Be Inspired Series
Funeral Planning Advisor
Funeral Services Northern Ireland
Funeral Services Northern Ireland has 19 funeral homes across Northern Ireland, including James Brown & Son, established in 1904. The business employs 140 staff and is part of The Co-operative Group.
What does your job entail?
My role is wide ranging and very interesting. It involves advising families and individuals on the wide range of pre-paid funeral plans available from Funeral Services Northern Ireland and liaising with our 19 funeral homes across the Province.
As a funeral planning advisor I visit clients in their own homes or at one of our local funeral homes. I provide advice, support and discuss the various options available to help our customers personalise their funeral plan to their exact needs and individual requirements.
I am also involved in developing and delivering training to nursing home staff on bereavement and grief awareness.
As part of Funeral Services Northern Ireland, I also have the pleasure of supporting local community initiatives. One of the recent initiatives was helping to plant a community orchard in Lilian Bland Park, Glengormley in conjunction with Glengormley Community Group. The aim was to have an orchard where all members of the community will be able to spend time and pick the fruit.
Is it 9-5?
I work from home but travel quite a bit throughout the week to visit clients at a time and in a place that is convenient for them. Representing our 19 funeral homes takes me around the country and my hours and my working week are entirely flexible based on our clients’ needs.
How did you get into this line of work?
I took a break from full-time employment when I had my children. I became interested in counselling and completed several courses, gaining the recognised professional AQA advanced diploma in counselling qualification.
This led to me becoming a bereavement volunteer at the charity Cruse Bereavement Care. When the opportunity came to join Funeral Services Northern Ireland as a funeral arranger it felt like a natural progression.
Outline your career to date?
I left school at 16 and began my career as a receptionist. After a couple of years I joined a stationery supplies company as a sales administrator. I worked in this organisation until 2000 when I left to start a family.
Following voluntary work with Parents’ Advice Centre and Cruse Bereavement Care from 2008 to 2010, I joined Funeral Services Northern Ireland in early 2009 as a funeral arranger based in Brown’s Houston & Williamson in Glengormley. The funeral home was new to the area so my role involved marketing and community outreach to establish recognition of the business locally.
Tell us about your qualifications/training.
After having two children I went to Newtownabbey Regional College part time and completed a certificate in counselling, followed by the professional AQA advanced diploma in counselling. During this time I volunteered with Parents’ Advice Centre on their helpline and then I spent two years with Cruse as a bereavement volunteer.
When I started working for Funeral Services Northern Ireland I was offered the opportunity to study for a professional qualification in funeral care and in autumn 2009 I began the IAFD (Irish Association of Funeral Directors) certificate in funeral practice which I successfully completed earlier this year.
What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?
On a day to day basis I may be faced with a number of challenging situations. I believe that being professional in dealing with clients, in what can be a difficult subject to discuss, is very important. I am caring and empathetic to the needs of the client in order to help them plan a funeral with as little stress as possible.
As an advisor it is important that I have the ability to communicate clearly and help clients fully understand the choices available to them.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Never regret anything that once made you smile… a good friend gave me this advice a long time ago and I have found it a good rule in life.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy spending time with my husband Stephen and two children Kathryn (11) and Connor aged eight, as well as socialising with my friends and looking forward to family trips and holidays.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
Quite embarrassing, as my job involves a lot of driving, but I managed to pass my driving test 10 years and seven driving tests after first getting behind a wheel. The good news is that since passing in 1999 I have never had an accident (touch wood).
Who has inspired you most in your life?
Ian Thompson who was the tutor on my advanced diploma in counselling course at Northern Regional College was a very inspirational person and showed me there were different ways to look at the situations we all face in life. I believe that his influence then has changed my outlook on life a great deal and I have a much more positive outlook now.