There’s a “new kid on the block” on the funeral scene around York and she brings with her a slightly different approach. I had heard about her from another funeral director when I was looking for an end of life Doula to interview for the blog. Her name is Kerry Aldridge and she offers what is possibly the most comprehensive funeral service I’ve come across.
Appropriately named “Hand in Hand Funerals”, what Kerry has created is in effect a hand holding service right through from end of life care to, if needed, bereavement support for those left behind. I was interested to know more about the lady behind this new service and what she offers.
Firstly, please can you explain what an End of Life Doula is and does?
“The role of the Doula is to act as a companion to people nearing the end of their life and help them to feel more at peace with death and dying. We work in a person-centred way to provide guidance, confidence and reassurance in any way it is needed.” Kerry explains.
Continuing, Kerry tells me: “Doulas believe in ‘doing death differently’ and help individuals and their family and friends to create an environment of loving support, kindness, respect, dignity and normality for all concerned…”
“…As an End of Life Doula, my aim is to empower people to live their best life possible, for as long as possible, whilst preparing for the best death possible.”
Kerry concludes, “I believe there is such a thing as a good death and can provide the practical, emotional and if desired, spiritual support to help people achieve this.”
Have you always worked in funeral services?
“No. I am a qualified occupational therapist and spent 17 years working in different clinical fields but found my passion in palliative care. My last post was as an advanced clinical specialist in oncology and palliative care at York Hospital.” shares Kerry.
“I made the decision to leave that post to train and work at Full Circle Funerals in Leeds, whilst undertaking End of Life Doula training with Living Well, Dying Well and finally training with Green Fuse – an award-winning training body for modern funeral directors,” Kerry explains.
Fear of death and dying.
“I’d had many conversations with patients and their loved ones about being able to die at home and it was often apparent how scared people and their families were of death and dying…” Kerry stated.
“Sometimes people would bring up the subject of funerals and say things like they were ‘dreading’ the funeral, ‘couldn’t bear’ the thought of it and just wanted to ‘get through it’ or ‘wished it was already over and done with’.
Kerry confided “Another palliative patient, who was in her early 30s, was worried about her children being upset at her funeral and didn’t want them to be scared when she wouldn’t be there to comfort them.”
A better way.
Drawing on her expansive experience and many conversations, Kerry concluded there had to be a better way to deal with the dying, death and funerals. A way in which people could make informed choices and be empowered to make the right decisions for themselves and their families.
Kerry speaks with what is clearly a heartfelt passion, “I felt that all the principles I had adopted as an occupational therapist: empowering people, being holistic and person-centred were the exact things which were needed in funeral care too. That’s when I began researching the options available for funerals and found that there were actually very few ‘rules’ about what a funeral should or shouldn’t consist of.”
Searching for eutopia.
I asked Kerry what she decided to do about her realisation that when it came to death and dying, things could be better? “I set about training, gaining experience, networking and finding out what was out there that would equip me to give people a better, more personalised and people-centric end of life and funeral experience.” She answers.
“We are very lucky in York to already have some really wonderful and highly respected funeral directors, but I hoped I could bring my own approach, essentially a continuation of care, utilising my clinical and professional skills.”
Continuing, Kerry states: “I also want to extend the support I provide beyond the funeral as I know support for bereavement is limited and not always readily available. It is often not until after the funeral that people become most susceptible to their grief. As a society, we are not always good at recognising grief in its entirety or seeking help for it. I want to incorporate bereavement support into my services too.”
A new approach to bereavement support.
“I’ve created what I believe is a unique approach to bereavement support so families who come to Hand in Hand Funerals know they will be supported beyond the funeral, as they begin to navigate their grief. I have established a network of practitioners who have skills to tackle the different symptoms of grief, from the physical to the emotional and the psychological.” Enthuses Kerry. “Seeking to provide a holistic approach, I have teamed up with a grief counsellor, a life coach, a yoga instructor, a grief nutritionist, a creative expert and a herbalist and Tuina practitioner.”
Kerry explains: “The effects of grief are so much more than just feeling really sad and I want to show people that they are not alone, that they do not have to suffer their symptoms alone. That there are strategies and techniques that will help.”
Exciting times ahead.
I’m delighted to share that I have a small involvement in her plans as we seek to help bereaved families within Emerson’s showroom at York Cemetery, which, along with Kerry I will be coordinating. Kerry’s plans are more expansive, however than my small part: “Plans for the future include a regular bereavement support group for the families I have supported and a Bereavement Retreat next year.” Concludes Kerry.
What does Kerry do with her leisure time? “As a mum of two young girls, my leisure time is precious. We enjoy spending time with friends and family, country walks, watching documentaries, yoga and interior design along with looking after our two cats – which the girls have claimed one each.” She laughs, finishing with “…and if I don’t get chance for any of those then I live vicariously through Pinterest!”
Kerry can be contacted in the following ways:
Telephone: 07789761120. Website: Hand in Hand Fune
© All text: Sharon Malone 2020 Images: Kerry Aldridge