Life Ledger’s series of interviews continues Claire Lyons a writer, facilitator and sustainability specialist working in the wellbeing, grief and funeral sectors.
LL: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to find yourself in the death/bereavement sector?
CL: As a military wife, I have quite an eclectic background, from moving around. More recently, for over fifteen years, I was a lecturer in mental health recovery and personal development. When our fourth child was born, I took a break and worked on my own business supporting people to adopt more sustainable living into family life.
My passion for teaching and environmental concerns came together well.
However, our lives changed beyond measure when our oldest child died unexpectedly in August 2019.
We chose The Woodland Burial Company for their values and care, both of families and the environment, as the last resting place for our son. Via a crowdfund were able to purchase a family nook.
Spending a lot of time there, I couldn’t help myself but offer suggestions and ‘ideas’… The rest as they say is history.
LL: How did your business start?
CL: I did return to a teaching role, but found it very hard to manage expectations on the unpredictable ‘wobbly’ days for myself or my children. So, I wanted to work for myself again. After a discussion with Simon Holden it became clear that he wanted to grow Woodland Burial Company, and I had the skills and connections that could help.
With such clear shared goals, we started working together, allowing me to freelance and use my extensive experience in writing, sustainability and business management.
LL: What is the main aim of your work?
CL: I help organisations and individuals to share complex messages, simply. Opening up conversations on challenging topics, and (hopefully) improving our ability to discuss death, dying and afterwards. My main aim is to increase knowledge about the impact of death on our planet, and the options available to begin changing that.
LL: What have been the biggest challenges you have faced to date?
CL: It is still such a taboo subject, it’s not comfortable and so we all try to avoid it as much as possible. That makes it hard to pitch articles!
Adding to that first hurdle, it’s challenging to suggest that our traditional methods of cremation or burial are not environmentally healthy. I want to open a whole new area of education, not shaming previous decisions, but not everyone is keen to talk about it.
Interestingly, there is lots of interest in the more private elements of my personal situation, dealing with the ambulance chasers has been the hardest personal boundary to create.
LL: What do you feel have been your biggest successes to date?
CL: I have clients! I now work with Woodland Burial Company, Let Your Love Grow and Natural Transitions. Having written for several ethical and environmental publications as well as local press, I hope to grow that impact by writing one-off articles for a wider range of press and media outlets.
LL: Where would you ideally like to see your role in ten years’ time?
CL: In some ways I hope my work on communication will become obsolete, in the way my sustainable living work is now mainstream, perhaps our cultural attitudes to talking about death will also mature?
I see Woodland Burial Company growing to new sites and that’s very exciting.
LL: What do you feel is the single biggest issue currently facing the death/bereavement sector?
CL: It has to be the negative environmental impact that traditional cremation and burial have. The lack of awareness. I also believe that small changes could be made to most funerals, which would have positive outcomes, it’s how to share those messages sensitively.
LL: Which other organisation/s and or individuals really impress you in the death/bereavement sector?
CL: I find the Cremation Society newsletters very informative and have also been in touch with White Balloon hub recently, who have a lovely philosophy. The Good Grief Trust is another excellent umbrella organisation, offering a wealth of information. I am proud to support their Umbrella Day campaign each February.