Established in 1855, Freeman Brothers funeral directors is proud to be an independently owned business. With four offices across West Sussex in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham & Hurstpierpoint, we employ 25 staff members, most of whom are employed full time and some who are part-time or on a flexible basis. We also have had employees both past and present who are from the same family, and here we joined by Wilf Freeman, who represents the sixth generation of the Freeman family to have worked within the business…
How long have you worked at Freeman Brothers?
I began working in the funeral aspect of Freeman Brothers at the start of October 2023, although have overseen the property management for all our offices since the summer of 2019.
What did you do prior to working at Freeman Brothers?
Immediately prior to working at Freeman Brothers, I helped to run a small construction business, alongside managing the maintenance of our offices. Before that, I worked for a fresh produce wholesale company in the historic Borough Market, selling a whole range of exotic fruits and vegetables to London’s top pubs, hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants. Food is still very much a passion outside of work!
What made you want to work at a funeral directors?
The business has been in our family since 1855 and whilst there has never been any pressure from my father to follow his path, I have always been fascinated by the industry. One of my favourite photos from childhood is of me proudly sitting in my father’s chair (this is now Alex’s office), prior to going to nursery school for the day. Clearly, I had big aspirations from an early age! I have always enjoyed helping other people and within smaller family-owned companies where you can make a tangible impact in your role. Further, I feel that my skills belong in a business such as Freeman Brothers where I can flourish as an individual and as part of a larger team.
Describe your role for those who may not know what it involves…
It is early days for me within the business and I am currently gaining a thorough insight to all aspects. Including; accompanying one of our personable and helpful arrangers to guide a family through an arrangement, learning the various types of stone & styles of headstones for either a churchyard or cemetery and being a bearer carrying a coffin on a funeral. Further endeavours include marketing of Freeman Brothers via social media channels, attending local events at nursing homes and hospices to improve our community outreach and assisting workshop our employees in the fabrication of coffins.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Ask me this again in a few months and I will be able to answer the question better! For now, though, I am really enjoying the client interactions. Being able to guide clients through a process that is undoubtedly challenging, whilst maintaining a high level of care, integrity and compassion is highly rewarding.
If you could help people to understand one thing about your job/funerals, what would it be?
There is a clear lack of conversation around death whilst we are living. It is the one thing we can all be certain of yet is so often overlooked. I believe that through a willingness to engage family and friends in conversation over the matter, we can all be better prepared for the passing of our loved ones as well as for ourselves. Funerals are very much a bespoke event, from the vehicles and coffin, to the venue, music and even tie colours worn by our bearers. The opportunity to have a funeral in style reflects how prior expectations of a traditional funeral are changing.
Has your job changed your own approach to discussing death, dying and bereavement outside of work?
No, although this is only since there has always been open conversation around death in our family and with friends. I am always asked if being part of the funeral industry means that I find death and grieving easier, to which I answer that it makes understanding what goes on when a death occurs, next steps and behind the scenes more straightforward but that the grieving process is still a painful one. After all, I am still human. Empathy always begins with being a great listener and I have found that I can guide friends who are grieving the loss of loved ones too.
What do you think funerals will be like in 20 years’ time?
I’d like to think that funerals will become more of a celebration of life rather than a sombre event of mourning as is so often the case. Given that a funeral can take place practically anywhere and is completely bespoke could help with this.
Additionally, I am hopeful that individuals will take the opportunity to plan their funerals ahead of time to assist their next of kin when they die. This could also help in the bereavement process as their loved ones know that their wishes have been fulfilled and their funeral is exactly as they would have liked it.
New technology, for example resomation is slowly emerging that offers an alternative to traditional cremation and burials and I am keen to learn about any other technology that can benefit the industry too.
Which songs would you like to be played at your funeral/memorial?
I have yet to figure out the specifics, although I would include a variety of my favourite genres – deep / progressive house, classical & dance…. Perhaps my entire funeral could be a playlist of my top songs!