Now that the funeral is over

Margaret Rice Good Grief and Doris Zagdanski My Grief Assist

Introducing Doris Zagdanski, who works with one of the largest funeral providers in Australia. She is also the author of many books about grief.

Doris is currently giving a lot of thought to that most difficult of times – when the funeral is over.

“After the funeral we shut the door and everyone’s life is supposed to go back to normal. But it often doesn’t. That’s when grieving people often need the most support, when the busyness of the funeral is over and they’re left on their own.

“How can we make that better? It’s a challenge for all of us.”

Doris has started a webpage called My Grief Assist.

She is also author of the book “Now that the Funeral is Over – the common sense guide for grieving people.” (First published in 1993, to be reprinted in 2018)

Doris’s other books are:

Something I’ve Never Felt Before

Stuck for Words: What to say to someone who is grieving

What’s Dead Mean? How to help children cope with death

When Pets Die: It’s alright to grieve

Teenagers and Grief.


The Kiwi Coffin Club

Love the way these baby-boomers are rethinking the end, turning old ideas on their head, the way they always have – while making friends and tap-dancing.

Thanks to my dear friend, writer Katie Delaney, for sharing this.

Grief can last forever can’t it?

Facilitated a discussion tonight about grief, with the Funeral Celebrants Association of Australia.

We challenged our culture’s notions about how long you’re allowed to grieve for: “Grief can last forever can’t it?” suggested Judy.

Some shared stories about bad deaths. This included a chilling story about a death certificate being signed by someone who couldn’t look at the person they were ‘signing off’ – or the grieving step-father and his family.

But there were plenty of sunshine moments too, as the celebrants present shared stories from their personal experiences. Some were excited about the eulogies they’ve helped write. Others gave tips on the ways to find something positive to express when someone dies who is unloved.

We asked some big questions and lingered over little ones…as we enjoyed spring rolls, salt and pepper calamari and a fresh salad.

Thank you for having me folks, and for allowing me to be the touchstone for an important conversation.

With funeral celebrants, Sharon Swinbourne, Judy Pryor and Isla Tooth

Book review: The Museum Of Words


When I got back from my recent travels in country NSW with family, I found this posting to her followers from Susan Wyndham. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Susan. The genre of reflecting on death and what it means, continues to grow.

From Susan: “You might be interested in The Museum of Words, a beautiful memoir by Australian writer Georgia Blain, who died of brain cancer last December. Here’s my review. If you don’t know her work, I highly recommend her earlier books, including her first memoir, Births Deaths Marriages, and her final novel, Between a Wolf and a Dog, which by coincidence was about a woman with brain cancer.”


Facebook etiquette when someone dies

by Rachel Thompson, Mashable.

When someone you love passes away, turning to Facebook can be a profoundly helpful way of processing that loss and expressing your grief. But, for the deceased’s nearest and dearest, social media can be deeply overwhelming and upsetting in the immediate aftermath and even the long after a person’s death.

Read more of this valuable insight at:


Thank you Elaine Searle for this one. I’ve shared this from Elaine’s Facebook page: 

A Personal funeral with Eliane Searle. 


Letting go – there’s no end to it.

by Tony Doherty 

We are never more human than when we are grieving. A strange claim? Perhaps that statement even sounds a little harsh, unfeeling. Grief can be excruciating. It is almost always accompanied by pain.We try to avoid it – even avoid thinking about it. But stop and consider something deeper for a moment. Grief is the other side of love.

If we love deeply, it is deeply painful to let go.

And yet ‘letting go’ is an inevitable and continuous process in the journey of life.

We let go our childhood.

We let go our adolescence – with all its pimples and self-doubt.

We let go our single life – if we move into committed relationship.

We sometimes have to let go our work – with unemployment, and displacement

We let go our home – the place that has shaped us.

Then there are the biggies.

– to let go our parents – sometimes in death, sometimes into aged care;

– to let go our children from home – if they ever leave??

– to let go our spouses sometimes – with death or divorce

Then inevitably we let go our previous selves. Perhaps our sight gets a little blurry, our hearing a little less acute, our bodies a little less flexible. The changes creep quietly into our days and frequently with little notice.  Ever heard the jokey observation? The three stages of life are – youth, middle age and ‘Wow, you’re looking well!’. Even our friends dodge the truth.

Letting go is hard. Holding on is harder.

Sometimes it seems to me life’s journey is a continual process of letting go.

Something like a long river of releasing one thing after another.

If that be so – we had better learn to swim.

It is a river that can have dangerous rapids and jagged rocks.

You don’t drown by falling into the water. You drown by staying there.

Given the accelerating pace of change, is there any surprise so many are gripped with fear of drowning.

One of the dramatic correctives to this merry-go-round-on-steroids culture, is the ancient wisdom -that we all grow ‘by subtraction’. The arithmetic of our culture is that ‘accumulation is king’. Consuming is the path to satisfaction.

Consider the opposite: perhaps the secret of well-being, of growing, of feeling free is: letting go.

Embracing the practice of letting go is a most difficult and daunting exercise. It can also be an exhilarating one. It applies to our emotions as well as our possessions. 

Letting go of the desire to be in control; to be always right, to have the last word, to be better than others. It is only by stripping yourself of the useless, non-essential baggage of your life that you can live with a sense of well-being.

Perhaps the wisdom lies in swimming. Remember the day you learnt to swim.

Only when you allowed yourself to trust the water, let go the side of the baths, and realise that your body could float, did the marvel of swimming became real.

Letting go and trusting our life is one of the great lessons of this winding river in which we swim.

Read more of  Tony’s wisdom at his blog “Breaking Bread Together”.

Tony and Ailsa Piper are the author’s of the wonderful book The Attachment.




Making a difference

With funeral celebrant Elaine Searle

When Elaine Searle was a young woman her beloved uncle was buried and she was shocked by how bad the funeral was.

“His coffin just slid out of sight, after a few platitudes were said. There was nothing personal.”

“Even though I was only in my early 20s I thought ‘We can do better than this’. It was a thought that was always at the back of my mind.”

Over the years, as Elaine’s life continued, she attended many more funerals. Some were good and some were bad. Some were very, very good and some were very, very bad.

Elaine vowed to make a difference and after working as an English teacher, she became a funeral celebrant, the work she does today.

“It’s not the sort of work you can do without having a real commitment but I love it,” she said.

“ I have a very keen interest in the natural burial movement. I feel we should have the option to be buried in a shroud, in a bushland setting. Our present practices are completely environmentally unsustainable. There is one in Lismore, but as far as I know, little option available in the Sydney area, apart from one Catholic cemetery which has a bushland section.”