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Writer appointment helps death debate

For the first time, a funeral director has appointed a writer in residence in a bid to break down the social barriers associated with the topic of death and to encourage people to discuss their end of life wishes.

Author and personal historian Hannah Sherriffs has joined CPJ Field & Co to explore the subjects of death, bereavement and dying, as well as inspiring people to document their lives and capture key moments in time for future generations. 

Over the coming year, Hannah will spend time in a number of CPJ Field & Co’s 36 branches across East and West Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Dorset, Buckinghamshire and South West London. She will be exploring the sensitive and taboo nature of the business in a bid to bring bereavement to the forefront of people’s minds. She’ll also be providing perspectives on the celebration of life and looking at how people can cherish the memories of loved ones. 

Hannah’s background is in journalism and non-fiction but she has spent the latter part of her writing career preserving other people’s life stories as a member of the Association of Personal Historians. The inspiration for her career comes from her personal experience of bereavement when her brother disappeared while travelling in West Africa in 2003, aged 28. 

“I have spent a great deal of time writing about people’s lives so this feels like a natural progression,” she said. 

“Death is so often feared and is usually only spoken about behind closed doors. If I’m able to alleviate an element of this fear and unease through my writing, I will feel an enormous sense of achievement. I’m passionate about preserving other’s life stories and I’m looking forward to the opportunity of helping people also do this for themselves.”

Jeremy Field, chief operating officer at CPJ Field & Co, said working with people when they’re most vulnerable was one of the privileges of the funeral industry but it also “highlighted how often families don’t talk to each other when facing the death of a loved one”. 

“We’re hoping that by bringing Hannah on board we will inspire people to begin talking to each other more openly and honestly about their fears and their wishes for the ends of their lives,” he added.

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