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A night (and a morning) at the movies

 

Here at GFG Towers we rarely get a night out, so it was rather a shock to get to go to the cinema twice in one weekend – so much so that we’ve only just recovered enough to write about it. (One film is out there available for you to go and see, while the other is yet to be screened for the public, we went to a private screening by invitation only – a first for the GFG!)

Links to trailers for both films are at the foot of this page.

On Friday, we joined the audience at the London UK premier of A Love That Never Dies, the film made by Jimmy Edmonds and Jane Harris for The Good Grief Project as a way of honouring the memory of their son Josh, who died in a road accident six years ago. (A post on this blog featured the film Jane and Jimmy made of his funeral in 2011)

A Love That Never Dies portrays the road trip that Jane and Jimmy made across the United States, meeting other bereaved parents on the way and hearing them talk about their grief. The film is beautiful, the stories powerful and compelling, and the portrayal of grief in its many forms is unflinching and unafraid. Some people may find this film difficult to watch because of the raw emotion voiced by parents whose children’s lives have been cut short. We found it captivating. This is an important film. If you want to truly learn from people who are living with grief, then find a screening near you and go and see it.

The second film of the weekend was shown to an invited audience only at the Duke of York’s Picture House in Brighton, the oldest cinema still currently in use in the UK. Dead Good is an independent feature documentary following the work of the team at ARKA Original Funerals, one of the GFG Recommended funeral directors and pioneering champions of empowering families to reclaim the care of their dead.

Three extraordinary families allowed the filmmakers unprecedented access to follow their journeys through the limbic space between a death occurring and the funeral ceremony, and as an audience we were privileged to share their experiences as they were gently supported to be as involved as they wanted in the care of the person who had died, and the creation of the ceremony to honour their memory.

Thought provoking, stunningly crafted and shot – and occasionally unexpectedly humorous, this is a ground-breaking film that challenges much of what we have come to accept as being the norm regarding arranging a funeral.

The standing ovation for Rehana Rose, the director, producer and cinematographer responsible for creating this beautiful film was utterly deserved.

Editor’s note: Although it is not yet on general release, the team behind Dead Good hope that it will be picked up by a distributor or screened at a film festival soon. Follow them on social media to stay informed @DeadGoodFilm on Twitter and Facebook

 

See the trailer for A Love That Never Dies here:

 

                

 

And the sneak preview of Dead Good here:

 

 

 

How much do funerals really matter?

 

 

Team GFG are honoured to have been invited to be part of an advisory committee to support a pioneering new study that is being launched today to try and discover how much funerals really matter. And we are happy to help spread the word about it to encourage people to sign up as participants.Please share this information far and wide to reach as many people as possible.

The research is being carried out to identify which aspects of funerals people find helpful, and to see whether funerals have an impact on long term wellbeing. It is hoped that this knowledge will then be used to support people in the best way possible.

Sarah Jones, from Full Circle Funerals in Guiseley, West Yorkshire is the inspiration behind the project.  

In her role as a funeral professional, she realised that although there is a common assumption that a ‘Good Funeral’ is helpful for bereaved individuals and communities, debate remains about what constitutes a ‘Good Funeral’ and how funeral directors can best support the families they work with.

In addition, after carrying out an in-depth literature review, Sarah noted that while authors and industry experts proport that funerals, funeral attendance and the presence of rituals are helpful in supporting better bereavement outcomes, and while it is suggested that if individuals feel more in control and are more involved in planning or participating in the funeral, then this is beneficial; most of the published literature consistent of anecdotes, reflections and expert opinion – and no prospective cohort study has been carried out to date.

There seemed to be a gap. And Sarah set about filling it.

She has designed a comprehensive project with advice from Dr. Julie Rugg, Senior Research Fellow at the University of York, who sits on the advisory panel along with Reverend Ruth Dowson, from Leeds Beckett University, who combines her academic interest in events management with theological perspectives, Julie Dunk, Chief Executive of ICCM, the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management and Terry Tennens, Chief Executive of SAIF, the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors.

