Out of the Box: everyday stories about death and dying

Liz Rothschild

Liz Rothschild is a life and death celebrant, writer and performer.  She started Westmill Woodland Burial Ground in 2000. It is located on a beautiful organic farm on the Oxfordshire/Wiltshire border looking up to the ancient Uffington White Horse. Liz is founder of the Kicking the Bucket Festival held in Oxford roughly every two years.

Liz’s funny, moving and informative book, Outside of the Box – Everyday Stories of Death, Bereavement and Life, is to be launched by PCCS Books on Thursday November 26th 6.15 – 8.00pm. To book for this free online event, please click on this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/outside-the-box-everyday-stories-of-death-bereavement-and-life-tickets-128091776953

Please contact Liz through: www.woodlanburialwestmill.co.uk | www.fullcircleproductions.org.uk |www.kickingthebucket.co.uk

NOW! Read on to hear about Liz’s amazing contributions to our understanding of death and dying  and also to have a sneak preview of her forthcoming book. 

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‘My body’s going to stop, not me!’

Colin died on Monday 7th September 2020.

I have always been interested in engines and vehicles’ says sixty-five-year old retired Royal Naval Artificer Colin Gilbert, who is also fascinated by energy lines, Spirit and life force energy and has been a practicing dowser for many years. Until recently, he was an avid member of the Silver Ring Choir in Bath and believes that the purest sound that your body can be subjected to is the sound of your own voice. For the past decade he has been on an increasingly profound inner journey following a diagnosis for prostate cancer which he calls his ‘little tissue issue.’ Colin speaks candidly about how his spiritual beliefs have helped him overcome his fear of death and how this has deepened his understanding of the transition that awaits us all. I first met Colin when he took part in a zoom death café that I facilitated. 

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Taking responsibility for our death is all about deep adaptation

Sue Brayne in conversation with psychotherapist and Positive Deep Adaptation facilitator Justine Corrie as part of the Living Consciously for a Better World series of interviews, which provide food for thought in this time of uncertainty, challenge and change.

Justine Corrie lived and travelled extensively in Asia in the 90’s and during 2015 and 2016 volunteered in the Jungle camp in Calais and Grande-Synthe in Dunkirk where she initiated support systems for the network of grass-roots volunteers across Europe.  She has been working as a Core Process psychotherapist since 2012 – a therapeutic model which brings together Buddhist psychology of self, transpersonal and western trauma-informed models to orient towards the person’s core state of inherent health. She is also a group facilitator and has been a Positive Deep Adaptation facilitator since September 2019 after she read Professor Jem Bendell’s paper, Deep Adaptation: A map for navigating climate tragedy.

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My work is about standing-under to hold grieving families

Since I interviewed Angela Ward, we have been in the grip of the Coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, what Angela has to say about her work with Go Simply Funerals is even more poignant for all of us.

Angela Ward and her husband run the award-winning Go Simply Funerals, based in Melksham. Angela also puts on Pushing up the Daisies Festivals in the area. She has worked as a homeopath,  psychotherapist and lecturer, and is passionate about music and singing. She has been a Celebrant and Inter Faith Minister for over 12 years and leads beautiful ceremonies, conducting over 2,000 funerals all over the country. Angela writes articles for magazines including ‘More To Death’ and has presented papers at the CDAS conferences on Death and Dying.

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Leamington Spa pop-up: Saying goodbye, saying I love you, and are death cafes a western indulgence?

On the way to Leamington Spa
On the way to Leamington Spa

Even a drab industrial mooring at Leamington Spa, on an equally drab wet afternoon, couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm and passion of the eight of us who gathered together on Mystic Moon to talk about life, death, and what really matters.

The first theme to emerge was how difficult it can be to open up conversations when the dying person doesn’t want to talk.

‘You can’t force this kind of conversation onto someone who doesn’t want to talk about it. It is they who are dying, and it’s their dying experience,’ said one participant. ‘But you can still be there in all sorts of ways that show you care. I think that’s the most important thing.’

‘I come from a family who has never been the touchy-feely kind and we never talked about anything that really mattered,“ said another participant. ‘So it was difficult to know what to do when my father started to die. My sister-in-law suggested I just sit with him and stroke his arm. I thought he would draw away from me, but when I did stroke him arm, it felt really lovely to do, and I felt he liked it too. That was a great comfort to me.’

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Paddington Basin pop-up death café: Mysticism, Reincarnation, and communicating with the dead.

Mystic Moon moored on Paddington Arm
Mystic Moon moored on Paddington Arm

This pop-up was co-hosted by psychotherapist Josefine Speyer, who runs monthly death cafes in Hampstead and Death Salons in her home.

Common themes in the group were an understanding of mysticism, a belief or interest in different forms of reincarnation, and experiences of communicating with those who have died.

During the introductions, one participant spoke about her life-long struggle with the desire to ‘go home.’ It was only as she matured that she was able to understand how her preoccupation with death impacted her life. ‘People thought I was completely mad and in danger of committing suicide. But thinking and talking about death has always been natural to me. Fortunately, I now am part of a community that accepts how I feel about it. That has made a huge difference.’

Another participant empathised with her. ‘I have always felt the veil is very thin, and at times it feels like I have one foot in this earthly world and the other in the world beyond. It doesn’t make being here very easy though.’

‘From the moment we are born, we live with death beckoning to us,’ said one participant. ‘It’s important to understand that.’

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Conversations with Parents, Romanticised Eulogies, and Talking About Stillbirth

Mystic Moon moored at Paddington
Mystic Moon, Paddington Basin

This pop-up was requested by four psychotherapists, three of whom were about to enter their final year of training.

What a delightfully enthusiastic group. The trainees came with paper and pen, ready to take notes, but these were soon cast aside as they opened up to their own personal experiences of death and dying.

We talked about a wide range of topics, so I will be just highlighting the main points.

None of the group had been to a death café before, and had been surprised by the reaction of friends and family when they told them what they were doing.

One said it had helped to open up a conversation with a close friend who spoke about a funeral that she not previously mentioned.

Another said that when she told her friend about it, the friend looked aghast, saying ‘How weird.’ ‘She couldn’t get her head around why I would want to do something like this,’ she laughed. ‘But she was certainly curious to know what it was going to be like.’

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