Death (so to speak!) and tune in to what it may have to say. When I did this exercise for myself, I heard/felt the words: “Thank you for asking. I am impersonal. I am benign. It is not your time yet”. In my body I felt unexpectedly relaxed and at ease.


These were some of the questions that my husband and I faced when he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Re number 4, we attended a Family Constellations workshop during what turned out to be Philip’s last year, and he had a dialogue with Death. We both learnt a lot.


However, these questions are not easy ones at the best of times, and definitely not easy when someone so close has their life threatened by death. Philip, after the initial shock, was very clear he did not want to enter into a battle with cancer, as is so often spoken about. However, he did want to treat it as a (somewhat unwelcome) guest that had a message for him and could then leave.


In the end, the cancer did not leave, and he died, but not before he and I had been able to have several conversations about death. This was helpful, and particularly helpful for me after he died.


We also were able to answer questions from what became known between us as The List – a series of questions sent to us in an email from a good friend who was pretty insistent that we answered them before Philip died.


I wrote about this in my book, Gifted By Grief: A True Story of Cancer, Loss and Rebirth, here’s the excerpt:



“Come on, we’re going to do The List properly now.” Philip was still reluctant, but, lying in bed, with me and the laptop next to him, he didn’t have a chance. “It’s going to make a huge difference to me in the future, darling, and besides, Barbara will just nag us if we don’t.”

“Yeah, all right then.”

Poor Philip – for a man afraid of dying, this was an amazing act of courage, another step in the acceptance of what was happening. We began at the beginning, and continued on until the end, referring to it later as our final project together. In those two hours, I asked him the questions, and he gave me his answers.

There were all kinds of questions, from the most basic such as “What kind of coffin do you want?” to which he replied, “Any old box will do,” to more sensitive ones, such as “Are there any of your personal items you would like to leave to anyone in particular?”. This one we discussed in much more detail. It was tough; these are difficult questions to ask of somebody who knows he is going to be dying sooner than later. Feeling a great sense of achievement afterwards, we were very close, connected and loving for the rest of that weekend. Who would have thought that? It ended up being a couple of hours of slightly macabre enjoyment.

I’ve put together these questions now into a document The List: Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die and you can get your free copy here

And do visit my website and get the first 2 chapters of my book for free!


Please note that the document The List: Questions to Ask and Answer Before You Die is FREE for only a limited time. 

Please feel free to comment, contact me on or join us in the Facebook group, Ageing with Vitality.

Now that we have got onto this difficult and unusual subject, there will be more to follow. Namaste.happycherry_cover

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