Groundhog week

Charles 15 Comments

22 Jan is reckoned the worst, most depressing day of the year. This week is as bad as it gets. Nodding in agreement? Reasons to be cheerless, according to Dr Cliff Arnall of Cardiff university are: weather, debt, time since Christmas, time since failing new year’s resolutions, low motivational levels and the feeling of a need to take action.

Here at the GFG-Batesville Shard we max out on Nordic gloom in January. We use the gloom to inform realistic appraisal. We’ve been brooding about not going forwards, just round and round in circles, blogging about the same old same old time and time again, not getting anywhere or being useful. Is it time to do a Hayley and call it a day? It may be. It was fun while it lasted. How liberating to be free of it.

Out this week: the annual CDAS report on the cost of funerals. Various radio stations rang. I looked for a new angle but found there none. I did the same interviews I’ve done time and time over. Same old same old.

And then there was the Hayley thing on Corrie. I didn’t follow the build-up to the suicide so I can’t judge its usefulness in making people aware of the issues and stimulating debate. But I did watch last night’s episode where Hayley’s body was taken away by the men in black macs. It was probably the most depressing thing to happen in this week in January ever. The researchers hadn’t done their job. The doctor’s paperwork was wrong. Roy didn’t want to let Hayley go. We weren’t told that he had a choice, that he had a legal right to care for her body at home. We weren’t made aware that there are undertakers who would have helped him do that. The ‘private ambulance’ (possibly the vilest euphemism in the English language) was summoned because “it’s what ‘appens.” Reduced to helpless bystander, Roy stood aside as the wordless corpse-collectors (well cast) carried off the love of his life. He wasn’t even invited to help. It was possibly the worst home removal in the history of undertaking.

Here was an opportunity to empower viewers. All it did was reinforce the dependency culture together with every negative feeling anyone has ever entertained concerning the dismal trade. The funeral will be led by a humanist. Let’s hope something good will come of that.

Happy January, everybody.

PS This is the GFG document about legal rights, downloadable from the website. If you spot any errors or omissions, do please let us know. Your legal rights and responsibilities.


  1. Charles

    Not going forwards? Are you kidding? So many families we help tell us how much help the GFG website has been.

    This fact-sheet is INCREDIBLE Charles – fantastic! Really excellent and also wonderfully thorough links to other helpful sources. Amaze-balls.

  2. Charles

    Dear GFG
    You are correct about your comments on the episode, let’s hope that Roy follows Hayley’s wishes for her send off. As it would be nice to see a different more modern funeral on the soap box. And also in the real world.

  3. Charles

    I am glad that you have drawn attention to the episode of Coronation Street which was aired on Wednesday evening. The scene that you are discussing made me shudder from head to toe. It brought back horrific memories of feeling disempowered after my son Boyd was killed. No one that I was forced to deal with, more specifically the NHS mortician or the coroner, explained what my legal rights and options were.

    I am not convinced that researchers on the production team are not aware that the law doesn’t place a duty on any of us to hire an undertaker. I have written to ITV to remind it of the social responsibility it has to its viewers. If the intention was not to mislead many into believing that they must hire an undertaker when someone close to them dies, a simple message could have been delivered by the person playing the role of the doctor when she handed “Roy” a piece of paper and referred to it as a “death certificate”. As you rightly point out, script writers got that wrong too, as a doctor cannot issue a death certificate.

    The production team clearly wanted to deliver a message about feeling empowered when given a prognosis and being faced with death, but failed to recognise that the bereaved need to feel empowered too!

    Regrettably it isn’t just producers of TV programmes that are misleading the public about what to do following a death, but many that produce web pages which are equally misleading. GOV.UK and Advice Guide are two of the guilty parties. I am assured by both organisations that changes to web pages will be made, but neither grasp that those changes need to be made today…not in a week, a month or maybe more. Disgraceful practice!
    I understand that it is at times like this when both you and I feel like throwing in the towel, but don’t get disheartened Charles. Do you recall telling me how your site received an influx of visitors following the episode of Coronation Street when “Hayley” and “Roy” were exploring funeral choices? The message is getting out there however it would arrive sooner if those in government with responsibility for delivering relevant public information, produced by default, the legal rights people have when someone close to them dies.

