Freeman Brothers was first set up as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company now has three further offices – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – and remains committed to the development of skill within the organisation. To that end, several members of the team are currently undertaking a training course – Funeral Arranger, Alex, shares his thoughts on his studies…
Earlier in 2023, my colleagues and I embarked upon the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) Higher Diploma in Funeral Arranging. Back in 2017, I completed a Certificate in Funeral Arranging and Administration, administrated by the London Association of Funeral Directors (LAFD), and now that I have several more years of experience within the funeral sector, I was keen to increase my knowledge even further.
The NAFD Diploma is a comprehensive course, and typically students are expected to complete the qualification in about 18 months. My colleagues and I are currently running a bit further ahead of schedule, and are hoping to take our final exam and assessment a year after beginning our studies. We are about halfway through at the moment, so now seems a good time to share my thoughts!
One of the key differences is that my previous certification focused specifically on administration and arranging of funerals – there was nothing about the broader industry or more practical skills required. We have already covered various technical elements that I didn’t previously have knowledge of, such as setting up and managing your own funeral home from scratch. This would also apply to a business which was looking to set up an additional location.
Whilst I understood the concept of many elements of mortuary work, I hadn’t previously had the chance to participate it. Due to my studies, I’ve now spent time in the mortuary and develop a hands-on understanding of the processes involved. This has been helpful and enables me to communicate with both my colleagues and customers more effectively. We’ve also covered lots of health and safety elements, which some people might find boring, but I really enjoyed!
My favourite topics so far have been learning about burials at sea – something I’ve not yet received a request for, so hadn’t needed to learn about it; repatriation is interesting too – I knew a little about what it takes to bring someone into our care who has died internationally, or arrange for someone to be transported abroad, but I didn’t know much – learning about this means that I’m much more confident in choosing a supplier to undertake this work on our behalf; continuing on my theme of water, I also really enjoyed learning about what happens when a death occurs at sea. Maybe this is because I’ve recently enjoyed a cruise holiday!
I was already aware of the basic principles of donating a body to medical science, but the level of knowledge required for my course is significant. Whilst I was studying the topic, I happened to receive an enquiry about this from a member of the public, and was very happy to be able to test my new skills and help the customer feel reassured.
As the NAFD works nationally, we have also had the chance to learn about how procedures differ across the UK’s devolved nations. At Freeman Brothers, we mostly work with those for whom the paperwork pertains to England and Wales. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, things are very different, and we do sometimes have to liaise with people who have connections to those nations, so it’s brilliant to have a full understanding of how their systems work.
Our studies have been continually assessed, and then will culminate with a written exam and a viva. I’m looking forward to completing the rest of the units of the course, and will come back with an update in the Spring!