Blogs from the Crematorium
Bereavement Services Manager
Hello, my name is Kate Greening and I'm the Bereavement Services Manager for Adur & Worthing Councils.
I have been in the role for 18 months now and feel it's time to invite you into the beautiful, strange and sometimes surreal world of our work.
I will be the main blog writer, but I'm hoping some of my team will contribute, we will have some guest bloggers who will give another perspective about death care, we also aim to answer any death related questions you may have.
On the whole, you won't hear from us or come into contact with us unless you experience bereavement or you are working with us, so this blog is hopefully going to broaden your knowledge of what it is we do and what is involved in the world of us death care workers.
You can read Kate's current blog posts on this page below:
This was the question we received a few weeks ago, when Worthing Crematorium were approached by a family who requested something a little bit different for the service of their loved one.
The request was for an honour guard to be carried out by the Sir Marmaduke Rawdon Regiment of Foote a 17th century regiment, part of the Sealed Knot Society a charity that commemorates UK history in a number of ways. Principally they perform reenactments in local communities based around battles, skirmishes and sieges of the English Civil War.
The deceased was a member of the regiment and the family had requested whether it was possible for the regiment to attend the funeral in full attire, with pikes, staffs, swords and muskets and carry out an honour guard as a mark of respect for the deceased.
This was the first time we had been asked for something of this nature and initially we were concerned that the noise might be disruptive to the family using our other chapel at that same time.
The Bereavement Services team are keenly aware how important it is for a funeral service or death ritual to be meaningful to everyone involved so we decided to explore what was required to enable this ritual to take place before making a decision.
First, we reached out to the local police to find out what was needed or if it was even possible. We were quickly contacted by Firearms and Explosives Licensing Unit and were surprised to learn this could go ahead on the basis that the police would be provided with information about who would be carrying and firing the muskets, a risk assessment and proof of public liability.
At this point we still had to think about what other impacts firing the muskets might have on other users of our service. We informed the funeral director of the other service to notify them of the possibility of an honor guard taking place. We also had to consider visitors to the memorial garden, so we ensured that everyone who arrived at the crematorium were notified by the car park attendant that there would be an honour guard at a particular time.
Since we had everything in place, we gave permission for the honour guard to take place.
One of our pleasures in Bereavement Services is seeing the rich diversity and imaginative funeral service and death rituals. These are the memorable services and they provide an enormous amount of comfort and joy in what is an extremely difficult time.
I see our developing role in Bereavement Services in facilitating these important rituals and family traditions for bereaved people. After all it's an important moment in celebrating a person's life and what was important to them.
So - in answer to the question posed in the blog title ... Yes, with some advance notice you may indeed be able to have an honour guard.
Photo: the Sir Marmaduke Rawdon Regiment of Foote a 17th century regiment, part of the Sealed Knot Society
Working in bereavement services is challenging and very meaningful work. First and foremost we treat the deceased with dignity, reverence and respect. We support the bereaved through the experience of laying their deceased family or friends to rest.
We work a lot with funeral directors, stone masons, celebrants and ministers, hospitals, religious organisations, as well as many council colleagues. We run Worthing Crematorium and Memorial Gardens, several active cemeteries and numerous disused churchyards across Adur and Worthing.
The team only have one chance to do things right and this is always in the forefront of our minds when providing our service and during any decisions we take. The choices we make, really can feel like life and death sometimes and this really puts many things in our own lives into perspective. The team members come from many backgrounds and have come to this service due to a commitment to supporting the bereaved. One thing we all have in common is a strong empathy for those who use our service.
This is not a job that comes up at careers fairs or is recommended by career advisors. How does one even become a Bereavement Services Manager? There is no set career path, however many in our ranks have worked their way up from entry roles, such as trainee crematorium technicians or support officers, others come from the funeral, emergency or coroners services. My route was that I worked in another council service and saw that Bereavement offered an interesting and rewarding career.
My personal journey to bereavement services is down to a convergence of many personal interests and relevant work experience. In my distant past I studied art and particularly enjoyed photographing cemeteries. I've travelled to many locations just to visit the cemeteries, such as Prague and Paris. I particularly like to look at the typography, the artistry of monuments and how nature gently takes the cemeteries over.
This is a recent picture I photographed at St Winwaloe, The Church of Storms (isn't that a lovely name?) churchyard in Cornwall. I particularly love the carving on this old slate memorial, it amazes me that the lines are still as crisp as the day the marks were made.
I have always had a curiosity about death, probably because it happens to everyone and there is no definite answer that everyone agrees with about what happens to them after they die.
We live in a society that is uncomfortable discussing death, dying and bereavement and I too still struggle to find the right words sometimes, but I'm still learning.
The Bereavement Services team are incredibly passionate about the work we do and are keen to tell our stories. If you think bereavement services is a sleepy little operation, you are in for a surprise.