I Resolve to Help Myself


So, Christmas has gone and only the New Year jollies to come. If you have been coping with a first Christmas or yet another one without a loved one, everything will soon be back to ‘normal’. But what is ‘normal?’ Has it been ‘normal’ for you to feel pain and suffering for the last year? A heaviness,a depression, like you are stuck, like you will never be able to take part in life again? that you have to stay feeling like this?

All these feelings are part of the grieving process but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence. You don’t have to become a victim to your loss. I expect you heard many messages before Christmas about allowing your feelings and that you didn’t have to pretend that it was a ‘Happy Christmas’. These were all wise words but death or  loss for one should not mean death or loss for two or more. You can recover and take part in life again. Small steps, yes, but ones that you have to take.

First, resolve to help yourself, only you have the solutions and answers. Acknowledge that you need help and then resolve to ask for it. You may have to look around for the right kind of help, for you. Friends and family, whilst well meaning don’t always have the correct information. You may want to talk about your loss or listen to someone else telling you how and why you feel like you do, (although you actually know already)! Support groups can actually allow you to retraumatise yourself by constant re-telling of your story, they can help to keep you stuck by not offering any ways to move forward.

Nobody is asking you to forget your loved one, or other type of loss like safety or trust. Waiting for someone or something else to ‘fix’ things is not going to happen. You have to DO something yourself and engage in the process. Find the right therapist or group that helps you to move forward. The Grief Recovery Method offers you the tools to help you to take back responsibility and control of how you feel. If you only make or keep one New Years Resolution in 2019 make it this one. For  more information see www.celebrant-services.co.uk/grief-recovery and www.griefrecoverymethod.co.uk/susanholden

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Are You Grieving Over Your Empty Nest?

I expect many of you are just settling into your lives and routine again after waving a beloved son or daughter off to University. Whoo! hoo! Or maybe not.

True, the noise, the mess, the taxi service, the whirlwind that young people bring to our homes may have gone and that is a positive. However, it does leave behind a change in a familiar pattern of behaviour in your relationship with your son or daughter, and a major change in their lives and your lives. Life will not be the same again and that loss of familiarity in routine and behaviour and a realisation that the child/teenager part of growing up has moved on is a loss that one can feel intensely enough to grieve for it. More commonly this is called’ Empty Nest Syndrome’.

As an Advanced Grief Recovery Specialist I recognise this loss but many don’t and just think that they are ‘being silly’, or that they are ‘stressed’ or ‘depressed’ for some reason. Often there will be conflicting feelings of ‘glad that they have been accepted at University and pleased that they are off to make their own way in the world’ and ‘I don’t want them to go, I won’t see them so often and they may not want to come home so much and see me’. All these signs are perfectly normal and natural as you have had a big change in an emotional relationship and a familiar pattern of behaviour. This is grief.

The Grief Recovery Method helps you to understand this and your feelings around it and allows you to complete that emotional relationship, ready to start what will inevitably be a new one with new routines and patterns of behaviour.

it is also worth mentioning that your son or daughter may have similar feelings of loss, change and grief. Although it is an exciting time for them it can also be a bit daunting to be flying on their own! Is it any wonder that many University students don’t settle well and that mental health issues are on the rise?

For more information on loss and grief see www.griefrecoverymethod.co.uk/susanholden

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Divorce Ceremonies as seen on Channel 4

Did you see the recent TV programme on Channel 4 called Grayson Perry:Rites of Passage? He created a divorce ceremony for a couple which had two amicable divorcees. However, it is my view that this is the exception rather than the norm. Many divorcing couples would like an amicable divorce but it doesn’t always work out that way.

I see a divorce ceremony as drawing a line in the sand, marking the occasion of a major life changing event. Most major life changing events like birth, marriage, death etc. have a public ceremony to mark the change. With divorce there is no such thing. A letter drops through your letterbox from your solicitor or the Court and that is it; officially over. You are no longer Mrs, or are you? you are no longer married but are you single or divorced? Why do certain institutes and their forms have to have a box for divorced? Do you keep your married name for a woman or do you revert to your maiden name? Certainly life changing questions.

