Category Archives: Grief

Babyloss – a unique kind of grief

Friday, 23 June 2017

Yesterday, I spent the day visiting our latest funeral director who has joined the list of those who are ‘Recommended by the GFG’ – Bennetts Funeral Directors in Essex,  and met most of the lovely staff there, including Leigh Tanner, who has just recently set up a family support group for those who have been bereaved by miscarriage or stillbirth.

Leigh has personally experienced the trauma of recurrent miscarriages, so this is something very close to her heart. When she and her husband were undergoing the sadness of losing their babies there wasn’t anything available locally where Leigh could share her experience with others who had been through the same experience. She felt completely alone and unsupported, so the opportunity to create a support group for other parents was one that she jumped at.

Here’s Leigh speaking about the group in her own words:

‘So, at Bennetts we are very proud of our bereavement groups and that we are able to provide specialist services by people who have themselves experienced such losses.  My group, Tiny Stars, is a miscarriage and still birth group run by myself.  I personally experienced the trauma of recurrent miscarriages and found that there was no help out there locally for me and so therefore I felt very lonely and isolated. 

This group came about after I joined Bennetts and when I realised that they provided services for pre-term babies and miscarriage.  I instinctively asked Jane if I could learn more about this.  I explained that I had been through this and had never been given the opportunity to have a service or group support.  Jane asked me if I would like to be the primary arranger for babies and start a support group for families who have been through such loss which I was very grateful of such an opportunity. 

The word miscarriage is so taboo, with women and men feeling as if it’s something too common to grieve over but this is not the case.  We at Bennetts are fully aware that any loss is a loss and should be treated as such.  For a family to lose a baby to miscarriage or still birth brings such an enormity of grief that destroys the hopes of a future for a baby you have already fallen in love with, and luckily through Bennetts, I have been given this opportunity to offer support for parents who feel that isolation and loss.  

Our group runs at Merrymeade House, Merrymeade Chase Brentwood CM15 9BG on the 2nd Friday of the month from 9.30 – 10.30 in the tea room.  We have exclusive hire of Merrymeade House for the group and offer free refreshments to all guests.

I do of course understand that attending a group can be very daunting and so therefore if anyone would like to contact me prior to coming or just for a chat I would always be available to talk to someone on 01277 210104 or by email on

This is such an important initiative, and the GFG is hugely supportive of Leigh and of Bennetts in setting up the Tiny Stars group for the community. If you or anyone you know in the Brentwood area has lost a baby to miscarriage or stillbirth, Tiny Stars could offer you a place where you can talk to others who have had a similar experience. Do contact Leigh and talk to her.

Leigh also told me about Aching Arms, a babyloss charity run by a group of bereaved mothers who have experienced the pain and devastation of baby loss.

The charity works with more than hospitals across the UK providing teddy bears for parents to take home from hospital when their baby has been miscarried or stillborn. Each bear is a gift from another family who has had a similar experience and who have donated in memory of their baby, and the bear given has the name of their baby on the label. The bears help to provide a connection for bereaved families and ‘to ease their aching arms as they grieve for their baby who has died’.

A bereaved mother explains how this scheme could have helped her:

“When I left hospital without my daughter my heart was broken and my arms were empty. Nothing could have fixed my heart at the point, but if I had had something to hold and cling to then the physical ache I felt so strongly in my arms as I clamped them tightly to my sides might have been less. As soon as I heard about the idea of giving grieving mums a bear to take home I knew that I would have been keen to take one to cuddle as I walked out of the hospital and to sob into in the dark days and nights that followed. Not to replace my baby – nothing ever could – but something to hold as I learnt to live with the empty space my baby left in my heart and in my life.”

The charity also offers every hospital participating in the scheme training for their staff in caring for parents bereaved by miscarriage or stillbirth.

If your local hospital isn’t on the list here do contact Aching Arms on

Most Significant Contribution to the Understanding of Death

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Amanda Woodward of Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service

Tamworth Co-operative Funeral Service is leading the way in working with their local community to understand the myriad of emotions and potential difficulties they may have to endure during a bereavement.

Around six years ago, the company took the bold decision to invest in this area of communicating knowledge, and opened a bereavement service in the centre of Tamworth. This was launched in the local press, inviting people who had any type of question relating to a future or past bereavement to simply walk in their door and ask. Initially there was much skepticism over the idea, but in a short space of time, with regular newspaper prompts reaffirming that free advice is just a phone call or step through a door away, many people of Tamworth use the bereavement centre for guidance and advice. Cheryl Dutton, who mans the centre is not only part of the dedicated staff, but also a trained counsellor available to offer a listening ear and gentle support when needed.

Tamworth Co-op also use social media as a way of linking with the local community, not just as a vehicle for promoting their business. They offer innovative awareness raising events, support local organisations working with bereaved families and host many physical events that encourage bereaved people to come together, giving a greater understanding of perspective and in turn helping individuals find some company and comfort.

The judges felt that this low key, community based, thoughtful approach to bringing the difficult subject of death and bereavement into general awareness is of huge value, and believe the work being done by Tamworth Co-op deserves to be widely applauded.


