Funeral Support Assistant, Jen, is the newest member of our office team! Find out more about her here…
The roles within a funeral directors are more diverse than you may think! A lot has changed since Freeman Brothers first began in 1855. With branches across West Sussex in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint, our workforce comprises of 28 staff, most of whom are employed full-time and some who are on part-time or flexible basis. Some of our team members have worked for the company for a number of years, and others have joined more recently. As the business continues to grow, and the funeral industry changes, we are required to be increasingly innovative, and this means even more variety among roles and responsibilities. Now’s your chance to meet the team!
This week we’ve profiled Funeral Support Assistant, Jen, who’s the most recent addition to our office-based team. Read on to find out more about her…
How long have you worked at Freeman Brothers? I’ll be celebrating my 6 month anniversary in January 2020.
What did you do prior to working at Freeman Brothers? I’ve worked in schools for the last 10 years, most recently teaching English to teenagers. Before that, I worked in stock control administration for the Scout Association.
What made you want to work at a funeral directors? I’ve been fascinated by the funeral industry for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was desperate to become a funeral director after attending family funerals and enjoying the atmosphere of love, respect and compassion. I think there’s a refreshing honesty about a funeral service that’s unique to any other family occasion and I wanted to be able to help other families find the peace and closure that is often so desperately needed and that a really good send-off can bring.
Describe your role for those who may not know what it involves… At the moment, I’m still learning the ropes of what is a surprisingly complex and involved process: I had no idea, before I joined Freeman Brothers, how much planning and coordination goes into arranging a funeral – it’s certainly not for the feint-hearted!
I work really closely with Vicky, at our Crawley branch, who is expert in every aspect of arranging and funeral care. She’s a brilliant mentor and has given me lots of opportunities for hands-on learning so I can get to grips with every aspects of funeral direction. As a lover of lists and spreadsheets, I mainly keep on top of the branch’s admin and finances while Vicky deals with the more practical aspects – we make a great team!
I’ve also recently started managing the branch Twitter feed and occasionally write posts for the Community Blog. Part of the reason I decided to leave teaching was to give myself more time to write (as opposed to teaching others to!) so I’m loving the chance to stretch my creative muscles.
What’s your favourite part of your job? I love hearing the change in our clients’ tone of voice when they ring up or come into the branch full of worry, fear and confusion then leave feeling reassured and comforted. It’s so lovely to think you’ve played some small part in making someone feel a little bit better and more relaxed during some of their darkest moments. So often, clients seem as frightened by the process of arranging a funeral as they do by death itself – it’s great to be able to show people that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that they can trust us to manage their loved one’s passing with dignity and kindness.
If you could help people to understand one thing about your job/funerals, what would it be? My colleagues and I genuinely care about our clients and their families. We will do as much as is humanly possible to give you the funeral service you need. There’s so much bad press in the media that paints funeral directors as heartless and grasping people who are only in it for your money. This isn’t true at all; you’d struggle to find a friendlier and more compassionate bunch. Just be honest and talk to us – we’re here to help.
Has your job changed your own approach to discussing death, dying and bereavement outside of work? How could it not? I’m staggered by how little I really knew before I started at Freeman Brothers and how far removed my assumptions were from the truth. People’s reactions when I tell them what I do for a living vary widely from fascination to fear, ‘Tell me more…’ to ‘Tell me nothing…’ and it’s not surprising that it’s such a divisive topic. Despite a notable shift in the approach to talking about death in recent years, it’s still such a taboo subject for many. I was also quite ashamed to discover how I had ‘normalised’ my own views of death and dying, as if alternative ideas were somehow strange or wrong. One friend, in particular, admitted she was initially afraid to sit with me because, culturally, she believed that I had been involved in interfering with souls that had not yet had time to pass. Talking about it helped us both to get a better understanding of one another’s world view, recognising that neither of us was right or wrong – just different. I think that’s the extra hidden bonus of talking about it.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the funeral industry whilst you’ve worked at Freeman Brothers? I don’t think I’ve been involved in the industry for long enough, or know enough about it, to say – but it’s a progressive and multi-disciplinary industry so I’m looking forward to witnessing some incredible advancements in future years.
What do you think funerals will be like in 20 years’ time? Whether we like it or not, funerals, like everything else, are subject to fashions and trends. In my experience, fashions don’t really change – they move in a cycle and trends come back round every couple of generations. With this in mind, I think that funerals of the future may favour a more traditional approach with some of the more stereotypical features of the funeral ceremony being brought back into favour.
Which songs would you like to be played at your funeral/memorial? I’m an unashamed country music fan so it’d have to be something like Tim McGraw’s ‘Please Remember Me’ as it has lovely comforting message for those left behind: ‘New wind is gonna find your sail, that’s where your journey starts.’
Tel: 01403 254590
If you have an urgent query, please call 01403 254590. This number is answered by one our staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is the quickest way to reach us.
Tel: 01403 785133
25 & 27 Brighton Road
Tel: 01293 540000
126 High Street
Tel: 01273 831497