Letter: Society must learn to mourn

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The Independent Online
Sir: Andrew G Marshall's "perfect compromise" over the funeral of his partner has a lot to commend it ("In loving memory, with a rock backing", 19 May). As someone involved in the conducting of funerals I would be more than happy to find next-of-kin wanting to think over the event as well and as thoroughly as he does.

He implies that Church of England funerals are not capable of being personal or relevant to the grief processes of next-of-kin. This is not so.

I strive (as I was taught) to produce a funeral service that helps people to grieve wholesomely. Among other things, this means giving thanks for the life of the person who has died. The service is indeed much more for those who live than for the one who has died (and sometimes we will have to ask whether the deceased's wishes get in the way).

I know many other clergy who strive to produce a good quality service which takes in the wishes of the family and which is flexible in the way that it responds to family needs. Our biggest difficulty in helping to do the best for families is that in this society, on the whole, we don't know how to mourn. So families and friends simply tend to want the usual because they do not know, or fear, the alternative of being more involved in "their" service.

Until we address the issues underlying our cultural denial of death, perhaps we won't be able to mourn well. Don't blame the Church of England clergy for that denial; we are only too willing to help.