    You touch on the CDAS report on the cost of funerals. The report makes no reference to the budgeting loan scheme that was introduced by Steve Webb MP and implemented in May 2012. I fail to grasp how any academic can reliably report on funeral poverty, when it is not apparent that they have examined what effect the scheme might have on members of the public, more specifically, those already in debt. Prior to that scheme being introduced, I warned Steve Webb of the dangers of making changes to the social fund and introducing budgeting loans which were called for by leading figures in the funeral trade. It appears that my fears are being realised and those already in debt will be driven into deeper debt as funeral costs continue to rise. Undertakers want people to borrow money from the government and the government has agreed to boost the profits of undertakers and the University hasn’t even picked up on the point!

  4. Charles

    Great stuff Teresa. Your words are so wise.

    The scene where Hayley was taken away made me feel physically sick. We had literally just returned from collecting a wonderful lady from her home. Carers and family helped us lift her onto the stretcher, out of her house and into our car. And they all lined up outside her house to wave her goodbye. And supporting a family to keep their mum at home in the run up to her funeral was one of the most uplifting experiences of my whole life.

    Re the funeral costs report: why is the conclusion to the rising cost of funeral always: put your money in a funeral plan. Why isn’t it: education on how funerals don’t have to be so expensive?

    1. Charles

      Thank you Charles. Good point Poppy. The Office of Fair Trading made obvious in its report back in 2001 that better public education was needed, but it appears that its recommendations were ignored.

      My main concern is that Universities spend a lot of time having to fund raise to conduct projects and write reports such as the one produced by CDAS. That in turn means that investigations can be coloured by those that pay the piper.

      Local authority could do so much more to better educate the public about what their lawful options are following a death and how to minimise the costs of a funeral. It is my understanding that local authorities across England & Wales produce physical literature about what to do in the event of fire and flood, so why not death? CDAS claims that, “…there is concern that local authorities will be required to provide more Public Health Funerals as the number of deaths per year begins to increase”, so to prevent that happening local authorities must take action. If individual burial and cremation divisions worked closely with Trading Standards to produce sound guidance, it may result in not only better educating the public about their lawful options, but provoke thought about how they are going to pay for a funeral.

  5. Charles

    Morning all! Oh, hold on GFG, it IS changing – and it’s changing because the likes of the GFG and the NDC and Nick and Teresa and Poppy and dozens of others are busy changing it. Because you haven’t let go, and have persisted like a worrisome terrier – telling and retelling and informing people over and over and over – and it needs to be over and over and over because we forget, because we don’t know we need to know, because until someone close to us dies we won’t remember or realize what we need/want/ought to do, because of your dogged persistance things are changing.

    I’ve had four calls this month from people who are planning their own funerals – or at least aiming to line up the ducks – before they die. They visited me just to talk through the options, not necessarily to book or buy a ‘plan’. I am just delighted that they are thinking and planning and informing themselves. A year ago that probably wouldn’t have happened. People are beginning to realise that they have choices. A year ago they may have vaguely thought – ‘Bloody hell this is going to be expensive, oh well, there’s no option, I’ll just have to put up and shut up and pay up.’ Now, because of the constant chipping, informing and telling and publicising and googling, it is getting through that you can pic’n’mix your funeral options or even do it yourself.

    The Corrie ‘collection’ of Hayley’s body was shocking and heartbreakingly horrendous – but would people outside of funeralworld have expected anything better? Poor Roy, nobody listening to him, nobody actually asking him what he felt – just sweep in and take her away. It was grim – almost gruesome, and the GP certificate bit was just ridiculous, even she didn’t listen to him… let’s get it all out of sight as quickly as we can. presumably they sought advice from the FD who lent them the van, black covered stretcher and silent solemn bearers? They could have done so much good there with an extra ten minutes of kindness. Oh hang on, that’d mean no time for the adverts – ah well.

    There is a slow sea change, and a gentle groundswell and a blue-sky thinking wave that is about to break over funeralworld. Actually it’s not blue-sky – it’s GFG sky thinking, that little hint of sky around the edge of the pages here…. CC you can’t move away from the bleeding edge just yet, but hold firm, a soothing balm is on its way as the wave gets closer.

