Cooperating with bereaved families


Posted by in November's Magazine

When someone dies it’s one of the most challenging things we have to deal with. Talking and coming to terms with death is still a taboo subject, but funeral directors deal with this every day, helping families through the most difficult of times. Our friends at Scotmid Funerals (part of Scotmid Co-operative, we all know their food stores) have been conducting funerals for over 90 years in Edinburgh and Leith, so they know a thing or two when it comes to funerals and supporting families. .

Christine Crompton – one of seven funeral directors at Scotmid Funerals – has kindly agreed to chat to the Leither Magazine about her role, which she loves, as well as answering some questions the readers have asked. 

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Christine (left) and Lisa, outside Scotmid Funerals, Duke Street

So Christine, how did you become a Funeral Director, what made you want to do the job?

I worked in the hospitality industry for many years and have always enjoyed dealing with people. I started as a Funeral Arranger and progressed through to a Funeral Director. It’s an amazing job, and it is such a privilege to look after people when they need help at a very painful time. 

Have you ever dropped a coffin with a person in it [we won’t tell anyone}?

Fortunately no, its not happened to me, and I hope it never does. Care and dignity of the deceased is paramount to us, so I’d be devastated if it ever happened.

Do you ever get spooked with a dead body?

In my early days, yes, I did get a bit ‘spooked’ as you put it, but you quickly learn, and appreciate your dealing with someone’s relative. You just concentrate on the care you give the person; the team treat everyone as if they were a member of our own family.

What was the strangest request at a funeral?

You can get some unusual requests, one thing I’ve learnt is that there’s no such thing as a traditional funeral, they are all different, so whatever a family wishes we’ll try to accommodate it; as long as it’s legal! The strangest request so far would be when we were asked to book a funeral for someone who hadn’t died yet! Not a question we get every day.

Ever had a bump with the funeral cars on way to service?

Not that I’m willing to admit too! Only kidding! No it’s not happened to me yet!

It’s a privilege to look after people when they need help at a very painful time

How much training do you have to do to become a funeral director?

We have a comprehensive 12 week training that all staff go through to learn how to arrange a funeral, with a further 6 weeks of training to be able to conduct funerals. There are also external qualifications we can take, I’ve just passed with a distinction, which I’m really proud of. 

What happens when weather prevents a funeral service from going ahead?

We only cancel a funeral if it’s absolutely necessary, we did have to postpone some during the ‘Beast from the East’ in 2018, but these were quickly rearranged the following week. 

Are you ever surprised by what some families may want to put in the coffin?

Yes, with a cremation there are certain things that can’t be included, as the crematoriums have to comply with strict emissions. With a burial almost anything can go in the coffin. The usual things are lovely photographs and letters from the family, to the more unusual items, such as a lottery ticket (hopefully not a winning one). 

Are there lots of females in this job? People seem to assume it’s a male role?

Out of the seven funeral directors at Scotmid there are three females, myself, Kirsty at our Broxburn office and Danielle who is a 25 year old trainee, it’s great to see her coming through she’s really excited and passionate about it and I’m sure she’ll do really well.

Tell us some of the questions your family and friends asked you when you first started working as a funeral director.

People don’t seem to know what to say at first, a taxi driver asked me what I did for a living and he was speechless (a first for a taxi driver!). Then people are inquisitive about the role. They usually ask do you get emotional? Well we do, it can be difficult to hold emotions in, especially if you’re dealing with the death of a baby or a very young person. But it can also be a very rewarding to help families to celebrate the lives of their loved ones.

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