The divorce ceremony is a time to publicly acknowledge and maybe accept what has happened and the changes that are coming. It can help tremendously in the healing process as it completes the relationship that has just ended. It can be a time of publicly thanking those friends and family that supported you throughout the divorce. It can be a celebration of your freedom, your new chapter in life. This can feel daunting yet exciting, it can feel hopeful and it can be liberating. Something to share and to ask your friends and family for their support as you move forward, much as witnesses are asked at a wedding or a naming ceremony or after a bereavement or other major loss.

A divorce ceremony should also be considered where children are concerned. It is obviously a very difficult and unsettling time for them. Much will depend on their ages and the circumstances around the divorce and they too need to feel hope and security moving forward. It can be a good opportunity to confirm publicly to them that Mum and Dad will never stop loving them and will still be their Mum and Dad although the living arrangements will be different. It is also a time to confirm that although Mum and Dad have separated, the children will not be separated from each other.

The ceremony can be made to reflect the mood of the divorce with music, readings and symbolism, like cutting a copy, please, of the marriage certificate, or a removal of rings. Every ceremony will be uniquely personal and meaningful so a celebrant should be engaged to put it together with and for you. Many people have a wild party and dance on the table singing ‘I will survive’, but that’s not quite the same is it?
For details of my divorce ceremonies, visit www.celebrant-services.co.uk

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Father’s Day Without a Father

What can be a happy day of family celebration for some can be a day of sadness or feeling ‘left out’, or of ‘not belonging’, to others. There are many reasons why you may not be celebrating Father’s Day this year. Your father may have died, you may have a difficult relationship with him, he may have disappeared. You may be a Mum whose husband has died and your children can’t celebrate the day, you may be a Father yourself and your child may have died or you may not be a father but desperately want to be one. Whatever the reason Sunday could be a difficult day of sadness and painful memories for you.

At the Grief Recovery Method grief is defined as ‘reaching out for someone who has always been there only to find out that when we need them one more time, they are not there’.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, it could also be an opportunity to remember and honour a life that has passed in the physical sense. A chance to get families together and to recall fond times and memories.

Grief of a lost Dad for whatever reason may be still be held within you or unresolved and causing pain and sadness. If this is so I hope that you can find a way to negotiate the path through this coming Father’s Day. As a Grief Recovery specialist I can help you to move through your grief on a long term basis and to feel better about the next Father’s Day.

For friends and family witnessing a not so happy Father’s Day, listen to your grievers without criticism, judgement or analysis. A ‘heart with ears’. May your day be what you make it.

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Swindon Death Cafe article in Swindon Advertiser

This article was written by features writer from the Swindon Advertiser, Sarah Singleton after her January visit to the Swindon Death Café.


17th January
All life at the Death Cafe
Sarah Singleton @Adver_Sarah
Features writer


ONE cold, dark night in January I have a date with the Death Café.
It sounds a little like the opening line of a not very good novel – but driving around the anonymous car park of Shaw Ridge, rain spattering against the windscreen, headlights looming from the night, the moment seems like a story’s beginning.
Stepping into the brightly-lit foyer of the Village Hotel, I scan the various gatherings of people, trying to work out which group might be members of the Death Café. In the end, instinct guides me to half a dozen men and women sitting around a table who somehow look interesting – as though they are not talking about business, or how well their gym session went. And indeed, their topic is much more serious – they have come to talk about death.

Tonight’s members of the Death Café are a mixed group – nine in total, with both men and women. When I introduce myself, a quip or two is made to me about occult goings-on, but swiftly we settle down with coffees and introduce ourselves. The purpose of a Death Café is – simply – for people to gather and discuss death. The object is to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their lives. It has no particular objective or agenda, and is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session.
The idea was developed by Londoner Jon Underwood and counsellor Sue Barsky Reid. Jon worked extensively on projects about death. He died in June 2017 at the age of 44 years old, leaving behind his wife and children, but his mother and sister continue his work.
The Death Café is a social franchise – which means people who sign up to the principles and guides can use the name. The idea has become quickly popular with more than five thousand cafes being set up in 52 countries since 2011.
The facilitator at the Swindon group is Sue Holden, a funeral celebrant and grief recovery specialist. She asks everyone to introduce themselves and what has brought them to the meeting – and then the conversation flows easily and naturally. Tonight the discussion mainly revolves around funerals, burial and cremation – the importance of sharing our wishes, ways to discuss this with relatives, and curious bits of information about the rules and regulations on what can be put in a coffin: mobile phones yes, but the batteries must be removed; favourite biscuits are fine.