    The cry of the bereaved which rings in my ears is ‘Why doesn’t anybody tell you?’ Why didn’t the GP tell me? Why didn’t the coroner tell me? Why didn’t the Registrar tell me? (that you don’t have to use an undertaker or that you have any choices at all.) Teresa, keep battering away at Government bodies and media ignorance, Poppy, you are a beacon of light in funeralworld – you need to start a training school…and Charles, you are our Captain – you are the ones telling us we have a choice.

    1. Charles

      Evelyn, thank you kindly for your very encouraging words.

      With regard to the potential of even more people understanding their lawful options, regrettably I don’t envisage a vast change in the immediate future. Not unless government wakes up to the fact that encouraging ignorance of the law will simply cost us (the tax paying British public) even more money in public expenditure, i.e. paying for funerals which many people cannot afford.

      I predict that as long as government officials have a preferred policy of consulting on bereavement related matters, with leading figures in the funeral sector who are blatantly supported by some MP’s and Piers, the problems, which many newly bereaved people face today, will become progressively worse!

      Poppy…I have taken a look at your website and I admire the concept of your business. I wish it well in its future but I imagine that the small business doesn’t have the kind of money that is needed to market your ideas and undo the bad that has been created by trade organisations and those that support them. That said, in time I sense that others that have, and will continue to adopt your ideas will make a marked difference in society in the long term future.

  6. Charles

    As funeral professionals / people in the know we’re bound to be critical of something like this aren’t we? I’m sure paramedics and nurses watch Casualty with the same disdain.

    But outside our own sphere, do we really notice? Sure, there will be the occasional person who will pick up on something, but as a percentage of viewers, that must be extremely low.

    That’s not to say it shouldn’t be right, and that the programme makers shouldn’t do their research. But as always it’s subjective. What’s right for one is completely wrong for another.

    Surely that’s something we all need to remember?

  7. Charles

    I love the GFG website. I contains so much information that I just couldn’t handle on my own. In fact, but the end of the week, there will be a link on my website to this.

    I think what has been lost (or maybe a better word is hidden) in the funeral industry is honesty and as a profession, we should really embrace it.

    For so long the general public didn’t want to know how a funeral director collected a deceased from the hospital. They didn’t want to know what “hygienic preparation or care of the deceased” actually meant and wouldn’t have dreamed of asking what embalming actually was and that was still the attitude when I started training 15 years ago.

    However, people and generations change. We are told to question everything and now it isn’t uncommon. The GFG and NDC help people to ask the right questions. It also helps people to figure out what is important to them. Some people, the coffin choice is paramount. For others, they want to know where the deceased is kept and with how many other people. I think it helps people to focus on the most important aspects of a funeral for them.

    The other lovely thing about the GFG and NDC is that it doesn’t feel like an “old boy’s club.” All comments are valued and given thought and consideration. Public and professionals alike keep coming back time after time because we always learn something new, the blogs and articles are always thought provoking, but because we all have a voice.

    I personally think funeral director’s have a legal and moral obligation to point out that there really isn’t any legal reason to appoint a funeral director. It is something I point out on my website.

    However, do I recommend it? Not really. I have arranged and attended thousands of funerals over 15 years and I have seen the most “together” people have been fine making the arrangements, absolutely crumble when choosing a coffin or flowers. On the day of the funeral those people have then been such a mess that I literally take them by the arm and lead them through the next few hours.

    On the flip side, I have also seen people go from utter bewilderment making the funeral arrangements to being completely stoic during the funeral itself.

    I would never, ever talk someone out of arranging the funeral themselves. I think it is a terribly courageous thing to do and oddly, something I don’t think I could do myself!

    A lady I helped a couple of weeks ago who just wanted me to collect her mother from the hospital on the day of the funeral, put her in a coffin and take her to the crematorium said there were a few occasions she nearly asked me to take over and do everything for her. But she also said knowing she could pick up the phone to me and ask advice knowing she would get real help, made her carry on.

    But this is the sort of thing all funeral directors should be doing. Arranging a funeral yourself probably isn’t going to be an option for the majority, but we should enable and empower those that do.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>