I hope the following article will throw a little light on these questions and many more
Dr. Barry Albin-Dyer, OBE, JP
Barry Albin-Dyer OBE is the proprietor and Chairman of F A Albin & Sons and its subsidiary companies,
Barry Albin &Sons and Albin International Repatriation.
During Barry's 40 plus years within the funeral industry, he has presided over some of the most high profile funerals in the UK, overseen repatriations which have involved travel to some of the furthest corners of the globe, including Thailand, Afghanistan and Iraq, been the subject of a six-part ITV1 documentary series 'Don't Drop the Coffin', written six books detailing his experiences in the industry, yet his feet remain firmly planted in a corner of South East London, along with his heart, in Bermondsey.
A part of the varied work that his company undertakes involves providing bereavement counselling services. To this end he has created the Albin Bereavement Team, whose job it is to support the Albin group in its work, whether it be in the back office of one of his chain of branches across the East and London or at the scene of a mass fatality or delicate repatriation case.
Here, Barry talks openly about his thoughts on bereavement and the personal path that led him to the close understanding that he has of the subject.
'I'LL NEVER GET OVER THIS'
Dealing with loss, is their light throughout the journey or only at the end.
Having been conceived a Funeral Director, with Mum and Dad both working as Funeral Directors, 'I'll never get over this bereavement' is perhaps the truest and most common remark I have regularly heard from the people we serve. True because it speaks for itself. We can never get back what we have lost, but we can learn to live good and full lives as we begin a new journey, one that we are often afraid to venture on but, given time and support, we can find the strength to live every moment of the rest of our lives, every breath we have left to the full. I believe this is the duty we have to ourselves and to those we have lost. To live, breathe, repair and continue is the human body's natural function. We just have to convince our brain and heart to co-operate.
For some people, bereavement is like a heavy cold. We can go through the symptoms, shake it off and it is no more than that. For others it is like pneumonia and to shake it off is touch and go – a real mountain to climb. We have, I am sure, heard of the saying 'They died of a broken heart', well I believe it is true. We have to accept that when we completely give up, our body begins to shut down and for those very few cases and they are few and far between, it is the end of the journey.
People often ask me what advice I would give to someone in bereavement. My advice is simple - just get up every morning, put one foot in front of the other and see where that leads us. Sometimes that step takes us forward and we feel a little stronger, we see a light as the tunnel shows us an end. Other days the step takes us backward and we feel worse than the day before. Loss is full of highs and lows, but the real problem is when we don't get up and make that step. It is a scientific fact that people suffering from bereavement hear only 24%, of what is said to them. More frightening is the fact that they retain only 7%, which shows how hard it is to be heard or for a while want to be heard.
My mother died when I was 17 years old and still today I always say that leaving me was the worst thing she ever did to me. But in her leaving, she left me the greatest gift, that of knowing how empty loss leaves us, a chance for me to feel that terrible emptiness and begin to understand just how desperate the people I was to serve in my life were to feel.
On the morning she died some 43 years ago now (yet still fresh in my mind), I was staying the night at my Grandmother's as my Dad knocked on the door and the door was opened by me, Dad looked at me and cried in a shaky voice 'Mummy's gone Son, she died an hour ago' I just panicked and cried as all three of us fell in a heap of tears. Later that day and in fact the weeks that would follow, neither of us could make a decision. We were both Funeral Directors, my Dad for his whole life and in a lesser way, me for mine, yet we never knew what to do. All the practical decisions we help people make every day, for example burial or cremation, how to register, what documentation we needed, cars, dates etc. etc., we both were empty. Numb in fact. As years went by I was always puzzled as to why we were both so useless at that time, even with all the knowledge we possessed. So it posed the obvious question - If we did not know what to do, how would anybody else, which for me was the beginning of a long and endless journey to battle grief through knowledge, experience and most of all love.
As I learned my way around the minefield of loss, I first came across the stages of grief for which there are many descriptive words and terms, but I would describe them as follows:
This of course was exactly what Dad and I had felt and not understood all those years ago. Simply the mind blanking out the pain and protecting the body and organs to give them a chance in simple terms, to re-group and prevent any shut down, as the pain can be so great that thrust upon us in one dreadful moment, would be unbearable. That numbness is a defence mechanism to allow us time to adapt.