We discuss the merits of various types of coffin and I learn that people can be buried on private land – providing certain regulations and requirements are adhered to. Some people even have the ashes of a dear departed one made into jewelry or mixed into the ink of a new tattoo.

Although the topic sounds grim, the conversation is not. The participants are all relaxed and good-humoured. Members had different points of view on religion and the afterlife too – without this being a cause for conflict.
The hour-and-a-half session flew by and the conversation was fascinating – with poignant moments as well as some laughs.

After the meeting, Sue told me she started Swindon’s Death Café in August 2016.
“In the course of my work, I found that people were uneasy talking about anything to do with death and dying – and often could not even say the word. We have so many other words people use instead. The Death Cafes are informal and not morbid. We discuss anything anybody wants to talk about. We hope to make people more comfortable talking about death.

“It doesn’t matter if one or ten other people come along. It’s enough to make it worthwhile,” she said.
The Death Café meets on the second Tuesday of every month, at the Village Hotel on Shaw Ridge and the next is on Tuesday, February 13, at 7pm.



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Location, Location, Location



I was recently watching Location, Location, Location the property search TV show. On it was a couple of retirement age who were down-sizing and moving to be closer to their three children, who were geographically spread out. They had looked at about 30-40 properties but couldn’t decide on one that they both liked. They were living in rented accommodation having sold their house, and were quite depressed that there was ‘nothing out there’. During the course of the programme it seemed that they loved their old house and didn’t really want to move but thought that it was the ‘sensible’ thing to do and both had different ideas about what they wanted in a new house. So no surprise that they hadn’t found anything on their own.

At one telling point, the man said ‘I know this is a stupid analogy but I feel like I am in mourning’. Of course the conversation moved swiftly on and Phil Spencer continued with his search to ‘replace the loss’. I was screaming at the TV ‘Stop! that is exactly right!’ The couple were grieving the loss of their family home, their familiar pattern of behaviour that went with living there, their friends, their emotional attachment to the area and all that living there meant to them. The sad thing was that the man had said exactly how he felt without anyone, least of all him, realising the truth behind those words.

Grief is not just about bereavement. It is about loss of anything of an emotional attachment, including your house, home and familiar patterns of behavior. Moving house is one of the biggest losses that produce feelings of grief. Of course they felt stuck and unable to make decisions, which in turn had led to lethargy and lack of hope for finding a new house. It was no surprise at the end of the programme after coming close to buying one house that it ended with them still looking. Their loss was not going to be replaced, because that is not the answer. What it had done was to focus their minds on the reality of their situation and what kind of property they were now looking for. A kind of completion with some steps that they could take on their own towards being able to move forward.

If you feel like you are mourning after any loss of an emotional nature then you are probably suffering with grief. The Grief Recovery Method can help you to realise this and help you to take steps to help you to move forward and lessen the pain that is attached to grief and have a future, albeit a different one.

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Dying Matters Doesn’t It?

Dying Matters Awareness Week

Does dying matter? Of course, it does. Then why don’t we talk about it? We plan and discuss other major life events. It doesn’t have to be morbid and it won’t happen just because you talk about it!

From 8th May to 14th May, events will be held all over the country to try and help people to become more comfortable about planning and talking about death and dying.

Dying Matters is a coalition led by the National Council for Palliative Care to support the implementation of the Department of Health’s ‘End of Life Care’ strategy. To make a ‘good death’ the norm and this year’s theme is  ‘What Can You Do?’

Death Cafes make you a ‘legitimate weirdo’ so there will be hundreds running up and down the country for us all to be ‘weird’ together along with other events looking at and discussing death and dying. But who says we are weird? Is it not time to take back responsibility for ourselves instead of leaving it to our children? Make decisions about your end of life care, for how and where you wish to die, for your funeral and funeral ceremony. Have the last laugh, the last word. Make every aspect of your life personal and memorable.

About 500,000 people die every year and 70% of people would like to die at home, yet 50% of people die in hospital. Due to advancements in medicine in hospitals and hospices we can keep people alive for longer, but at what quality? Many people live to an old age and life expectancy is increasing. This means that many people do not experience the death of a family member or close friend until they are mid-life themselves.

