Education programme launched to talk about death and dying

Cardiff-based Coles Funeral Directors has recently launched its bespoke education programme, helping school children in South Wales to talk about death, dying and coping with bereavement.

Delivered at The Coles Bereavement Hub in Birchgrove, the programme covers topics including the language used around death/dying; coping with bereavement and grief; cultural celebrations of death and ultimately, why talking about your emotions matters. Designed in line with the national KS2 curriculum, it is also providing the opportunity for local schools to have first-hand experience of a modern funeral home, and what happens when a loved one dies.

Francesca Coles, head of communication of Coles Funeral Directors and the brains behind the education programme, explains: “Death and dying are still seen as taboo subjects in the UK, but we believe that it’s absolutely critical to have these conversations and start them early. Other cultures are already doing this well and we are at risk of falling behind.

“We can’t even begin to understand or process these experiences and emotions if we don’t talk about them first, and our hope through our education programme is to normalise these conversations from a young age and help children to understand why talking matters. That’s why we’ve worked to create a memorable experience, inviting the children into our funeral home and introducing them to a funeral director to answer any questions they may have about what happens after death.”

Birchgrove Primary School was the first school to take advantage of this exclusive opportunity, starting an honest dialogue around what could be a confusing topic, in a safe and open environment with over 60 pupils in attendance. As part of the experience, students had the chance to explore the funeral home, seeing and touching traditional funeral items such as coffins and urns, and met a funeral director, asking any questions that came to their minds. Coles believes that all of this works to help normalise the experience.

Speaking of the inaugural programme, Ruth Davies, R.E teacher at Birchgrove Primary School said: “At first, pupils were quite daunted at the thought of taking part in the Coles Education Programme as they were unsure what to expect. However, seeing how much more comfortable the pupils were with the topic of death during and after the visits to Coles, shows just how beneficial the visit was.

“Pupils are now less anxious when discussing the issue of death and what happens when a loved one passes away. The pupils were grateful for the topic being approached in a mature yet sensitive manner. They were encouraged to ask questions, which started an honest dialogue, not just during the visit, but also on the return to school and at home as well.”

Back in the classroom and the learning continued as pupils were encouraged to reflect on their visit to the funeral home and given the option to get competitive by designing a condolence card. Most of the children chose to take part and a prize was recently presented to the lucky winner!