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Christianne Heal
Counselling and Psychotherapy
Cambridge/London

What do we make of our own death?

WORKSHOP led by CHRISTIANNE HEAL

An opportunity to explore your hopes, fears and assumptions around the subject of your own death. Many find this workshop gives them a new perspective on life and helps them to acknowledge what they really want to accomplish before they die.

Date: Saturday October 30th 2021: 10am to 4pm

Venue: 32 Station Road, Waterbeach, Cambridge CB25 9HT

To Book: Telephone 01223 86170 or email [email protected]

Workshop fee: £50 if booked before 30th September; after this date £65
Please send a cheque payable to Christianne Heal to confirm your booking.
Refunds can be given only if you are able to find a replacement

This workshop was featured in the BBC1 TV series 'Living with Dying'

Comments from previous participants:

The course was really well though-out, engaging, inspirational. It will ripple through my life for a long time to come, making a difficult subject approachable, educational and magical. (SW)

A marvelous way to deal with a difficult subject. There was safety, being in the group, but a challenge too and lots of humour. I cannot imagine how it could have been better’. (HG)



Reflecting on our own Death

Purpose: The purpose of this workshop is to allow us the opportunity to explore our hopes, fears and assumptions around the subject of our own death and dying.

'If we can learn to view death from a different perspective, to reintroduce it into our lives so that it comes not as a dreaded stranger but as an expected companion to our life, then we can also learn to live our lives with meaning-with full appreciation of our finiteness, or the limits on our time here.' Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

This workshop was featured on BBC1 TV series 'Living with Dying' and has been featured in the Independent, Sunday Express, Cambridge Evening News, and Nursing Times.

Comments from participants:
'The course was really well thought out, engaging, inspirational. It will ripple through my life for a long time to come, making a difficult subject approachable, educational and magical' (SW)
'It certainly motivated me to discuss my funeral with my partner' (J.Trevelyn - Nursing Times)
'Safe, loving and secure atmosphere you so brilliantly created.' (Dr. K.Kermani)

Martin H, writing about his experience at the workshop:-
'I have always feared my own death, Death is a frightening thing; you cannot 'know' death and I was hoping that perhaps this weekend would magically tear away some veil and show a glimpse of the unknowable. But I found that by the end of the weekend I felt quite happy with death's unknownness'.

The youngest person ever attending was a thirteen year old boy whose father had died before he was born and thus he had always carried a need to find out more about his own death.
Another participant attended before she was to have a lung transplant and returned 5 years later to attend again before she was to have a second lung transplant.
Others come because they are curious or rather scared about the topic.

What is most heartening is that most leave surprised about how much easier they feel around the subject, having discovered their own vocabulary for the topic and are very much more relaxed and aware of what really is important in their current lives.



DIY Funerals as Therapy

Recently a man told me how great a privilege he felt it was to have carried out his daughters wishes for her own funeral. She had left clear instructions and fulfilling her directions gave him an aim at this traumatic time and a great sense of satisfaction in giving her his final gift for the ‘celebration of her life’ as she had requested. I too felt good about arranging my mother's funeral and shared the sense of giving her a gift. Another therapeutic aspect of taking charge is receiving the warm appreciative comments afterwards.

We can all remember the ceremonies we have found comforting long after the event, and we all recall those funerals we felt were soulless long after the event, so it is important that everyone attending feels that thought and effort have been given.

It's a relief if instructions given by the dead person have been left with the will, but if no particular wishes are to be met then the choice is yours to create an imaginative and memorable event. For me I prefer lots of participation from family and friends, even a simple contribution such as ‘how I first met the deceased’ is of interest. Other excellent suggestions can be got from A Practical Guide to Non- religious Funerals by Jane Wynne Wilson. If you have ideas but are anxious about conducting the ceremony ask a priest to do what you want or a member of the Society of Friends or British Humanist Association to lead it for you.

One lady I met ssent a tape to each of her children with her instructions for her own funeral and another man had prepared an address to be played at his funeral for the audience.

All is possible and to have created a memorable event will offer comfort to the bereaved and to yourself in a way you cannot imagine nor fully evaluate.

