Lizzie Neville & Holly Lyon-Hawk from Stag Cremations

Lizzie Neville & Holly Lyon-Hawk from Stag Cremations

This week on WHITEBALLOON INSIGHTS we hear from Lizzie and Holly about how they are offering direct cremations that are more gentle, holistic and bespoke.

Together, you both have a wonderful range of experience in end of life care. What prompted you to start this new venture, Stag Cremations?

Holly and I first met in 2016 whilst training to become End of Life Practitioners. Both of us followed our passions, Holly becoming an award winning Funeral Director and myself setting up as a co-founder of End of Life Doula UK. Our experience working with families at end of life has given us the valuable insight of how best to support families not only mourn the loss, but to also celebrate the life of a loved one.

What became evident to us both was the rawness of direct cremations that are currently offered – that it is very much a process, a transaction rather than what can be a step on a beautiful, albeit sad, journey and how the impact of not having that ongoing support and guidance throughout the grief journey has caused a lot of heartache and unresolved grief.

This led us to pioneer the way forward bringing a holistic approach to direct cremations. At Stag Cremations we do not operate call centres. If you ring us, you will speak to either one of us personally and we will then support you throughout the journey from the first phone call to the cremation, as well as many weeks beyond with grief support.

With our pioneering strategy to put people’s well-being at the forefront of all we do, our families can use our support for many years to come, free of charge, as we know there really is no time limit on grief. Our support includes meditations, webinars on ‘How to Eat Well when Grieving’ and ‘Grief Art’ classes, and we are delighted to have recently set up an in person grief support group for families to attend as they navigate this new way of life.

Have you found that more people are interested in direct cremations?

Increasingly over the past 5 years (and especially since Covid) the demand for direct cremations has risen considerably, with many people now turning away from traditional funerals. Some of this is due to financial reasons, a direct cremation is roughly a third of the price of a traditional funeral, but this isn’t always the main reason.

For other people they choose it because direct cremations can be organised quickly with a shorter waiting time, including the return of the ashes, as well as far more flexibility in choosing how to honour the person who has died.

Some people want to have a Celebration of Life ceremony, others don’t want any form of ceremony preferring instead to have a private ashes scatter, perhaps out on a walk as their preferred way to say goodbye. This means people are not just restricted to a short service in a crematorium and expensive funeral costs and are free to express their love and appreciation for a person’s life in a bespoke way that is fitting to them.

You offer a really personal and supportive service to families. Why is that important to you?

When a loved one comes into our care we treat them as if they were one of our own. We love it if a family is willing to share their loved one’s stories, their character, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and favourite songs, we really are interested to know about the person who is in our care.

Some of our families don’t have the opportunity or don’t wish to wash their loved ones’ bodies after death but still want that extra care and attention for them. Our Elegance package offers a beautiful nurturing service where we gently wash and anoint the person in our care, using organic essential oils, gently wrapping them in unbleached cotton muslin cloth. We can even take a fingerprint mould, lock of hair and a photo of their hands should you wish. It is an incredible way to honour those who have died and something that both Holly and I feel completely honoured to do.

We understand that for many returning the ashes to a family is a really big moment, it can be extremely emotional and tough, the realisation that a loved one has really gone. Unlike other direct cremation companies who deliver the ashes to you via a courier and receiving them is akin to an Amazon delivery, we always hand deliver the ashes back to the family popping in for a chat and a cup of tea, making sure they are OK before leaving.

With a direct cremation, there isn’t a commemoration ceremony at the time the cremation takes place. What do people tend to do instead?

We have found it is important in the grieving process that the life of the person who has died is acknowledged in some way. It could be something like a simple ceremony in your own home with a small group of people, perhaps going for a memorial walk together, or it could be a big celebration that needs careful thought and planning. Whatever you choose, our support continues as we offer a sounding board, giving you ideas and guidance as to how best you can honour your loved one. We even offer each and every family a free lifetime tribute page, that can be either private for just close family and friends or public for all to see and contribute to, enabling families to have a central place for all the event information as well as collaborative opportunities to upload photos and videos of the person who has died.

One of the biggest gifts to having a direct cremation is that you decide upon when or how you wish to celebrate the person’s life, whether it be formal or completely quirky is up to you!

We are here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for anyone who wishes to have bespoke and gentle care of their loved one as well as for themselves.

And finally, working in such an emotionally demanding environment, how do you both like to relax and unwind in your time off?

We both have dogs so heading off for a long walk is perfect for unwinding and sometimes processing what has gone on during the day.  We both enjoy being creative, Holly is a very talented Artist in Ceramic and Sculptures whereas I am most at my happiest when I’m baking lots of puddings and cakes. 

Thank you Lizzie and Holly for your insights.

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