Runner Up in this category: Beyond Goodbye

Farewell Peggy

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Peggy Mitchell's funeral


WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/06/2016 - Programme Name: EastEnders - July - September 2016 - TX: 04/07/2016 - Episode: EastEnders July - September 2016 - 5310 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 28th JUNE, 2016* The Carters show their respects as Peggy's funeral procession pulls into Albert Square. Johnny Carter (TED REILLY), Linda Carter (KELLIE BRIGHT), Lee Carter (DANNY-BOY HATCHARD), Whitney Dean (SHONA MCGARTY) - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 28/06/2016 - Programme Name: EastEnders - July - September 2016 - TX: 04/07/2016 - Episode: EastEnders July - September 2016 - 5310 (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: *STRICTLY NOT FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 00:01HRS, TUESDAY 28th JUNE, 2016* Peggy's funeral procession makes it's way through Albert Square. - (C) BBC - Photographer: Jack Barnes

Here’s a sneak preview from the Radio Times showing the upcoming sendoff of Britain’s favourite pub landlady – the one and only Peggy Mitchell.

In good old East End tradition, she’s going out with the horses, the plumes and the flowers.

So… following Charles’ hearse spotting tradition.  Who supplied the horses?

Introducing a new tradition… a (small) prize for whoever works it out first!



Portrait of a deaf man

Tuesday, 5 August 2014



Posted by Vale

I was listening to a programme about the recordings John Betjeman made with Jim Parker, setting his verse to some glorious music.

Until they played this, though, I’d forgotten how dark Betjeman could be.

On A Portrait Of A Deaf Man

The kind old face, the egg-shaped head,
The tie, discretely loud,
The loosely fitting shooting clothes,
A closely fitting shroud.

He liked old city dining rooms,
Potatoes in their skin,
But now his mouth is wide to let
The London clay come in.

He took me on long silent walks
In country lanes when young.
He knew the names of ev’ry bird
But not the song it sung.

And when he could not hear me speak
He smiled and looked so wise
That now I do not like to think
Of maggots in his eyes.

He liked the rain-washed Cornish air
And smell of ploughed-up soil,
He liked a landscape big and bare
And painted it in oil.

But least of all he liked that place
Which hangs on Highgate Hill
Of soaked Carrara-covered earth
For Londoners to fill.

He would have liked to say goodbye,
Shake hands with many friends,
In Highgate now his finger-bones
Stick through his finger-ends.

You, God, who treat him thus and thus,
Say “Save his soul and pray.”
You ask me to believe You and
I only see decay.

This, I realise is number three in my very occasional series of tributes to fathers – the ‘Old Deaf Man – is certainly Betjemn senior. See numbers 1 (Horace Silver) and 2 (Astor Piazolla) here and here.


Monday, 17 March 2014



Monday, November 27 I got up very early, and just before nine o’clock Caroline was brought back by the funeral director and she lay on a trestle in the front room, with lots of flowers. She lay there until half-past twelve: over three and a half hours. All the children arrived and the grandchildren, and the guest began arriving, and they all went in to see Caroline, who looked so beautiful. I kissed her, and dropped tears on her cold, cold face.

Thursday, April 25 Where is she? Her body, which I loved and knew so well, was taken away and burned, but she’s not there … I think she’s happy, but I’ll never, ever see her again till that day I die and after that, who knows?

Tony Benn — Diaries

Last week we looked at belief in angels. There were some good comments, and not for the first time we reflected that losing someone is something that is, for most people, decidedly not susceptible to rigorous rational analysis. As Gloria Mundi had it, “it’s a deeper need than rational thought … Who’s going to jump up in a funeral and say ‘he’s not looking down on us, he’s gone, dammit’?

Wendy Coulton believes that her deceased grandparents act as her guardian angels: “It hurts no one else to believe this and I consider myself blessed and loved from people I cherish. They do not have wings and their special power is an enduring and unconditional love for me. I believe in them and they believe in me.”

The feeling that the person who has died is out there somewhere, waiting for us, is strong, expressed for many by that Henry Scott Holland reading about the one who has died being in the next room.

It’s a mystery. It’s mystery that keeps us wondering and also keeps hope alive. The same for people disappear in this world and whose body is never found. Those who love them never give up hope that they are somewhere.

It’s happening now to the families of those who were flying on MH370. In the words of the brother on one missing man: “We are not giving up hope. Because if there are no answers, there is no finality. So, miracles have happened…”

No finality. No end to the mystery. Every one of us goes missing in action someday. For those who love us there may live on a hope or even a belief that we are out there somewhere. For the relatives of those on board MH370 there is the same hope and, as for Tony Benn, the terrible pain of not knowing.

Can grief be assuaged by a nice big car?