There used to be some certainties with diseases and accidents but now modern medicines have blurred the lines. Society as a whole has never been less exposed to death. As a result, we have become afraid of what we don’t know, can’t see and haven’t experienced. Fear of the unknown means that people sometimes avoid those who are ill and dying and feel unable to support them. It also means that if relatives of a loved one do not know a persons’ preferences, they may make decisions about care that the dying person does not want. When the inevitable happens, those who are left behind often have to make decisions in a hurry when they are emotionally distraught and least able to make them. It can also be comforting to those near death that their passing will not add any extra stress and pain if their final wishes are known and will be carried out.

Terrorism and wars bring death closer to us, so we cannot go on ignoring it. In some cultures, and countries death through fights, stabbings, gun crime, famine, disease etc. can be ‘normal’. Does this make it easier to talk about? Yes, it can do. Grief can be a catalyst to talk. We don’t know when we are going to die, when we are young we think it will be never! However, we often live better when we know and accept that we are going to die and embrace our mortality. Be present, enjoy what you do, experiment, have no regrets.

Start to talk about death and dying before grief becomes your catalyst by checking in at an event near you.

In Swindon, Sue Holden will be running her regular Death Cafe at the Village Hotel (de Vere) at Shaw Leisure Park SN5 7DW on Tuesday 9th May from 7.00pm to 8.30pm. Admission is FREE.

The Prospect Hospice will also be running similar events throughout the week and in Trowbridge at The Town Hall, people can pop in and ‘Ask the Undertaker’, join a Death Café for coffee and cakes, watch a couple of films and find out about writing a will, powers of attorney, planning your funeral, writing your ceremony and many other interesting subjects.

If you would like further information about events in Swindon and Wiltshire please contact Sue on 07941273589 or via email: *protected email*


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Divorce And Death Are The Same Grief

Divorce and Death are Always the Same where Grief is Concerned

Divorce is a loss of an emotional nature and has therefore the same response in producing grief as any of the 40+ other instances of loss which also produce grief. Bereavement is not the only producer of grief but is probably the best understood.

A recent blog gave 5 reasons why death and divorce are not the same. In terms of grief they are always the same. Both are the loss, change or end of a familiar pattern of behaviour in an emotional relationship. Loss and grief is also unique to the individual and should not be compared so we should never say that one person’s loss is greater or less than someone else’s. Grief is about feelings, and we do not make up our feelings so we do not make up grief and its associated pain.

Death is permanent and so is divorce. Even if a couple get back together again or remain on amicable terms the relationship that they had as a happily married couple will change permanently. The issue of trust will certainly change. The split or ending can also be very sudden and unexpected and one might never know where their ex is living or how they are living or indeed if they are alive. Not every divorced couple has children to act as some sort of bridge between them. If you were to ‘bump into them’ occasionally, the sight of them and memories of what is lost could easily re-traumatise you, so seeing them is not something that can be thought of as a plus against never seeing a deceased loved one again.

In my own personal divorce story, I thought I was happily married, had no suspicions that things were not right and my ex-husband just announced one day that he didn’t think he could live with me for the next 25 years. He refused to talk about why, denied having an affair and when I found incriminating messages on his phone, because he was having an affair, and accepted his offer to leave at 1.30 in the morning, my life and relationship changed suddenly, dramatically and irrevocably. He never returned leaving me to sell the house and move out. After 27 years of marriage I was on my own. I am not allowed to know where he lives or anything about him, he may as well be dead. If he had died I would not have had additional feelings of deceit, abandonment, rejection, betrayal, fear and loss of self-esteem, to contend with. My divorce is very final and there are plenty of others who will have a similar story.

Children are not always involved in a marriage and if they are may not have a choice in seeing a parent again if the divorce is acrimonious and visiting rights are not sought. Plenty of abandoned, single parents and children will testify to this.

I would have preferred it if my husband had died suddenly as my friends and family would not have been torn between me and him. I would have received sympathy, understanding, compassion, help, support from everyone. People may have had some idea what to say and do for me. All my memories would have been happy, pleasant ones. If he had died, sadness would obviously have been present but not the hurt, rejection and deceit that the memory of our 27 years together brings up.

So, divorce is permanent, it is final, it is not always a conscious choice, it is not resolvable. It is an ending of an emotional relationship, as is death and it does carry other harmful feelings and emotions which add to the grief. No loss can be compared because all grief is uniquely individual.

