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What it’s like being a funeral director

Hayley Bell, 37, is a funeral director. Here she shares what drew her to the career and what she loves about it.

When I left school, I did some voluntary work with a large funeral director. They trained me until I was offered a job as a receptionist. That was 20 years ago.

What led you to become a funeral director?

I lost my grandmother when I was 11, and I will always remember her funeral, specifically the funeral director who looked after our family and how kind he was to us all.

What challenges have you had to overcome?

First and foremost, the fact that the profession has historically been male dominated.

I was once told by a company that I wouldn’t make it past being a receptionist because directing funerals was the man’s job. This actually gave me more determination to become a funeral director and help care for families at the most hardest time of their lives.

What are the common misconceptions about being a funeral director?

That we are all doom and gloom, and that we are only interested in making profits and upselling products to make as much money our of vulnerable people.

My business partner and I started our company with the ethos that we would be honest and transparent about our pricing, so that people could make their own decisions regarding the services they wanted us to provide. We are always led by our families and will work to empower them to create a meaningful farewell, without a massive price-tag. Sadly, there are very few funeral directors who have this same approach to families.

What is your job like day to day?

I never know how each day is going to go, whether I am directing a funeral, meeting with a family or taking care of someone who has died.  It’s a varied role and can be very unpredictable.

How does it feel to run your own business and what led you to starting it?

It’s absolutely amazing being able to run my own business – Elkin & Bell Funerals – the way that I want to.  My business partner and I had both worked for large companies (conglomerates) as well as smaller independent companies.

As time went on, we slowly realised that we couldn’t work for a ‘boss’. We wanted to work differently to the way we were being told to. It felt very restrictive, and personally, I felt that I was unable to give my families the highest possible service I could with the restrictions set by my previous employers.

I learned a lot from my past workplaces, things that I would take with me to my own business, and things that I would leave behind. It is really refreshing not having the pressure of targets and making the boss money so they can buy expensive cars and take holidays.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a funeral director?

Don’t ever give up your dream. It is notoriously difficult to get a step in the door of a funeral home, but once you are there you will have endless opportunities to grow. And who knows maybe even open up your own business in the future?

There are many educational courses available to expand your knowledge. I am always learning even now.

What advice would you give your younger self?

It will all work out okay in the end. All of your hard work will pay off and you will be happy and in a good place.

Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.
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1 COMMENT

  1. I work next door to this lovely lady , I put out about how would people feel working next to an undertaker doesn’t bother me in the lease, but it really did upset a few people on my Facebook, Lucky for me Hayley and I get on really well and she took it as I meant it in a good way , little did I know 6 months later I would be calling on her for help when a big Company dealing with my mom‘s funeral really weren’t very helpful Considerate or passionate about the job left me gobsmacked , when I told Hayley how I was being treated she asked if she could take over and she was wonderful, caring & made sure everything was right & looked after my mum , even let me go in and cut mums hair no worries, lovely couple xx

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