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The Talking Mats funeral resource

Talking about death, loss and funeral planning is something many of us find difficult and challenging.  Talking Mats has won funding from the Big Lottery Awards for All to develop a resource that will allow someone to plan their own funeral or be involved in the planning of a loved one’s funeral.

The inspiration

Gillian Robertson who is a celebrant, retired headteacher of a special school and a Talking Mats Licence trainer is the instigator and driver behind this project. She said her inspiration came from being asked to do a funeral of a Dad with two daughters one of whom had additional support needs.

When planning his funeral, I spoke mainly to her sister and her mum. They had decided not to tell the other sister the date of the funeral. I had a stomach-churning feeling, this didn’t seem right, but it was not my decision. I had no materials I could offer the family to help make sure their sister was included. It came to the day of the service. To my surprise, the sister was there with her support worker. I was able to have a nice chat with her before the service. When it came to the Committal, she waved goodbye to her dad. I think her mum and sister were a little embarrassed, but I was so glad she was there. She nearly missed the chance to be able to say goodbye or get the closure that other people get from a funeral.’


An effective Talking Mats resource needs a structure that supports the conversation you want to have.  Developing this structure benefits from different perspectives.  In order to gain these perspectives two different focus groups were set up;

  1. Celebrants and funeral staff
  2. People with learning disabilities and their support staff

Discussions led to 3 main topics being identified.  Symbols were designed and tested, and the resource further adapted in response to feedback

Final testing phase

The Funeral Resource is now in its final phase of testing where and experienced Talking Mats practitioners are required to use it and feedback results.  You will be sent the resource and asked to feedback your experience via Survey Monkey.  Funerals are very culturally specific and this set may not work for all cultures and faiths.  Knowing the limitations will help the development of guidance to go along with the resource.  Testers who can use the resource in diverse settings are particularly welcome. 

If you think you could use the resource at least twice between now and the 17th of February 2023 please email describing the client group you work with, your role and the cultures and faiths you might use the resource with.  Up to 8 people will be selected for this next test phase.