Not being able to face the truth leading on from the numbness. A good example of this is making enough food for two when there is only one. The mind gently denying the truth.
Deprivation – Often described as anger
Even on the days we feel better we can often be angry because we feel guilty at not being sad. As the truth hits home, we become very sad and angry at what we have lost, at what we believe in truth we have had taken away from us. Sometimes we can be angry with ourselves because we think we could have done more, or angry with God - 'Why me?' we may well ask. 'What have I done to deserve this?'.
Sometimes people are angry with me as a Funeral Director. If there were no Funeral Directors, perhaps there would be no deaths? Of course the work I do has nothing to do with the loss of life, but for a while it can feel a little like that for people. Death comes to us all. From our very first breath it is only a matter of where and when – that is the pattern of life and death.
Last but not least – Depression (The most serious)
The first time I believe the medical profession sees the process as an illness. For me I believe they often miss the early symptoms. It's a little like having a very small cancerous growth say on your hand, looking at it, recognising it, but not treating it until it becomes life threatening. Of course that cancer reported, would not be left. So why when bereavement occurs are we not recognising it as an illness straight away? Treating it only when it becomes clinical depression. I campaign constantly to change this perception.
When I meet a family in loss, I will often ask if they have seen their GP. A GP needs to know of a loss. He or she can help. It may be that you need a little help to sleep, or later vitamins, check your blood for iron etc., your diet - are you eating enough?, your weight or just have a chat or refer you to a group or counselling. It needs treating from day one to prevent stage four depression taking a firm hold.
I am a great believer in what we call the 13 month illness. 'So what's that?', you may well ask. Well I'll tell you. I believe we have to go through all the anniversaries to be able to think differently. 'This time last Christmas Dad was here', 'This time last year we were all on holiday' - 'Dad's birthday', 'Our anniversary', 'This time last year Dad was here', 'This time last year Dad died'. Strangely when you can no longer say 'This time last year' your whole thinking can change. It's like drawing a line in the sand. After 13 months we can no longer refer to 'This time last year'. For me this changes everything.
My father died some 19 months ago now and whenever I met someone during the first year after his death I would say 'Dad died earlier this year' or 'Dad died in April'. But when I crossed the 12th month onto the 13th, I realised I had to rephrase what I had been saying for a year. Dad died 19 months ago did not have the same impact when voiced. Not a cure, but a line in the sand and I have to say I have been feeling better as I question my thinking and as we move nearer to the second year. Interestingly my Dad married again. He was never the same man but he lived a full and rewarding life and had great happiness. Mum's death changed things for us all. We never forgot Mum and we never will, but happiness is found through the journey, not at the end.
People will ask me what is my job as a Funeral Director. Well you have a midwife that helps you into the world and I'm a kind of midwife that helps you on your last journey. In truth, what we do is rock the cradle - What do you do with a baby that is well fed, winded, changed, is well and warm, yet still is crying? We rock the cradle, pick the baby up, comfort it, walk around and even take them for a drive to rock them to sleep. I often say that everyone I meet in my professional life is sucking lemons. If we get a group of people together, cut up a lemon and ask everyone to suck on it, they will pull the sourest of faces as the citric acid leaves a bitter taste. Yet if we add a little sugar, it becomes lemonade – we sweeten up the bitterness, just enough to make it bearable (remember Rock the Cradle, sweeten the bitterness – it's all anyone can do in the short term).
As all things in life, much depends on perspective. Now if I took you to Oxford Street and stood you outside that beautiful tall building we call Selfridges, on the street what would we see and hear? TRAFFIC, PEOPLE, NOISE, THE FRUIT SELLER SHOUTING '6 FOR A POUND', THE HUSTLE AND BUSTLE ETC. - MADNESS. If you come from the country it could be a bit frightening. Now if I took you straight up in the lift to the roof, on a clear day you could see Windsor Castle, Hyde Park and the clouds - quiet, some peace, no people, no hustle and bustle, and cars etc - Just peace. Yet we are in the same place looking from a different perspective. So life is not always as bad as we first imagine it. So, you see, trying to change perspective is so important.