Thursday, 19 December 2013




Extract from  Therapy, Legitimation or Both: Funeral Directors and the Grief Process by Ivan Emke (2003):

One example of a product which is “sold” to funeral consumers is funeral automobiles. The sleek automobiles have become standard fare in funeral processions, but one can inquire about the function of these products. Do they help the families in their grieving? If not, why spend the money on them? Isard (2002) questions the need for funeral automobiles, arguing that families are choosing not to use them, in order to save money. The use of vehicles is generally a loss-leader, because funeral homes are not recovering the costs of a hearse and driver, which has a high fixed cost. But Isard notes that a funeral home’s fleet of vehicles is a great source of pride to the Funeral Directors, despite whether they are actually of value to clients or wanted by clients. (I have been told by Funeral Directors that they entered the occupation because, as young men, they were impressed by the cars that Funeral Directors had the chance to drive.)  

Maybe this is an example of a product that Funeral Directors want, but is of no clear therapeutic value to client. 


Different ways to show respect

Thursday, 5 December 2013



Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Haka is not just used by Māoris in New Zealand as a ceremonial to express collective thoughts. This video shows haka performed in 2012 by the comrades of three New Zealand soldiers killed on duty in Afghanistan. It seems fitting when mourning includes anger in the mix of emotions.  

Altered identity

Monday, 7 October 2013



Following on from Tim Clark’s post about grief, I am reminded of a piece by Janice Turner in last week’s Times about the hostile response to Jennifer Saunders’ announcement that she was free of cancer: 

She was accused of “slating” survivors and her remark that some wore the disease “like a badge” distressed terminally ill women who scoffed: “Yeah, like we have a choice!” … Response from other former sufferers was loud and quite angry: how dare she think that she could ever be “free”

Turner goes on: 

A vast edifice of fund-raising and female bonding events has grown up around breast cancer to unite sufferers and the bereaved. A health journalist friend, who has interviewed hundreds of activists, says that for some the brush with mortality is so powerful, the solidarity and sense of common purpose so overwhelming, that they identify with the breast cancer movement long after they are well again. They never consider themselves “free”, so may feel betrayed by those who do.

The same applies to many bereaved people. The difference, though, is that some people get cancer; everyone experiences bereavement. For all its severity, it is also commonplace. 

Source (£)


Good grief?

Monday, 7 October 2013



Posted by Tim Clark

Jenny Uzzell’s excellent GFG posting about the liminal state between death and burial has got me thinking, specifically about grief.

Grief is love that has been made homeless; I don’t know where that came from, I first heard it in “Borgen,” the Danish TV political series. It’s a striking, poignant idea – but does the love remain homeless? What home does it eventually find? Homeless people must find some sort of home eventually, or in our climate, they die. This, we know too well.

A good funeral can help people grieve; maybe a bad one obstructs a natural and necessary process. It seems to me that a good funeral affects, changes, the nature of grieving. I couldn’t – shouldn’t – hazard a guess about “from what to what,” but the liminal state between death and funeral has something to do with it, whether you use “liminal” literally or as a metaphor. To put it more simply, most people feel better after a (good) funeral.

The only definition about grief I can make is that you can’t define anyone’s grief: people grieve variously.

Down at the Good Funeral Awards gathering in Bournemouth, I went to a session delivered by Kristie West. Kristie is a young woman with the courage and insight to use a dreadful sequence of bereavement in her own family to get us to reconsider how grief does, or could, work. If you want to know more, go here.  

But for now, let me pull out her point that the pain of grief separates us from the memory of someone we love, and that the belief that the pain is what keeps us in touch is a false and obstructive belief. We don’t want to keep re-visiting pain, so in fact, she is saying, the pain of grief pushes us away from visiting memories and thoughts about someone we love who is dead. They drift away from our consciousness because of the pain we haven’t addressed.

That seems to me a big idea. My view that each of us grieves differently doesn’t allow me to agree 100%, but something more important than agreement is happening to me. I’m thinking more carefully about grief: its origin in the death of someone we love; its in-between, homeless state until a funeral, until we accept that the body isn’t the person so we can let it go; and what happens to grief after the funeral.

I fear what happens to too many people is that they are left — literally — alone with their grief. Relatives drive home, friends are still there but they don’t know quite what to do, how to behave, now the funeral’s over. Perhaps we need, for secularists, some milestone rituals, we need to re-visit our grief in some succession of resonant acts. We need to do grief, we need to heal our pain. We need to provide some spiritual depth to help people after the funeral and on into their new lives.

There we go, baby-boomers once again trying to make it ours, trying to change it all our way. “Hey man, we need new rituals.” It is sometimes said we don’t know, understand, “know,” grief well, in our culture. Anyone who has been bereaved knows grief. Our job is to do the best we can for this person’s own unique grieving state.

Some of us might need new rituals. Some of us might need Kristie’s brave insights. But you can’t define or categorise anyone’s grief. Sometimes people really mean it when they say “I’m doing fine, thanks.”

Last word to Elizabeth Barratt Browning:

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless;
That only men incredulous of despair,
Half-taught in anguish, through the midnight air
Beat upward to God’s throne in loud access
Of shrieking and reproach. Full desertness,
In souls as countries, lieth silent-bare
Under the blanching, vertical eye-glare
Of the absolute Heavens. Deep-hearted man, express
Grief for thy Dead in silence like to death–
Most like a monumental statue set
In everlasting watch and moveless woe
Till itself crumble to the dust beneath.
Touch it; the marble eyelids are not wet:
If it could weep, it could arise and go.

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