Payne & Sons hosts art therapy to support the bereaved during the COVID-19 outbreak

Payne & Sons Funeral Directors combined art classes with bereavement support to help those who have lost loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funeral Arranger Michelle Kinneavy and Civil Celebrant Danielle Steele have hosted three classes at the Hampden Park branch to bring together those who have lost loved ones and experienced loneliness during lockdown restrictions.

Michelle said: “Painting and drawing brings a therapeutic sense of calmness that can benefit everyone during these difficult times, especially the bereaved.

“People who had previously been on their own after losing loved ones have been sharing stories, exchanging numbers and offering to help each other while learning to make beautiful art together.”

Michelle looked for ways to support the community during lockdown and found many elderly people felt isolated since the death of their loved ones due to a lack of IT knowledge.

She began hosting socially distanced training sessions on how to make video calls and use multimedia at Payne & Sons, however she discovered a common feeling among attendees.

Michelle said: “The training was well received but they said it’s not the same as having someone to talk to in person. It’s easy to forget they come from a generation where getting involved with your community was everything. They couldn’t just meet up with anyone at any time.”

Michelle discovered Danielle, who is not only a Civil Celebrant but a talented artist who had provided art classes for older people at residential care homes. Danielle had lost her son and established the charity Tristan’s Pawprints, which provides financial assistance for wildlife rescue in East Sussex, in his memory.

Michelle said: “I am a qualified civil celebrant so spoke at length with Danielle. I realised she had a lot of empathy and would be able to connect with the people I’ve been trying to help and bring them together through art.”

The pair set up Payne & Sons’ arranging and foyer area after work with tables and art supplies and have invited four attendees per session to ensure safe social distancing is maintained.

Michelle and Danielle have so far run three 45-minute art classes and are planning to arrange more in the future in line with government social distancing guidelines.

Michelle said: “Danielle tells the story about her son and Tristan’s Pawprints and people really connect with her, and many have donated to her charity.

“One of the ladies was so impressed and thankful that she’s offered to donate art supplies to us that belonged to her late mother, who was an art teacher.”

Michelle will support more local people in Eastbourne by releasing a cover of the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’ and donating the proceeds to St Wilfrid’s Hospice, the end of life care provider.

The country single recorded by Michelle will be produced in Nashville, Tennessee for release on 28 September.