Two Thousand and Sixteen. I keep saying it in the hope that it will sound more familiar, but in truth I am not sure I am ready for it;  2015 whizzed by so fast,  so much has happened, and I don’t feel quite prepared to let it go yet !.

Alongside the launch of Divine Ceremony, I found  time in 2015 to focus on giving a number of talks, and the writing of my articles. I also met with the Department of Health to discuss future funeral needs, and I presided as Celebrant over 120 funerals. Each one so different, as are we all.

I have taken many traditional burials and cremations alongside Natural burials, ceremonies atop hill forts, and a truly memorable ceremony for a 94 year old lady who was buried in her garden. She had asked to be buried in the exact same spot she had buried her own mother some 40 years before; beneath the roses they had loving planted together. 40 years ago it was quite something to be buried in your own garden, and even today it requires some planning, yet it is all possible.

We know that each of us will most likely plan 3 funerals in our lifetimes, and yet in my experience we come to each moment largely unprepared – emotionally, spiritually and often financially.

Through my talks and writing, I want to encourage us all to think about the unthinkable. I can’t stress how much easier it is when the deceased has made plans for his/her own funeral beforehand. A huge pressure is taken from the family when they are able to say – “this is what She wanted”. It doesn’t lessen the grief, but it does allow us to also focus on the myriad of things that come up after someone has died.

I work with an increasing number of people who have decided to plan their own funeral. Mostly – but not always – ladies of a certain age, who may have been recently bereaved, and usually they have just re-written their will, which is an ideal time to focus on a funeral. We meet up and go through their thoughts, and then I drop off a document with the plan we have arrived at, and this folder is placed with their will.

Planning your funeral can be an emotional experience, but many people tell me they feel a huge sense of relief, knowing they have made preparations for their families and loved ones. It is often many years before those wishes need to be enacted, but it is then a huge help to have a plan in place.

The funeral industry is having to make changes – and welcome ones at that; we are asking for greener options, and more time for our ceremonies at Crematoria. I ordered many more cardboard coffins in 2015, and over the last year I have seen our wonderful City of Bristol dare to dance with Death, with a number of highly successful exhibitions on this, the most taboo of subjects.

It’s an irony that the one inevitable in life, is the one thing we are not able to control, and find hardest to discuss. The When and The How. Understandably, none of us want to dwell too much on either, but if we can steal ourselves – be brave enough to just peek behind the curtain, and make some choices now, we lay the foundations for a much easier time for those of us left behind.

Have I planned my own funeral? Yes, I have, well mostly – I just need to tweak the music….