Police officer turned national celebrant president urges us to talk about death and why dying matters

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 17 May 2017

PEOPLE are being urged to talk more openly about the often taboo subject of planning for their death.

And those working in the sector are using this week’s Dying Matters awareness week to get their message across.

Northern Lincolnshire is home to the President of the Association of Independent Celebrants, (AOIC),  former senior Grimsby policeman Philip Spicksley. For the past decade the Barton resident has worked as a professional celebrant, conducting a wide range of services across the region.

An increasing number of people are choosing celebrants to work alongside funeral directors, in order to lead personal and professional services in venues of their choice.

“Dying is a subject which can be very hard to discuss and that is understood by everyone involved, however for many talking about the end of a life and planning a service can often be a comfort and ease the burden on loved ones at what is a very, very sad and stressful period in their lives,” Mr Spicksley said.

For the past seven years, he has been a member of the Dying Matters Coalition. He also works closely with the Child Funeral Charity, which provides funds for families who cannot afford funeral costs after a sudden death.

“The purpose of Dying Matters Awareness Week, was to stress to everyone that dying does matter," he said. "Some people I have worked with have said ‘I wanted to look the person in the eye who is going to stand up and speak about me at my funeral because I want to know that they are going to do what I want’.”

As AOIC president, Mr Spicksley ensures an increasing number of celebrants are given professional advice and support, with all members covered by public liability and professional indemnity insurances.

Figures show that, in some areas, up to 90 per cent of funeral services are now conducted by celebrants and with that in mind, Mr Spicksley said it is vital that families are aware of who they are selecting.

“Bereaved families should be aware that there are many celebrants who are working without the support or regulation of a trade body, thus not having anywhere to express their concerns when something goes wrong or any redress for poor work.  The AOIC provides that support.”

Unlike humanist funeral services, celebrants will conduct ceremonies with religious elements, added Mr Spicksley.

Funeral directors have also marked Dying Awareness Week with a number of events. Lincolnshire Co-op hosted coffee mornings and stands this month, one at their Grimsby branch, giving people the opportunity to discuss death and funeral-related matters.

Head of funerals, David Dernley, said: “Death isn’t a popular topic of conversation for many people, but our funeral colleagues want to create a space for anyone to come along to and openly talk about bereavement and their end of life plans.

“Planning for death is important as it can make the process much easier on your loved ones when the time comes, and gives you the chance to have the send-off you want to have.

“We want to break the taboo around death and help people gain more understanding on the topic, and hopefully visiting a coffee morning or simply popping into your local funeral home to find out more was beneficial to our members and customers.”

The Society supports nine hospices as part of its Community Champions scheme, and recently raised more than £290,000 for homelessness charities in the area. 

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