Having said this, remember there is no magic cure - it's a hard road the bereaved walk, but not a road without end or hope. You could say bereavement is like walking around a labyrinth. We may pass similar ways time and time again but if we keep on walking, never stay still, we will without doubt reach the end. A labyrinth is not like a maze with lots of dead ends, if you keep going you will reach the end. If you stop, and give up, then there is no end.
I truly hope that this article brings you the knowledge that there is life after bereavement. If you know someone who has suffered with a recent bereavement, keep in touch with them, don't let them be isolated, stigmatised, don't be afraid to talk to them. If they are a little cross at times be patient. Just being there is a fantastic help.
I'll leave you now with some of my F A Albin golden rules and an opening paragraph from 'A Grief Observed' - my favourite 'must read' book.
No matter if the funeral is a Police, Fire Brigade, Armed Forces or ex Forces funeral, however large or small, there should be no difference in the importance or quality. Every funeral is precious and important.
We are only as good as our last funeral – no matter how good our reputation
The answer is ‘Yes’ – Now ask me the question
Bereavement is already bad enough – Let’s not make it any worse.
And as C S Lewis wrote in the opening paragraph of 'A Grief Observed'
No one ever told me that grief felt like fear.
I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid.
The same fluttering stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning.
I keep swallowing.
At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed.
There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me.
I find it hard to take in what anyone says.
Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.
It is so uninteresting.
Yet I want the others to be about me.
I dread the moments when the house is empty.
If only they would talk to one another and not to me.
Losing someone is the price we pay for loving them. But we would not change that love for a moment.
Dr. Barry Albin-Dyer, OBE, FSBP, JP
I am delighted to have this opportunity to provide what I hope is some useful information
There are always so many unanswered questions around a death of someone we love, for instance:
In recent years more and more people are wishing to plan for a funeral well in advance of that need. With this in mind a number of funeral directors have introduced funeral planning schemes which are regulated either by the FSA (Financial Services Authority) or FPA (Funeral Planning Authority).
All schemes should be supported and safeguarded by independent Trustees to ensure that all client requirements are met at the time of need.
Each client is very special and should be given the same help, time and consideration as any person arranging a funeral at the time of need.
Designed to give you the peace of mind of knowing that those you leave behind are secure in the knowledge that their very own funeral arrangements are trusted to the funeral provider. Each plan should allow the client, with complete flexibility, to plan any kind of funeral they wish, from the most simple to the most complicated, at a price to suit the client. The funeral is paid for at the price applicable and estimated at the time. The client is normally able to pay amounts over an agreed period. The funeral cost is guaranteed at that price subject to the rules and guidelines of the scheme.
At Albins we offer a special service for those clients whose estate at death will provide all necessary expenses but they would like to clearly state their wishes. This plan enables the client to record their own funeral instructions, with no charge of any kind. The specific instructions will be taken and recorded. The plan will be filed until the time of need at which point the family will be made aware of the specific wishes of the client.
Never be afraid that it is too soon to contact your Funeral Director.
He is there to guide and help you, and to make him your first call may be the best way.
(Remember, most Funeral Directors run a 24 hour service). At every stage always ask for help and guidance
At every stage always ask for help and guidance
If the deceased is in HOSPITAL
If a doctor's certificate (the Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death) has been issued, the hospital will advise you of the address of the Registrar of Births and Deaths. If the doctor has referred the death to the Coroner, the Coroner's Officer will be in touch to discuss the situation. He will advise you when the examination will take place, and if you need to arrange for registration.
If the deceased is in a NURSING HOME
A Doctor/Nursing Staff will advise you as soon as a death certificate (Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death) is available and the address of their local Registrar of Births and Deaths. You may at this time be asked for your permission to contact a Funeral Director.
In the event of the nursing staff being unable to contact the next of kin, the deceased may be transferred to a local Funeral Director’s private chapel.
