It sounds like the start of a joke: two Celebrants and a Soul Doula walk into an ice cream parlour to host an event aimed at encouraging people talk positively about death, dying and grief. However, those behind the first Coffin & Cake event are in earnest about providing a platform for local people to find support and to ask questions.
Free of charge, Coffin & Cake takes place on Sunday 18 September at Pinks Parlour in Bognor Regis at 6pm. Open to anyone who is curious or fearful about death, those grieving a loved one are also assured a warm welcome. Led by Funeral Celebrants Erika Biddlecombe and Vicky Edwards, and Alison Wright who is a Soul Doula (someone who supports people emotionally and holistically at the end of their life), they are supported by former nurse Katy Alston, owner of Pinks Parlour in Bognor Regis.
Explaining that the collective hope to open up what is often perceived as a taboo conversation, Erika said:
“As independent celebrants [wedding and funeral officiants who aren’t necessarily affiliated with a particular faith] one of the saddest things we encounter is seeing a family’s grief being compounded by the fact that they have no idea what their loved one wanted for their funeral – that death was something that they never talked about. The idea is that people can come along either to contribute, or just to listen. We aim to inspire and support in an atmosphere that is non-judgemental and rich in loving kindness.”
“In other cultures attitudes to end of life and dying are more pragmatic – pro-active, even,” said Vicky, adding: “For instance, there is a lot more scope for non-traditional funeral services now, but often people aren’t aware of the options. Being able to talk openly and ask questions about death should be the norm, but as a nation we are still a bit buttoned-up about it. This can leave those who are grieving with a lot of unanswered questions. Our event will cover everything you ever wanted to know about death but we’re afraid to ask – with cake and compassion.’”
As a Soul Doula,Alison knows that it is possible to have a ‘good death.’
“I am passionate about making grief and dying more accepted and honoured in society, and also about raising awareness of how Soul Doulas and Celebrants can help achieve this.
“Being part of a team that offers a loving and vibrant space where death can be freely spoken about is really important,” said Alison.
Stressing that Coffin & Cake will be a warm, welcoming and insightful gathering hosted by empathic professionals, the ladies hope that hosting the event at an ice cream parlour – a venue traditionally associated with joy and fun – that people will feel reassured.
Katy Alston said: “I feel that there is such a need for the skills and ideas that these three ladies have. Pinks is always proud to support the community, and of course everyone experiences loss. I am delighted to be able to offer Pinks Parlour as the inaugural meeting place for Coffin & Cake.”
The event is free of charge, but places are limited and must be pre booked. To book, please call 07771 890854 or email [email protected]
Notes for Editors:
Erika is based in Emsworth, Vicky is based in Chichester and Alison is based in Rustington.
Photo shows Vicky (in navy) seated next to Alison. Katy (in pink/red) next to Erika.