These are some notes setting out my own wishes for the ‘celebration of my life’.
• Brother to be master of ceremonies.
• Masses of candles and flowers and each person in their celebratory clothes.
• He will teach and lead everyone through the greetings dance in a circle. I shall be in a cardboard coffin surrounded by candles in the centre of the circle.
• In turn each person speaks to me, saying
i) how we first met
ii) what they valued in the friendship
iii) any hurt or grievance they still hold
The purpose of this is to acknowledge it and then release it.
• Group scribble to sign their name in felt tip pens on the cardboard coffin.
• Musical interlude as yet still to be planned!
• Everyone says something affirming their own life now followed by feasting.
• Everyone is given a helium-filled balloon which they carry with them to the nearby burial place and after my coffin is lowered the
balloons are released to symbolise my newly freed soul.
• Each person leaves with flowers to take home and a book or article I owned. Any letters I've written saying farewell will be distributed.

A DIY FUNERAL

I found planning my mother’s funeral an education, a bonding experience with my four siblings and therapeutic exercise for myself. Organising the event ourselves seemed the easiest way of getting what we wanted. I wanted this to be memorable and supportive.

Our funeral took place inside the funeral parlour, as the local church was not available. This proved an excellent informal venue; the room was a peculiar shape with five oddly angled walls. We placed the coffin in the centre of the room and we sat around the sides facing the centre so we could see each other and then outlined the programme we would follow. I had invited a priest to say a Latin mass for us on his portable altar to start the ceremony. He then took a back seat for he was not the master of ceremonies! My younger brother then asked his four siblings to stand linking hands as he told us about one of his good early memories. Another brother performed on the flute and then followed stories and memories from many other participants.

Prior to the day I had asked people to write down or come prepared to speak of a memory they had of my mother and those not wanting to speak would have their piece read aloud by another. This really taught me how good it is to hear these anecdotes from any period of my mother's life. I had provided helium-filled balloons for the children and grandchildren and these I now distributed. We walked to the graveside carrying the festive looking balloons and there I suggested we release the balloons, thinking of them as symbols for her departing soul and as an opportunity to release any painful emotional attachments we still had to our mother. This was one of the most useful rituals for me as we released the balloons into the air and watched until the last speck had disappeared from view. There followed a special tea in a cosy cafe with log fires, given over to our funeral party.

I did enjoy it, and so did my family. I was particularly touched by a compliment given me by a sister, who asked me if I would organise her own funeral when the time came!



May I write down exactly what I experienced?

Father Andrew Glazewski, much-loved Polish Priest, Initiate, Scientist, Musician, ‘died’ suddenly during a weekend conference. This letter came via C.S. four days later.

The ecstacy of dying is something I can never express. It is suddenly like becoming light itself. It is so wonderful. It is heat and coolness. It is warmth in the mind. It is clarity of vision and understanding. It is like a clap of divine thunder, and hey presto there I am, out of my old tiresome old body, leaping about in the glorious ether; and you’ve no conception of what dying is like…. It is a Communion, a Sacrament of living on a higher level – this is the most transforming experience that any mortal can attain. I am overcome with joy, pure joy.

May I write down exactly what I experienced?
The pain grew suddenly so bad that it seemed to burst or break something inside me – and I was suddenly free – free in the strangest sense. I felt for a moment inert and without power, as in a walking trance. I was above my body but still attached to it. I was sorry for it, it looked so helpless, almost like a child, and Gordon tried so hard to reawaken life in me again. Then I saw in his face that I had finished and, as you say ‘dropped in my tracks.’ Well, fair enough. I had tried to finish the course but no matter. So I accepted death and, as I did so the whole world changed. The room blazed with light. The books on the table, the chairs, even the carpet and the curtains, everything in the room was alive with love power.

I stayed quite still, quite close to my body, but I couldn’t see it any longer; perhaps they had taken it away. It did not seem to matter to me any more.

I was at this time alone with God … I had often tried to feel this at-oneness with the Divine, but never succeeded to this overwhelming extent. I felt like a piece of blotting paper that was being saturated with light. I waited in an ecstacy – every moment was beyond words. Had I been able to hold this in my body, I could only have done so for a moment, but now I seemed to have gained a certain resilience. I became tireless in my power to receive.

From The Awakening Letters by Cynthia Sandys and Rosamond Lehmann

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