Debbie Smith and John Adams

Mercia Forest Crematorium hosts podcast to empower the bereaved

Westerleigh Group has teamed up with a funeral director to help empower the bereaved and support a wider campaign calling for compulsory bereavement education in schools through a series of podcasts.

The group, which recently opened Mercia Forest Crematorium in Essington, has agreed to become a key sponsor for the podcasts, which have been ranked 13th in the world on the topic of grief.

Death: A Changing Industry is a podcast which was started earlier this year by Funeral Director John Adams, immediate past-President of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The latest edition of the podcast was recorded at Mercia Forest Crematorium, which opened this summer to serve the communities of Walsall, Wolverhampton, Cannock and surrounding areas, and features John in discussion with Westerleigh Group’s CEO, Debbie Smith.

Westerleigh Group is one of the UK’s largest independent owners and operators of crematoria and cemeteries, with 38 sites in England, Scotland, and Wales, all set within beautifully landscaped gardens of remembrance which provide pleasant, tranquil places for people to visit and reflect.

John launched a Parliamentary petition last October for all school-age children to be taught about death, dying and bereavement in schools and attracted 11,322 signatures.

As a result, the Government is to carry out a public consultation this Autumn.

The petition saw John appointed as a funeral industry Advisor to Child Bereavement UK charity and his podcast, which has an overall theme of ‘from grief to growth’, ties into his on-going push for bereavement to become part of the national curriculum.

John said: “The podcast is a theme of ‘from grief to growth’, and we talk about how having connection points can help someone with their grief.

“When someone dies, we tend to be reactive whereas, with education and more awareness, we can be proactive.

“Education plays a key part in that, starting in schools. Children already see death and loss all around them, from Disney films and books to items on the news, the Queen’s funeral this year and so on.

“But with the right information and education, young people and children can be empowered, resulting in a move positive way forward after a funeral.

“I lost my mother when I was 12, which gave me the fuel and fire to help in the future.

“For a child, their immediate family is their life and I feel passionately that we give children the option to be involved in funerals and the grieving process. Every child is different, and there is simply not a one size fits all when it comes to death and bereavement.

“I believe schools should be required to provide age-appropriate education to help children understand death as a part of life, and they must be properly resourced to support bereaved children. It’s important we speak to children about death and dying before they experience a loss so they understand their choices and the emotions they will feel.”

John said he was delighted to welcome Westerleigh Group as a major sponsor for his podcast: “Westerleigh Group understands the need to provide a special place to say goodbye to a loved one and to provide a platform from which people can move forward with their grief.”

Debbie Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Westerleigh Group, said: “John’s passion for what he does is inspiring and we’re proud to play a part in supporting his efforts.

“His work resonates with many of our values, in terms of empowering people to make informed choices about what is right for them when it comes to saying goodbye to a loved one.

“We work hard with families to create uniquely personal services which can bring added comfort at a very upsetting time and, beyond that, we are able to offer a wide range of memorialisation options, from etched stones to trees and memorial jewellery and many other ways, which help them remember and honour their loved ones.

“Through education and awareness – through organisations like us supporting people like John – we can help people make the right choice for them and, as John says, help them move forward from grief to growth.”

Anyone interested in hearing John’s interview with Debbie Smith, recorded at Mercia Forest Crematorium, as part of the Death: A Changing Industry podcast series can find it at: