The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Greening grief

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Photo stolen from the Sentiment blog

The GFG motored purposefully south yesterday afternoon to Chiltern Woodland Burial Park. It was a three-birds-with-one-stone mission: to have a look at this well-heeled natural burial ground; to hear the great Dr Bill Webster talk about grief; and to meet up with Louise from Sentiment and Jon from MuchLoved, two of Funeralworld’s Good Guys.

I think I’ve reached a stage now where I don’t know what I think about natural burial. On the one hand, there is the seductive loveliness of the best burial grounds; on the other, the seeming forgottenness of those whose gravesites have resolved themselves into indistinguishability. We are all forgotten eventually, of course, and our graves unvisited for some time before that. What would make the best sense of the environmental mission of Chiltern would be a re-use of graves policy—impossible under present legislation. In the meantime, I wonder if they’re burying enough people to recoup investment. The buildings are either very beautiful if you like that sort of thing, or unobjectionable if you don’t. There’s a gathering hall and a ceremony hall with lots of glass and a lectern a little like an elaborate bird table. The design of the site conforms to an elaborate conception of the architect that your experience should mirror “the inner journey that we humans make as we honour and release the body of a loved one to the grave”.  This is not necessarily apparent, of course, but, in addition to money, a lot of thought has gone into this place.

Outside the hall I was greeted hospitably by Dr Bill, whom I had not met before, and invited to join his group of tea drinkers. Dr Bill is sharp, funny and humane. He talks a lot of sense, and in a way which people can relate to. I was a fan in around 1 second, possibly less.

A great deal of what he said about grief counselling related to funerals. Here’re just some of the things he said that I jotted down: “You have to make the words with which to put someone to rest—that which cannot be put into words cannot be put to rest … Put the dying and the death into the context of the whole life lived … Empowerment is the antidote for loss of control. Never do anything for those who grieve which they can do for themselves.”

There’s a big lesson here for funeral directors and celebrants, I think: “Never do anything for those who grieve which they can do for themselves.”

Do have a look at Dr Bill’s website. It’s full of excellent resources. Click here.

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