Talking about death to break the taboo: What it actually feels like working with death

Death is hard and so many people still do not talk about it with their loved ones. We’re on a mission to change the way the world deals with death. And a big part that is talking more about how we want to be remembered.

Welcome to our new blog series 'Talking about death to break the taboo'. Today we hear from Tink, our Senior Funerals Coordinator, on what it’s like organising funerals at Farewill and what it feels like working with death.

It is 5.30pm on a Thursday. Most of my friends are at the pub, whilst I find myself on the phone to a grieving widow discussing what type of urn she would like her husband’s ashes to go in. 

Admittedly at 28-years-old, this was never my plan, my dream job has never been to talk about ashes or mortuaries but, I absolutely love it. Everyday I get to go to sleep knowing I have supported someone going through what can be the toughest time in their life.

It's fulfilling and rewarding and stressful and scary

I spend my days organising funerals that help families celebrate the life of their loved one in a way that’s personal and unique to them. It’s fulfilling and rewarding and stressful and scary. At any given time, I could be one move away from ruining a funeral. If my friend, who works in beauty marketing, makes a mistake at work, they are taken off a project. If I make a mistake, someone’s funeral isn’t having flowers, or the wrong music plays or their loved ones' coffin is at the wrong Crematorium. 

And of course I have made mistakes like everyone else. It can be so hard to remember to be kind to yourself when you work in a highly emotional job. But as they say, the best lessons are learnt the hardest ways, and with each mistake I have grown. 

Death can be hard, but it can also be a celebration

At Farewill, we understand that death can be hard. It can be hard to talk about, it can be hard to deal with, it can be hard to understand. That’s why we’re on a mission to change the way the world deals with death.

We’re shifting the stigma; death is hard, but it can also be a celebration of a life led and the people left behind. A celebration of the next chapter. 

I recently helped a family organise a funeral where their grandmother had specifically asked for the song “Who Let The Dogs Out” by Baha Men play. Another where each family member was given a white rose and in turn walked up to the coffin to lay their rose and say their final goodbye. And another where the entire military base attended in full uniform and placed a Union Jack flag on their fallen comrade’s coffin.

Organising these funerals feels personal because it is personal. These families are giving me access to the most intimate details of their loved one’s life and I feel privileged to be by their side, helping them find the best way to honour them.

I’m so fortunate I do not have to carry it alone

This can feel like a heavy mental load to carry. And I’m so fortunate I don’t have to carry it alone. At Farewill, we’ve created a network of compassionate people who are always there to lean on when you need a break, a chat or even just some chocolate.

And when that’s not enough, there’s a Well-Being Line we have access to, to speak to licensed therapists about the effect of working in this industry. There are two therapists available to us who we can contact to book an hour session during work hours to talk about anything that is troubling us. I use the sessions frequently and find the opportunity to offload so liberating. 

You don’t have to have top hats or sombre processions

‘To change the way the world deals with death’ sounds big and overwhelming. But what it really means is to sit down with each family and find out what a funeral means to them and then make it happen. You don’t have to have top hats or sombre processions or congregations dressed head to toe in black. You can have an iconic 80s disco playlist and ask your guests to wear colourful clothes. It is simply a final act of love however you want to do it. 

As I write this, I’m currently in the process of helping Phil*, who has lost his wife Anna*, organise the music for her service. When asked he tells me, “we used to spend our evenings dancing around the house, so we'll need a big song to end things with" and I have to say Phil I completely agree.

*We've changed names and details to keep things confidential

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