03/02/2017

In conversation with… a Funeral Director

CPJField-Jack-Stainstreet

Jack Stanisstreet works for CPJ Field as a Funeral Director at our Deric-Scott funeral home in Bournemouth. We spoke to Jack about what it means to be a Funeral Director...

Firstly, what does a Funeral Director do exactly?

Our main role is to facilitate a funeral service taking place. This can be ‘pre-need’, speaking to a person about their funeral wishes, or ‘at need’ with a family member of a deceased person. We discuss the person’s life, interests, hobbies, family, and friends and then assist in turning that story into a funeral service. We have a practical role too in booking crematoria, cemeteries, officiants, flowers, press notices, refreshments and transport. The funeral director will then be there on the day to act as a master of ceremonies, making sure all the families’ wishes go to plan.

Outside of arranging funerals, we also are there to help or advise families in more specialist areas such as monumental masonry, ashes interments, repatriations, exhumations, funeral plans or memorial services.

Once the service is over we continue to support our clients. We keep in contact with them to make sure they are coping and offer groups such as book club or a knitting group where they can come and sit down, talk about their loss and hopefully feel comforted.

How did you get into your role as a Funeral Director?

I started with CPJ Field when I was 18 as a Chauffer Bearer, I had intended to stay for a few months and then go traveling but enjoyed the work, so I asked for a couple of months off unpaid and then returned to work with them after traveling. I worked as a Chauffeur Bearer for around five years when a trainee Funeral Director role came up. I wanted my career to progress within the company so I applied. The role had interested me for a while as it was the client-facing elements of my Chauffeur Bearer role that I was enjoying most.

What do your friends and family think about you working in the funeral industry?

At first, they were not sure what to make of it but now they are all quite used to it. I tend to be bombarded with puns, ‘I bet people are just dying to see you’, ‘you work in the dead centre of town’ etc. But in reality, most of my family are interested and respectful of my work.

What are some of the challenges you face as a Funeral Director?

We work to quite tight time scales a lot of the time which can be a challenge. There are also occasions where we have to tell families that they can’t have what they want; maybe a venue isn’t available on the date they wanted, for example. Saying no to people who are already upset is difficult and something we work very hard not to have to do.

As an industry, we are often seen as being very ‘traditional’ and families are often reticent to break from tradition. We have found that by changing our focus to be on the deceased person and their lives then families are less likely to use funeral traditions as a ‘safety net’ and more likely to make the service more personal.

What is the best part of your job?

Hearing the stories of other people’s lives, we get to hear all the great anecdotes, tall tales and in some cases chronicles. They are so often both moving and life-affirming. Everyone’s life is different so it’s wonderful to be able to show that in the funerals we deliver.

Are there any funeral services you have arranged that particularly stand out?

I recently conducted the funeral of a lady who wanted a Harley Davidson hearse. We are quite used to families requesting different hearses and a motorcycle hearse is not unusual, though the lady in question was 97 years old!

How did you get into the funeral business? Was it a family business?

I was 18 years old and working in a small restaurant in Uckfield, opposite CPJ Field’s Fuller & Scott funeral home, where I knew some of the Funeral Bearers. One day, I jokingly asked them if there were any jobs going and two weeks later I started as a Chauffeur Bearer, working in a team led by two young female Funeral Directors.

You know within the first month whether it’s a job you are going to be able to do or not because there are certain pressures to face. It’s not everyone who can work with dead
bodies and help grieving families. Working for a family business, a tenth generation family business at that, also made a huge difference in terms of the level of support, care, and guidance. To be a part of a business that conducted Queen Victoria’s funeral instills a certain sense of pride.

If you can help to make a difficult time that little bit easier, supporting people when they are at their lowest, it’s a really positive thing – that’s what motivates me and my colleagues to get up and come to work every day. If you don’t enjoy spending time with people then you’re in the wrong job.