Discussing funeral services and the death care industry in Cardiff

Written by Director Gareth Coles

On Saturday, I had the privilege of being asked to join a panel of industry experts at Cardiff Bereavement Services’ Open Day at Thornhill Crematorium and take questions from local people who wanted to understand a little bit more about funeral services and the death care industry in Cardiff.For anyone who wasn’t able to come to the event, here’s a brief overview of 4 of the key talking points:

  1. Is it possible to plan a funeral, without involving a funeral director?

An interesting question to start the discussion, a lady was keen to understand what was involved in planning, as she put it: ‘a DIY funeral’. We discussed transport from the place of death to a place of rest, choosing a suitable coffin, how long the loved ones’ body could be kept in a home, and the paperwork involved in booking a crematorium service. We also discussed how, particularly in deaths that are not straightforward and require the involvement of a coroner, a Funeral Director could help with the more complicated/regulated parts of this process, such as direct transfers and providing a place of rest.The discussion concluded that equipped with the right information and contacts, it is absolutely possible to handle the process yourself, but the support of a professional Funeral Director – even if just for parts of the process – can be invaluable. Many people were concerned with the cost of funerals, and the conversation progressed to explain pre-paid, pre-planned, and simple funeral services that flexible Funeral Directors can provide to ease any financial burden.We also briefly discussed the complexities and costs of repatriation, and the importance of having suitable travel insurance in place. The general consensus in the room was that in cases of repatriation, it made financial sense to involve a Funeral Director that could manage the process for you.

  1. What are the most noticeable trends in funeral services over the last decade?

Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe started this discussion by explaining the trends that haven’t changed since the Victorian times, namely that the deceased’s family, working life, and hobbies were the focus of virtually every service – regardless of race and religion.  We went on to discuss that the way in which we honour a loved one has changed immeasurably in the last 5 years with the trend for humanist/non-religious ceremonies. A more recent trend is people’s awareness of their ecological footprint, and the requirement for eco-friendly or woodland funerals.Funerals have also become increasingly personalised, and Martin Birch (Operational Manager of Bereavement and Registration Services) explained that nowadays, when you book a crematorium service, you can celebrate the life of a loved one in any way that you see fit – “as long as it’s not illegal or dangerous”. If for example you wanted to re-arrange the chapel, bring pets to the service, or play non-stop music – Thornhill Crematorium can accommodate your wishes. The crematorium also provides the technical capabilities to deliver audio-visual tributes and webcast the entire service to people that cannot be present on the day.In short – the most noticeable trend is that now people have more choice when they plan a funeral. However in our experience, sometimes this choice can be overwhelming for people, particularly in times of bereavement. Which is why at Coles, we always take the time to guide you through the options and advise as to the different ways you can personalise the service for your loved one.

  1. How are Ashes collected?

This question came in the form of a popular horror story of how the ashes of multiple bodies had been collected into a single urn – and Martin Birch did a wonderful job of dispelling this myth once and for all.  He encouraged everyone in the room to attend the ‘behind the curtains’ tour of the crematorium which explained the rigorous quality control checks in place in the facility to ensure that your loved one is treated with the utmost respect throughout the cremation process.If you couldn’t attend the Open Day, but would like a tour of the crematorium, simply get in touch with Cardiff Bereavement Services who can arrange one for you.

  1. Does Organ Donation slow up the funeral process?

Now that the Organ Donor Register in Wales ‘deems consent’ unless you opt-out, attendees were keen to find out whether this means families will experience a delay in being able to make funeral arrangements. In exceptional circumstances we have experienced a slight delay, for example if a specialist surgeon is required, but this is highly unusual. In the vast majority of cases, organ donation has little to no impact on funeral arrangements.The process is different if you donate your body to medical science, but in this scenario, UHW will arrange and pay for your funeral service, which can be many months after your death.If you’ve joined the Organ Donation Register, chances are, you have contemplated what you would like to happen when you die, and may wish to take this further by pre-planning your funeral. If this is of interest, I’d be happy to meet you for coffee to explain the many emotional and financial benefits of pre-planning, and to talk about how we can help you do this…


I’d like to thank Martin Birch, Lisa Dando, Kevin Pilkington, Cruse Bereavement and Reverend Lionel Fanthorpe for a positive and insightful discussion – and I look forward to more events like this one in our quest to dispel the misgivings and fears that people have about funeral services and the death care industry.