Redesigning the dialogue around death

Redesigning the dialogue around death

In May our team interviewed Louise Winter, 'a new kind of funeral director', for the latest edition of the Art of Dying Well podcast. Louise discussed with us the importance of talking about death and of the opportunity to redesign the dialogue around death and dying.

A new approach to funerals

In May we had the pleasure of interviewing Louise Winter for our monthly podcast. Louise describes herself as a ‘new kind of funeral director’. She’s also the editor of the Good Funeral Guide and co-director of ‘Life. Death. Whatever’, a collaborative exhibition with the National Trust.

In a fascinating conversation with our own James Abbott and Steph MacGillivray, Louise talked candidly about her experience of working in the funerals business and what caused her to make such an unconventional change career at a relatively young age.

Find out about the Art of Dying Well podcast.

Learning about life from death and dying

Louise describes what she does now as ‘something of real consequence’. Keen to raise awareness of the need to discuss death and dying, she actively ’embraces the idea of death, rather than avoiding it’, and in doing so, has transformed her relationship with death and dying.

She observes: ‘There’s so much life in death. I’ve personally learnt so much from death and dying about how to live my life’.

Funerals and dealing with grief

A prime motivator leading to her career change was her grandfather’s funeral when Louise was 28. The funeral felt out-of-date and irrelevant and ‘didn’t help anyone in her family to grieve’. So Louise trained as a funeral celebrant, and calling on skills learned in her former career in marketing and fashion, she now offers ‘creative solutions for dealing with grief’. Her goal is to create funerals with relevance and meaning.

Speaking eloquently of her experience, Louise says there can be an element of the celebratory and uplifting at a funeral, but there needs to be an acknowledgement and awareness of the awkwardness and difficulty of the feelings being experienced, in order to deal with the process of grief.

Changing attitudes

We asked Louise about the changes in people’s attitudes to funerals over the past few years. She describes the difference between the generations. She says that in general the war generation tries to suppress emotion. Funerals for younger people are very different. Mourning is much more allowed and welcome. But that ‘ultimately funerals are a reflection of how we’ve been brought up and the society we live in’.

Life. Death. Whatever.

The exhibition Louise co-directed in collaboration with the National Trust, ‘Life. Death. Whatever’ offered visitors an eclectic lineup of events, installations and workshops, encouraging creative reflections on life, death and everything in-between.

The exhibition took place over four weeks last October at Sutton House in Hackney, it is hoped that a book will now follow and ‘Life. Death. Whatever’ may return later this year.

Louise mentions how people tend to take terrible decisions in grief. The exhibition was designed to make people look at death in a different way, and to thereby redesign the dialogue about death.

Listen to our interview with Louise Winter in this month’s podcast.