It’s a stellar line up, and everyone involved can see the enormous potential merit in the proposed study. The preparation and planning is all done, the design and method have been agreed, and the procedure and timetable signed off. Now we simply need to find participants.

So, if you would like to take part, what’s involved?

Firstly, you need to be over the age of 18, and to have attended the funeral of a close relative. You need to feel willing and able to discuss your experience without this causing you any undue stress or anxiety.

If this description fits and you feel that you would like to participate, you will be asked to answer some questions with the researchers, either on the phone or face to face (depending on what you prefer and where you live). This can take place either at your home or at Full Circle Funerals in Guiseley. The interview is likely to take between one and two hours. It is likely that most participants will be asked to complete a further questionnaire after six months and approximately one year, either by e-mail or by phone, and all answers will be anonymised and handled in confidence. Ethical and legal practice will be followed at all times.

Full details can be found on the participant information sheet here.

If you would like to help with this important work, please contact Sarah on 01943 262626 or sarah@fullcirclefunerals.co.uk

The webpage about the research project can be found here.

Please pass on details of this study to anyone you think might be interested in taking part.

Thank you!

To SAIF – an open letter from a member

 

 

An open letter to SAIF, the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors from Cara Mair, Director, ARKA Original Funerals, sent 4th May 2018.

 

Dear all at SAIF

I write this to you as a longstanding member of SAIF, in the hope that you will not see this letter negatively, but more as a positive tool to allow you to look at how SAIF can move forward. I hope that this letter will begin a dialogue on how the training that you offer can be more inclusive and how, at the heart of this training, should be the empowerment of the community that we serve. Where we find ourselves today in this fast-changing society let us be the disruptors and not the disrupted. To be truly bold and take leadership in this area and create a legacy that other independent funeral directors can build upon.

I have worked in the funeral world since 1998, beginning my days as a chauffeur/bearer at the Co-op in Brighton. After that experience, I trained as a freelance embalmer and worked with many funeral directors across the South East. My first hand experience of working in this secretive funeral world was dismal and I was adamant that I would stay in this profession and make a difference. In November 2003 ARKA Original Funerals opened in Brighton and since then things have changed in the funeral world and there have been many reasons for this. From The Natural Death Centre and The Good Funeral Guide showing how we as a community can be more involved. To forward-looking, inclusive funeral directors such as ARKA, Green Funeral Company etc and of course technology allowing the public to be far more informed re choice and insight into the funeral process. All of these factors have been key to increasingly making a difference ensuring that funeral directors are held more accountable for the way that we work. I also believe that there are many things that would not have changed in the funeral industry if it were not for pioneers like those mentioned above.

With twenty years’ experience, I know of many people and organisations working within this industry who could put a comprehensive training programme together that would benefit us all. There is more and more discussion about how being more involved with the care of the deceased can help people through the grieving process. The communities that we serve should have the right to be supported in caring for their dead and not be ‘protected’ by the ‘professionals’.

I attended the AGM of SAIF in Brighton in March this year. The whole experience was very disappointing. There was also much disgruntlement about how SAIF was representing us all. To focus on pre-paid funeral plan selling as a way to secure your business in the future is an extremely narrow viewpoint. This is such a blinkered vision of how things could proceed. These plans are marketed so aggressively and instead of empowering the public to take control of decisions (as they’re so often marketed as) they are instead further disempowering people and misinforming many. This whole process is contemptible scare mongering and I am sure that you know that you will not keep up with the big boys in this area.

What I find so disheartening was how you totally dismiss the progressive movement that is happening, both with new independents opening up and also individuals supporting funerals in new ways. To move SAIF forward and to mark independent funeral directors distinctly apart from the corporates is to be outstanding in the quality of support we can offer in the way that we work and present ourselves. To work in a refreshing empowering way that the corporates cannot compete with.