If the doctor has referred the death to a Coroner, he will advise you when the examination will take place, and if you need to do registration. Registrars - At the Registrars you will be given a green certificate for burial and cremation for the attention of your Funeral Director. The Registrar will also advise you of the certificates you need for Insurance Companies, banks, Post Office or Friendly Societies.
If the deceased is AT HOME
Contact your doctor immediately. If the doctor is unknown to you, contact the Police.
Doctor - If the doctor has certified the death and he has informed you that he will be issuing a Medical Death Certificate stating the Cause of Death, you may then contact your local Funeral Director. They will visit your home and remove the deceased to their private chapel. Once the doctor has issued the death certificate you may proceed to your local Registrars of Births and Deaths to register the death. Emergency Doctor- The emergency doctor will give you a letter to give to your own doctor, who will issue a death certificate. If your own doctor has not visited the deceased within the last fourteen days, he may refer the case to the Coroner. Police - When the police arrive, they will summon a doctor on your behalf, who may refer the death to the Coroner. He/she will speak to you and have the deceased removed for examination. He will advise you when the examination is completed and if you need to do registration.
Registrars - At the Registrars you will be given a green certificate for burial and cremation which needs to be handed to the Funeral Director. The Registrar will also advise you of the certificates you need for Insurance Companies, banks, Post Office or Friendly Societies. After leaving the Registrars make your way to the Funeral Director of your choice. They will require the green certificate and the authority from the next of kin to remove the deceased from the Hospital/Nursing Home to the Chapel of Rest.
IMPORTANT - You do not have to wait for any of these documents before going to your Funeral Director, who will answer any of the above questions.
Remember, advice from most funeral directors is free
Different countries have different document requirements when a death occurs. When dealing with a death overseas you should contact a repatriation specialist who will be able to appoint their local agent to assist you. Albin International Repatriation Limited based at its headquarters in London operates in over 100 countries. Their staff are multilingual and experienced in all types of repatriation.
The one document that will be required for purposes of identification will be the passport of the deceased, and it is important to establish where that may be located.
Copies, and of course the originals, of all the documents that accompany the deceased back to the United Kingdom will be passed to your Funeral Director, (if you do not have a Funeral Director, Albin International can assist you
anywhere in the UK) in the first instance when the deceased is conveyed to them.
Your Funeral Director will need these documents and will present them on your behalf to the Coroner. The Coroner will need to make a decision based on the paperwork they receive, as to whether they are satisfied as to the cause of death or whether there is a need for further investigation.
In the case of cremation, irrespective of whether any further investigation is required, the Coroner will issue a Certificate E (Now Form 6) in order to allow the funeral to proceed. In the case of burial you will either be issued with a Coroner's Order for Burial or a Certificate of No Liability to Register a Death in England and Wales from the Registrar of Deaths in whose district the cemetery is located. This will be dependant upon your Coroner's decision as to whether they intend to investigate the matter further. In any event you will be able to proceed with the funeral with either of these documents. Your Funeral Director will be able to advise you further if required.
For a death overseas, the death will have been registered in the United Kingdom by the British Consul in the country where your family member passed away.
If you wish to obtain a copy of this certificate you can either contact the Consulate direct or you can write to:
The death will have been registered in the country where your family member died and that certificate will be given to you.
The documentation may have to be translated. The documents will be certified by a Justice of the Peace.
The death must be registered by the Registrar of Births and Deaths for the area in which it occurred. You can find the address in the phone book under REGISTRATION OF BIRTHS, DEATHS & MARRIAGES, or from the Doctor, Local Council, Post Office or Police Station. Check when the Registrar will be available and to find out whether only you need to go along. It may be that someone other than you will be needed to register the death. If the death has been referred to the Coroner, it cannot be registered until the Registrar has received authority from the Coroner to do so.
If the death has not been referred to the Coroner, go to the Registrar as soon as possible.
The death must be registered within five days (unless the Registrar gives written permission to extend this period).
At the registrar office
When you go to the Registrar you should take all of the following:
The Medical Certificate of the cause of death.
