Funeral Director Nick Grassby is a family man, joining the Dorset family funeral business in 2017 following a career as a solicitor. We asked him to tell us about life as a Funeral Director.
How as a funeral director do you create that ‘unique’ occasion for every individual?
It’s important to get a good overview of the deceased person – so we chat extensively to the family but also look to the wider community, local material and background history. It’s also important that people discuss their funeral wishes with family members before they die so that it is easier to organise. We discuss an individual’s wishes, considering their wishes for a religious or non -religious service. Do they want a celebrant or a vicar?
Have you ever come across difficult situations?
Thankfully not that often. It is important to keep the lines of communication open in situations where there is division over funeral arrangements. Discussions with family members should continue with decisions made as soon as practically possible. There is sometimes the need for mitigation and my time as a solicitor assists me in these situations. Disputes can cause delays.
Have you ever dealt with a donation of a body for medical research?
Yes. Some people wish to have their bodies donated to a local university medical school for medical research, but there are quite strict rules and procedures and sometimes the timing is not always right, for instance in the holiday season. There are a lot of caveats, so it is important for families to speak to the university to find out more and avoid the possible upset of their loved one’s wishes not being adhered to.
Supporting families is a big part of your job, how do you manage this effectively yet sympathetically?
Families are generally very cooperative. They need to grieve but appreciate there is a funeral to organise. If an individual has discussed their wishes with family members before they die, this makes organising their funeral a lot easier. I am aware of the pressures and certainly don’t wish to add to it. It’s a sort of mutual cooperation.
We are all guilty of taking our work home, how do you manage a good work/life balance?
There will always be emotional aspects of this job, and some situations affect you more than others. However, growing up around a family of funeral directors has helped me enormously.
Do you have any particularly gratifying moments?
We arranged a funeral for a lady in her 80’s who was a passionate football fan and was a lifelong supporter of Chelsea FC. Her request was for everything to be in the club’s colours, the congregation to wear blue and for ‘Blue is the colour’ to be played at the end of the service.
What can people do to prepare and make the process of arranging a funeral easier?
My advice would be to tell your family or a close friend your wishes. Discuss even the finer details, for example what music you want. Music is becoming an important part of a funeral service. Some people use music to relate to their lives. For instance a football fan may have their team’s song, or there may be a piece of classical music which has sentimental importance.
Consider purchasing a funeral plan from a registered FPA provider. Payable in full or in instalments it fixes the funeral directors’ costs at today’s prices. (There are some things that will need to be paid for at the time like flowers, newspaper announcements, service sheets with photos and so on.) This will take the pressure off families.
We like to discuss all aspects of the funeral from coffins to the route that the funeral will take. Some people request a special route which will take them past a much-loved location. Choosing a coffin is also important, as is personalisation, with some people wishing to be buried or cremated wearing specific clothes and having personal items with them.
Are crematoria modernising to keep with the times?
Many crematoria were built in the sixties when funerals were very different. They were built to a fashion of soberness and austerity. Crematoria are aware of the need to improve and move with the times. They are technologically updating with live webcasting now available at most crematoria for family and friends who cannot make the service but can instead watch it online. Some also have screens to show photos and videos during the service, and many have in-house streaming for music. It is also a generational thing. The current generation are more involved, families wish to write or deliver a eulogy or play an instrument. Sometimes there is more than one eulogy delivered by several family members. Pallbearers may these days be family members who wish to carry their loved one.
The costs of funerals: some people would say they were high, necessitating a call for a government review. How do you feel about that?
The average cost of a funeral in Dorset is between £3,000 and £4,000, so considering a funeral plan from an FPA registered provider is sensible financial planning. We welcome transparency of funeral costs. Where money is an issue we pride ourselves on working with families to tailor the costs accordingly.
How popular have eco-funerals become?
I think it’s a great idea. We work closely with local Natural Burial Grounds. Coffins can now be made from wicker, banana, bamboo and cardboard, along with other natural materials. The traditional oak and veneered oak coffins continue to be used.
After that first phone call, what happens next?
When we receive a first call, we act immediately. We arrange to collect the person and we bring them into our care. This may entail collecting someone from their house or a care home. If a person dies suddenly and a Coroner is involved, or if someone dies at a hospital, then we will liaise with the relevant parties before bringing the person into our care. Regular contact with the family is crucial and this can be done through phone calls, or some people prefer emails.
Any final snippets of advice you can give?
Communicate your wishes to your family. It saves any confusion at what is, without doubt, a difficult time.
If you would like to find out more about Grassby & Sons’ services, visit www.grassby-funeral.co.uk