Finally, the grieving and mourning process can be dealt with in the same way even to the extent of having a divorce ceremony. For all rites of passage and major life changing events there is a ceremony and divorce is no different although it is not well known. A divorce ceremony can involve the couple but is usually for one person and it can be solemn to mark the life change or it can be a celebration of a new life and opportunities. It can be particularly helpful where children are concerned to re-affirm that whilst Mummy and Daddy might not love each other, they will still always love their children. It is also a marker of an end and a beginning, much as a funeral is. (For more information visit www.celebrant-services.co.uk)



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Do I Have a Choice?

When someone dies, do I have a choice as to what kind of funeral they have?

Do I have to have my local vicar or priest although the person who has died was not particularly religious?

The answer to these questions is ‘Yes’ you do have a choice and ‘No’ you do not have to have a religious minister if you do not want to.  Some families/friends choose to create and conduct parts of, or even the whole ceremony themselves. There are also funeral celebrants who can do this for you or you may want no service at all.

A Civil Funeral Celebrant is a person who will create and deliver the type of funeral that you want. It is essentially non religious but it may have a hymn or prayer included, if you wish. It is a professional, dignified, ceremony that includes a tribute or eulogy to the deceased person and is highly personal reflecting their life and their favourite music, poetry and readings. Anything can be included as long as it is not immoral, abusive or illegal! So the choice of ceremony content is yours and who conducts it is yours and the venue is yours. You can ask for a celebrant by name if you know one or you can ask your funeral director to match one to your style.

If you are not having a religious funeral then the venue can also be of your choosing. For example, a hall or arena or even at home. The body will have to be buried or cremated as a final act and whilst there is no legal requirement to use a funeral director the vast majority of people find it helpful to have professional support.

You can also choose what type of coffin you have. These days there are options of wicker baskets, eco friendly and colourful coffins or just a shroud. You don’t have to have flowers, hearses, or cars. You can choose what is done with the cremated remains, i.e. the ashes and you can choose where you are buried. Natural burial grounds are increasingly being chosen over council run cemeteries. Occasionally private land is chosen or donating the body to science or burial at sea.

For those left behind, the task of making a lot of choices can seem overwhelming but with some forethought and help it can be done. By writing down or talking about your own wishes for your funeral when the time comes, you can really help those left behind with making decisions. So start to look at what choices you have and what you would like to happen.

For more information about death and dying well speak to Susan Holden civil funeral celebrant 01793 978617 or look at


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What is a Civil Funeral Celebrant?

Memorial candle and roseA Civil Funeral Celebrant conducts a funeral for someone who has died and who did not regularly attend a place of worship and either had their own spiritual beliefs or none at all. This may be a cremation, cemetery burial or natural woodland burial. They will also help you with the scattering of ashes and memorial services.

What is a civil funeral ceremony?

There is no legal requirement for a funeral to be conducted by a religious minister. A civil funeral is for anyone whatever beliefs they held, if any.

Each ceremony is unique – as unique as the person who has died and the life they lived. It is a ceremony that is created especially for them. It will reflect their beliefs, values and cultural traditions, and can be everything you want it to be.

The funeral ceremony is created by you in partnership with your local Civil Funeral Celebrant, who will liaise throughout with your funeral director. The celebrant will visit you in your home to see how you want the ceremony to be. You may want to play special music, sing a hymn or song and include readings and poetry. You may want a prayer or reading from the Bible. At the heart of the ceremony is a tribute or eulogy which reflects the life of the person who has died. The celebrant will normally write and deliver this for you and conduct the whole ceremony. A bound copy of the ceremony will be presented to you after the funeral and is yours to keep. If other people wish to contribute to the ceremony and this is acceptable to the family, then they are able to do so.

The family of the person who has died can be as involved as much or as little as they wish but the ceremony will be driven by their wishes, beliefs and values and they will remain in control.

Sue Holden is a local Civil Funeral Celebrant in Swindon, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

Sue has a NOCN Level 3 Diploma in Funeral Celebrancy (QCF) and is an Associate member of the Institute of Civil Funerals.

If you would like to speak with Sue, call her on:-

01793 978617 or mob. 07941273589

Roses in the Ocean

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