The deceased's Medical Card, if possible.
Any War Pension Order Book of the deceased.
The Pink Form (Form 100), if one has been given to you by the Coroner.
The date and place of death.
The deceased's last (usual) address.
The deceased's first names and surname (and the maiden name where appropriate).
The deceased's date and place of birth (town and county, and country if born abroad).
The deceased's occupation and the name and occupation of her husband (where appropriate).
Whether the deceased was getting a Pension or Allowance from public funds.
If the deceased was married, the date of birth of the surviving widow or widower.
A Certificate for Burial or Cremation (known as the Green Form) unless the Coroner has given you (or issued to your funeral director) an Order for Burial (Form 101) or a Certificate for Cremation (Form 6).
These give permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made. It should be taken to the Funeral Director so that the funeral can be held.
A certificate of registration of death (Form BD 8 (rev))
This is for Social Security purposes only. Read the information on the back of the Certificate. If any of it applies, fill in the Certificate and send or give it to your Social Security Office.
Leaflets about widow’s benefits and income tax for widows where appropriate.
A Certified Copy of an Entry Pursuant to the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (Death Certificate) which you will need to conclude any financial matters for the deceased and to settle estates etc.
For a Repatriation you will only be given the (Certified Copy of an Entry of Death) Death Certificate and the Form BD 8. The repatriation specialist will need the (as above) Death Certificate and at least one copy for the repatriation. Be sure to tell the Registrar that you intend for the deceased to be repatriated.
Help with the cost of a funeral
If you are on a low income and need help to pay for a funeral that you are arranging, you may be able to get a Funeral Payment from the Social Fund. You might have to repay some or all of it from the estate of the person who has died. To be able to get a Funeral Payment you must be either:
The partner of the deceased at the date of death
The parent of the deceased child, or have responsible for the deceased child (and there is no absent parent) (unless they are getting a qualifying benefit or were estranged from the child at the date of death)
The parent of a still born child
A close relative or close friend of the deceased (and it is reasonable for you
to accept responsibility for the funeral costs)
In order to make a claim you will need to complete form SF200 10/09. Your Funeral Arranger will provide you with the form.
See www.dwp.gov.uk for a full up to date copy of the guidance.
'I did not want to remember him the way his illness made him look. Now he looks at peace.'
'It was such a relief to see how natural he looked after the accident.'
'I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet, it was too soon. I needed to be with him and say I love you one more time.'
Embalming allows the Funeral Director to grant such requests and help ease the pain of death and parting.
Conditions such as T.B., HIV, Hepatitis and strains of influenza can present a health risk for people coming in close contact with someone who died from such diseases. Embalming and sanitisation reduce these risks.
Understanding the Procedure
Embalming involves specialised surgical type techniques. In a hygienic environment resembling a hospital operating theatre, highly trained professionals perform a procedure resembling a blood transfusion or dialysis.
Along with slowing the process of decomposition, embalming removes the harsh physical effects of illness or accident and restores a natural appearance.
Embalming is not carried out as a form of death denial, but rather as a way for people to remember the person as he or she was in life.
Our embalmers are well educated professionals who have followed, or who are following, the courses as laid down by the BIE - British Institute of Embalmers or other such organisations under the guidance of some of the world's best embalming educators.
The person or persons who swear on oath to accept legal responsibility for administrating the affairs of an individual upon their death. Duties include;
Applying for the Grant of Probate; paying all debts and funeral expenses; selling or temporary administration of property;
Completion of documentation and dealing with relevant Life Assurance Pension companies and /or employer benefit schemes;
Completion of documentation and returns to H.M. Inland Revenue and the Capital Taxes Office and Inheritance Tax computations (where applicable);
Preparation of the 'Estate Account' and correct distribution of the estate to beneficiaries or trustees, etc.
The Executor/s accept a duty of care to ensure that the estate under their administration is maximised to the full value (all due debts are called in, allowances and entitlements are claimed, etc.) and should a mistake occur they
become personally liable for any loss.
