Soapbox: AOIC

In his monthly column, the executive chairman of the Association of Independent Celebrants, Philip Spicksley, looks at the organisation’s close association with the charity Dying Matters and the importance of their support for each other

In life there will always be death – however for reasons we all understand it is a subject that is often not discussed within families or friendship circles. While we are well, we quite rightly wish to enjoy the time we have – but none of us will ever know what we could be facing around the next corner. For those in our profession there is clearly a greater understanding of death, and the challenges it can bring for those who are bereaved. Through our work, we have a unique insight into the lives of families at a time that is charged with emotion and often terrible sadness.

With the above in mind, professionals like us have a responsibility – a duty almost – to look at ways in which we can work together to raise awareness that dying certainly does matter and should be discussed more openly. That is why the Association of Independent Celebrants is an active supporter and member of Dying Matters – and it would seem we are not alone, as the charity now has almost 32,000 members. For those who do not know, the Dying Matters Coalition was first established back in 2009 by the National Council for Palliative Care – the aim was to promote public awareness of dying, death and bereavement. The National Council for Palliative Care has now been amalgamated with Hospice UK and is now managed under the Hospice UK banner.

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Today, coalition members come from all walks of private and professional life – the NHS, voluntary and independent health and care sectors, social care and housing. It also attracts people from all faiths – promoting cohesion among our diverse population. While membership has grown, the ethos of Dying Matters has remained the same – to help people talk more opening and make end of life plans. Of course, we know this is not an easy thing to do and supporters, like our association, realise that we need to see a further shift in society which recognises dying as a normal life cycle. If this is recognised then we would all see an ever improving quality and choice when it comes to end-of-life care, and the services available after death.

In working towards a more open society when it comes to death, our association is fully supportive of the coalition and its members are active participants in the annual Dying Matters awareness week. To be held this year on the week beginning May 14, this gives an opportunity for us all to highlight the importance of people talking about death. The theme for this year’s week is the same as it was in 2017 – which is ‘What Can You Do’?

As we move towards the week itself I would ask all celebrants, and particularly members of our association to ask themselves that very question – what can you do to further the work of Dying Matters within your local communities? If we all look at ways in which we can help people to open up on this often ‘taboo’ subject, then it will be of benefit to us all. Celebrants out there could perhaps look at joining forces with funeral directors or other organisations in their individual areas to hold awareness events and activities during that week – I am sure the coalition would be extremely supportive.

It is by being a part of organisations such as Dying Matters, that our own association can further its work for the benefit of all professional celebrants and we are better working together than we are trying to strike out alone. As our own association’s membership continues to flourish, we will further increase our partnerships with others in the profession. Meanwhile we will continue to offer our whole-hearted support to the Dying Matters Coalition and would encourage other individuals and groups to do the same.

More information on the AOIC can be found at www.independentcelebrants.com

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