Bereavement Charter for Scotland

There’s a new Bereavement Charter for Scotland – available here. It contains 15 statements which describe what the best bereavement care and support should look like. It has been developed to support individuals and communities who struggle with the death of someone they know or someone in their community. There’s more information here.

Coincidentally, one of the funeral celebrants I’ve been in contact with lately, Emma Curtis, has prepared a very useful “guide for people who worry what to say to a grieving person.”

I think we all struggle with what to say to a person who is grieving. And sometimes we end up not saying anything at all – but it’s so important to make and maintain contact. Emma’s guide gives a lot of advice on how to do that in a sensitive and practical way.

Michael Hannah, Dundee, 8th May 2020

Masters at Glasgow

I just heard today that I’ve been accepted on the University of Glasgow’s MSc in End of Life Studies.

This is a totally online part-time course so I’ll be able to continue my celebrancy work around it. It will be great to work both on the practical side and pursue an academic interest in the subject at the same time.

Ultimately I’d love to do some research in the field of ceremony and funerals …. but one step at a time! Very pleased, though, to have this to look forward to.

Michael Hannah, Dundee, 7th May 2020

Celebrant support networks

Being a funeral celebrant can be a lonely business. Of course you meet all sorts of amazing people in the families that you work with. And you build good relations with funeral directors and arrangers.

But it can be hard to build up good working relationships with other celebrants in the area. And that has been put into sharper focus by the lockdown.

I’ve started to build a loose local network – we “meet” on Zoom every week and share experience and ideas.

I’ve also joined a UK-wide support network that was created in response to the COVID-19 situation. I’ve found it a really helpful way to exchange support. It’s also really good to talk through ideas with people who are working in very different places and who have really varied professional backgrounds and approaches. There’s more information about this funeral celebrants support network here.

Michael Hannah, Dundee, 6th May 2020

Funeral Celebrant Accord

The Celebrancy Accord

The Accord defines the attributes and skills required of an excellent funeral celebrant and is intended to set the standards by which all celebrants offering funeral services should be measured.

In summary, an excellent funeral celebrant:

  1. Is professional
  2. Cares for their clients
  3. Is calm and shows natural leadership
  4. Writes personalized ceremonies
  5. Cares about their self development

For more information about this see the Funeral Celebrancy Council.

I have also set out my own personal Code of Conduct.

Michael Hannah, Dundee, 2nd May 2020

Zoom funerals in the news

The BBC Radio 4 Today Programme this morning (18 April) carried an interesting feature about how funeral celebrants are starting to use Zoom and other similar online ways to perform ceremonies during the current coronavirus lockdown.

Celebrant Claire Bradford explained how this can work and how, although it obviously isn’t the same as a traditional funeral, it can give families a chance to come together and honour the life of a loved one with due ceremony and respect.

You can listen to the piece here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000hdbf – you need to skip to about 23 minutes into the programme [May no longer be available].

I am also developing this and have conducted one funeral using Zoom. Please contact me if you’d like to know more.

Michael Hannah, Funeral Celebrant, Dundee

My first online funeral ceremony

Yesterday I conducted my first online funeral ceremony. The family of the deceased live on another continent and it wasn’t possible to hold the ceremony at a crematorium with live streaming facilities. So Co-op FuneralCare opted to hold the ceremony in their Perth service rooms and asked me if I could use Zoom to broadcast live and also prepare a recording.

This is a bit different from some of the ideas that I’ve been exploring with other celebrants where we are planning for the possibility of crematoriums stopping all attended cremations altogether (this has now happened in Aberdeen and other parts of Scotland). In those cases we could offer to run the funeral entirely online from our own homes during this lockdown situation.

But yesterday we held the ceremony as “normal” with staff from the Co-op in attendance It was as dignified and respectful as we could make it. I just made sure that my laptop was observing and streaming.

Was it a success? I hope that it gave some consolation to the family to be “present” even if they were viewing on a screen. It did mean that I was able to display photos and play music that meant something to the family.

And once I had the recording I was able to edit it and to add in some footage of the hearse leaving with full ceremony and then arriving at the beautiful grounds of the crematorium with trees in flower and birds singing. So I hope that can act as a permanent memorial for the family.

Doing this is not easy – I made lots of “first time” errors and I know it was far from perfect. But it has also forced me to learn all sorts of new ways to deal with how we handle funerals in this time of pandemic and I think some of those could help with the problem of how we can bring scattered friends and families together even after this crisis is over.

Michael Hannah, Funeral Celebrant, April 2020

Online funerals….in the age of COVID-19

See also update 10 April 2020.

At the time of writing this (3rd April 2020) funerals in Scotland are still going ahead in crematoriums. Numbers are restricted to just ten people but some places, like Dundee, have the option to stream or record the ceremony. This means a family still have an opportunity to observe a solemn moment even if the circumstances are not ideal and to make it available to more than just the ten immediate family and friends.

However, there is a real possibility that all funerals may be stopped. This is already happening in parts of England. Crematoriums will still carry out direct cremations but they will not be able to permit anyone to attend.

If this happens what can families do? Of course it’s always possible to organize a memorial …. but when? It may have to be weeks or even months away.

One option may be to organize an online ceremony using one of the video conferencing systems that so many are currently using for online working. Zoom is one of the most popular.

I have been exploring this and have carried out a test online “funeral”. It worked surprisingly well. I send out email invitations that contain a link. The participants then use this to access the online “room” where they can see and hear me – I, as online celebrant, can also display photos, short video clips and play music while I deliver the tribute or invite others to speak.

Of course there are always going to be problems of poor internet connections, accessibility issues…. and Zoom isn’t without its critics and problems.

But as an interim solution to a difficult and distressing problem this could work for many people. It could even open up new ways to mark these events in the future.

If you would like to know more about how I’m trying to tackle an online funeral, contact me for a chat.

Michael Hannah, Funeral Celebrant, Dundee, 3 April 2020

“Hope in the Dark” – music by Carole Nelson

Just taking a break from all the news at the moment.

My friend Carole Nelson from Ireland has recorded a series of short YouTube videos called Live from the Living Room and the first piece in the series is called, appropriately enough, “Hope in the Dark“. I hope you enjoy!

Music to nourish the soul…. and if you’d like to know more, here is a recent review in the Irish Times.

Michael Hannah, Funeral Celebrant, Dundee 28th March 2020

A COVID-19 update

Family “visits”
So now of course I have stopped all family visits in person. This is very sad but I am still able to contact families by telephone, skype, facetime or zoom.

Funerals
The situation is changing rapidly, but as I write this on 28 March, Dundee Crematorium is still allowing funerals. Numbers are now restricted to 10 and they are enforcing the 2m spacing rules. Other crematoriums are observing similar rules. Dundee is still doing live streaming or “watch again” for people that can’t get to the ceremony.

But it’s quite possible that all services will be stopped. This is a drastic measure but the situation is serious and getting worse. If this happens families will only have the prospect of a memorial at some unspecified time in the future. I am therefore looking into the possibility of setting up online funeral ceremonies using zoom.

Zoom is very good for online meetings of various kinds. It lets people from all over the country join and it lets people see and hear each other. But is it suitable for “online funeral services”? To be honest I don’t know but I’m actively working on it with other celebrants and funeral directors. So at least we can mark funerals in some way.

I have posted more on online funerals here.

Memorials
It’s too early to talk about dates and bookings but I am able to talk about format for memorials – just contact me for a chat.

Michael Hannah, 28 March 2020