If you are married and each partner is considering making a Will, the most common and simplest method of appointing an executor is that you each consent to be the Executor of each others Will.
You may also wish to consider the appointment of a professional alternative Executor to act after both of you die.
If you are a single person, you may wish to appoint a professional to act as your Executor.
2. Appointment of Guardians
Guardians of children have many of the same rights in law as parents. Choose carefully, ensuring that you are confident in their ability to care and cope. Regard should also be given as to the age of Guardians and their financial position.
3. Property Matters
One of the many and recurring problems that arise when settling a persons affairs is that of property ownership (house holiday home, land holdings, etc. To avoid costly complications and possible delays in settling your affairs regarding property, you should give due considerations to the way property is owned before your death.
Many married couples thought that the way they held their property meant they each owned half. In the majority of cases this proves not to be so. Under the Law of Property Act 1925 they actually both each own the whole of it. Furthermore, the ownership of the first to die, would die with them, meaning that their property passes directly to the survivor and ownership could not be dealt with under their Will. This happens in many circumstances where the property is mortgaged and the property was bought as husband and wife.
Each owned the house as a whole, jointly and as such, are unable to leave their 50% to say, children or other family members. It will always go to the surviving spouse no matter what is stated.
4. Personal Bequests
Make a list of your most cherished possessions and decide upon who is to have them. Then decide whether you wish them to have these items immediately upon your death or only at the time of your spouse’s death.
5. The Next Step
This brief guide should assist in the preparation and show the importance of having a Will. There is no expense involved and it is not complicated, frightening or tempting fate. At Albins we offer a free Will writing service to all our clients.
The Bereavement Register is a service with one simple aim: To reduce the amount of direct mail to those who have died.
Originally launched in the UK in 2000, the service has since expanded into France and Canada.
Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one takes time and you will want to remember the good times with fondness and not be bombarded by direct mail sent to someone who has recently passed away. Mail of this kind serves no purpose and they can help put an end to those sad reminders. F. A. Albin & Sons have been instrumental in assisting the Bereavement Register to ensure that bereaved families are not caused further distress by unwanted mail and telephone calls.
F. A. Albin & Sons can arrange a death notice to any newspaper
There are a number of organisations and agencies who may be able to offer you some support and guidance at this difficult time. Some of them are listed below:-
The Compassionate Friends is an organisation offering support and friendship to bereaved parents and their families.
The Compassionate Friends
53 North Street
Helpline: (daily 10.00-16.00 then 19.00-22.00) 0845 123 2304
Cruse – Bereavement Care has 180 branches and nearly 7,000 volunteers providing a nationwide service of the highest standard of emotional support, counselling and information to anyone bereaved by death, regardless of age, race or belief. Cruse also offers training, support, information and publications to those working to care for the bereaved.
PO Box 800
Bereavement Line: 0844 477 9400
F. A. Albin & Sons offers free access to a Bereavement Advice Centre, through our National Association.
The number is 0800 634 9494.
The Probate Helpline can offer advice on Probate and Inheritance Tax matters.
IR Capital Taxes
PO Box 38
Castle Meadow Rd
Tel: 0845 30 20 900 www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk
The Bereavement Advice Centre has an excellent website at: www.bereavementadvice.org Or they can be contacted at 0800 634 9494
The Ministry of Justice deals with burial, cremation and coroner's matters:
See www.justice.gov.uk/Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF
Tel: 020 7035 4848
Fax: 020 7035 4745
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Please visit www.fco.gov.uk.
Here you will also find a list of UK Embassies around the World.
General enquiries: +44 (0)20 7008 1500
Funeral Map, Just enter your postcode or town or search by category for local funeral resources - funeral directors, crematoria, woodland burial sites, registry offices, celebrants, florists, venues for wakes, and bereavement services
0845 004 8608 www.funeralmap.co.uk
National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)
The largest professional association of funeral directors with a Code of Practice and Arbitration Scheme
0845 230 1343 www.nafd.org.uk
British Humanist Association
Provides information on, and officiants for, non religious funerals
0207 079 3580 www.naturaldeath.org.uk