The training that you offer, as you are probably aware, is out of date. You focus on what you can sell rather than what you can give. You come from a stance of protecting yourselves rather that empowering others. Your training should include how we communicate to the public by looking at changing the use of the language that is bandied around and more insight into how we can offer permission to people to be involved in looking after their own dead.

There is really nothing that sets you apart from the corporates in the public eye. You dress the same. You put false value in things such as cars. You are secretive. You pay no importance to the collection and ‘care of the deceased’.

I propose to you that your training should be developed to include a natural way of looking after a body and to become more creative in looking at the role of the Funeral Director in the 21st century. Here’s how it could be achieved.

Each organisation should have a representative who would be knowledgeable, capable and willing to support families with a more hands on approach in looking after their dead. This representative could also support the other staff that you have to ensure that the environment is supportive and safe.

Believe me, this will not only help your organisation, but will also give much more work satisfaction to the people that are involved in your company and you will feel prouder of the support that you can offer.

This letter comes from a place of caring and of concern that what you stand for will rapidly disappear if you do not drastically change what you are doing and how you represent others. I ask that you seriously consider the points I have raised and not hide from what needs to happen.

I am up for a conversation, to go through these points and to find some solutions as to how you will still exist in a more empowering way for both the public and your members within this fast-moving landscape.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Cara Mair

Director, ARKA Original Funerals

 

An open letter to the National Association of Funeral Directors

This afternoon an e-mail was sent to all members of the National Association of Funeral Directors announcing that Mandie Lavin, the CEO appointed just under 15 months ago, is no longer employed by the Association.

No explanation has been given for her abrupt departure, but as the current President steps in to take the reins of the ‘Voice of the Profession’, we have received a guest post from Louise Winter, a progressive funeral director in London, in which she puts forward some thoughts that the organisation might like to consider as they look to the future.

 

 

An Open Letter to the NAFD
Dear National Association of Funeral Directors,

In light of the sudden change in leadership at the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) which was announced today, and as the leading trade association representing the funeral profession in the UK, there are a few considerations I’d like you to make when debating the future of your organisation and appointing your next CEO.

Funerals are important.  A good funeral can be profound and transformational in helping to acknowledge and accept that someone has died.  As the homepage of your website points out, ‘funerals matter’.

With this in mind, please consider the following:

  1. To introduce an underlying commitment to better serve the needs of the bereaved public and to make this the determining factor in any decision that is made.
  2. To become a force to be reckoned with, representing both traditional, modern and progressive funeral directors, corporates and independents.
  3. To be seen as universal – as interested in the smallest independent funeral directors as the needs of the biggest corporate firms.
  4. To share best practice and encourage collaboration for the sake of the future of the funeral profession.
  5. To offer modern, useful and thorough training to develop the next generation of the funeral profession.
  6. To improve the reputation of the funeral industry in the interest of making funerals a desirable career path for the brightest employees of tomorrow.
  7. To behave as a forward-thinking organisation that helps funeral directors to prepare for the market of tomorrow, where complacency and arrogance is not encouraged.
  8. To take immediate, effective and decisive action over those funeral directors who do a disservice to the funeral profession by behaving in an unprofessional manner.
  9. To not just encourage complete transparency regarding prices, but to make it a requirement of membership.
  10. To provide a clear and transparent procedure to allow complaints to be dealt with in a professional, unbiased and effective manner.
  11. To employ a diverse workforce of thought leaders who are enacting actual change.
  12. To be at the forefront of leading this change whilst retaining the values of the past.
  13. To be responsible for creating a network of funeral directors of which the UK can be proud.
  14. To value integrity, openness, honesty and transparency in all matters.

I hope that the NAFD will be the change we need to see in the funeral profession and wish you all the best in the appointment of a new CEO.

Yours,

Louise Winter

 

Louise Winter
Progressive Funeral Director
Director of Life. Death. Whatever.
Proud member of the Good Funeral Guild
Not a member of the NAFD