Photo: Gavin King
Humanist celebrant and facilitator of Felixstowe Death Café, Adele Chaplin, uses her experience, compassion and understanding of how others experience grief and bereavement to offer comfort, insights and hope during their time of loss.
Adele’s role as a humanist celebrant and as facilitator of Felixstowe Death Café, which is held at Cuppa Café in the town, gives her the opportunity to help others talk about death and dying openly and freely - giving those who find the subject challenging the chance to explore ways to elevate fears of death, find coping mechanisms to help them grieve a loved one and express their wishes for their own funeral and how they’d like to be remembered after they’ve died.
“Now more than ever before, people need each other for support and Compassionate Communities enables community groups and individuals to join together to ensure no one is forgotten and all have places to go to find help.”
A familiar face to many in Felixstowe and the surrounding area, Sarah and her husband Ian set up Cuppa Café on High Road West, Felixstowe, in June 2019 having moved to the area more than a decade previously.
Alongside two other groups in Ipswich, Felixstowe Death Café has been running for two years, giving people a safe space to talk about death and dying.
Whether they are grieving, have a life-limiting condition, wish to support others or are curious and want to learn more about a subject that is often seen as ‘taboo’ in society.
Cuppa Café, which is run by Sarah Fitch, is an ideal meeting space for Felixstowe Death Café. People can gather for open conversations and enjoy the friendly, relaxed environment created by Sarah and Adele – while enjoying a nice cuppa and good company!
Following a career as a web developer in London, working with the BBC, Adele wanted to work closer to home so decided to re-train. We asked Adele what inspired her to become a humanist celebrant, she said: “I saw an advert for it and I though, that looks interesting! Then I chatted to a few folk and a few friends and they all said ‘yes, you should really do that’, so I thought I’d give it a shot.”
Primarily, Adele wanted to offer humanist funerals to those who don’t have a faith; filling a hole in the market for people looking for a non-religious ceremony. Adding to her role, she is currently training to conduct weddings.
Adele explained how her role as a humanist celebrant helps the people she’s supporting: “In terms of grief, bereavement and death, I am one of your points of contact,” says Adele.
“Organising a funeral is a really hard thing to do for anyone; it’s traumatic, it brings up a lot of emotions, and between your funeral director and your celebrant, whether that be a humanist like me, a civil celebrant, a vicar or priest, we’re there to take the load off people – to do a lot of the organising for them, to help them sort out what they need to do and just guide them, gently, the way they need to go.”
So what motivates Adele to help others through her role? She says: “I’m a firm believer that in this country we’re very closeted about death, dying and grief – and because we’re closeted about that it makes it worse. I believe the more we talk about it and the more we’re involved in talking about each other’s lives and deaths, the easier it is to grieve someone.
“Always, I find, through work, the families I work with who have spoken about their wishes and discussed dying, will always, up to a point, deal with death and grief better – so I am 100 percent behind opening up the conversation about death, dying and bereavement. I believe everybody should talk about it.”
When Adele isn’t working, she’s active in her community as a Cub leader and she plays the banjo! She’s been involved in Scouting since she was 14 and now leads a group of 8-10 year-olds, teaching them outdoor and life skills in a fun environment.
Adele moved to Suffolk 21 years ago and loves Felixstowe. She loves the sense of community in the town, the seaside and sitting in a beach hut on a sunny day with a cup of tea. She said: “I love how friendly everybody is and how caring everybody is about everything.”