Full Circle – Funerals Your Way
A few years ago, at a business networking meeting, I met David Billington from Full Circle Funerals who’s founder, Sarah Jones was offering a refreshingly different, more holistic approach to Funeral Directing. I’ve been watching how Full Circle have developed in the interim years and the direction they have taken and also during that time recommended friends who have used their services and can’t speak too highly about Sarah and her team. It is an absolute pleasure therefore to welcome Sarah as a future guest writer for A Monumental Muse. First, we thought that we’d share a little insight into Sarah and her company Full Circle.
Could you share a little about your background and how you came to end up as a Funeral Director?
I started my career in the NHS and was a surgeon before branching out to work with adults with learning difficulties and challenging behaviour. I had always been interested in how we deal with death and dying, particularly here in the UK (my mum’s from the Netherlands where people talk much more openly about end of life than we do here). This and the end of life experience I’d had in my career and training led me to explore how to help people have a more positive funeral experience.
In what way, if any, is it different being a lady in this Profession?
Some people tell us that they would rather be supported by a woman, but in the past death and funeral care were carried out by women within a community and funeral care was very much seen as a caring and female responsibility. The funeral industry is classically considered to be a male-dominated industry but there are also many female funeral arrangers and directors.
“Funerals your way” – what exactly does this mean, please?
We believe that funerals are important and that with the right support a funeral can be a helpful experience and support better mental and physical wellbeing. “Funerals Your Way” means that people receive the support that they need to create a funeral that truly reflects the person who has died and is helpful for their family and friends.
What would a typical day look like for you?
Our primary focus in to look after the people in our care and support their families. We work hard to tailor the style and tone of our support to the specific needs of a family so what we do will be slightly different in every situation. Some people would like us to give them very clear direction whereas other people want to be given the information that they need to be able to make the choices that feel right for them. We meet with families, arrange everything based on their choices, liaise with others involved in the funeral and make sure that the people in our care are looked after in a gentle, safe, and thoughtful way.
On many days, we are at the funeral itself. The same member of the team will support a family throughout the arrangement process and then on the funeral day itself. We also provide as much post-funeral bereavement support as an individual or family would find helpful.
What parts of your job do you enjoy most and find most rewarding?
When someone tells you that they feel that they have created a funeral that they are really proud of, and that felt like a gift to the person who has died, it always gives me a lump in my throat! I also find it very rewarding to support people to express their own funeral wishes – when they are happy with the plan they have made then it always feels like they have a great sense of relief and satisfaction.
If you had one word of advice for someone who has recently lost a loved one what would it be?
Be kind to your self – don’t place too many expectations on yourself or how you are going to feel…
Could you share a little more about the different support services and webinars you’re offering, please?
Everyone in the team is involved in raising awareness about funeral choices and increasing transparency around funeral care and funeral directors. We write blogs, which we hope are informative and empowering, host webinars, lead funeral care research to contribute to raising standards of care for people who have been bereaved. Our webinars are on a huge range of subjects and everyone is welcome to attend. The atmosphere is friendly and informal and attendees can leave their cameras off if they prefer.
We think it is really important to provide a full continuum of care, so we support people to express their funeral wishes, purchase funeral plans and also offer bereavement support after a funeral has taken place. We can offer this through SAIF Care, signpost to local organisations and also host a monthly bereavement peer support group. It is an informal and safe place to talk and listen and many people have told us that they have found it very helpful. It is open to everyone who would like to attend, not just people who have used our services.
Do you have any funny/amusing stories you could share with us about things that have happened?
When my daughter was four I was asked to come in to her nursery and have a chat with the manager. She looked worried and asked me what I did at work. I asked her why she was concerned and she said that my daughter had told her that “Mummy looks after dead people and helps their families to say goodbye”. I thought it was a beautiful description of funeral care and I explained that is exactly what I do!
I know you’ve expanded into a few towns recently, what are your aspirations for Full Circle in the future?
First and foremost, I want to finish every workday feeling like I have done something that either helps an individual or family or contributes to raising expectations and standards of funeral care. Two new team members recently joined us, we are involved in some very interesting funeral research, we are launching our first funeral podcast and I will be preparing the second edition of my funeral self-help guide “Funerals Your Way – A Person Centred Approach to Planning a Funeral”. All of that will be keeping me pretty busy for the foreseeable future.
What do you like to do in your spare time/hobbies?
I hang out in nature with my lovely family, skim read mountains of books, cook a lot and drink copious amounts of tea!
Do you have any thoughts about the current situation with Covid19 and what people can do after to celebrate life when they are all able to get together?
I believe that it is really important to share information about post-funeral rituals so that people are more likely to find opportunities that are helpful for them. There are so many activities that people can choose to take part in at any point after the funeral and these can be in so many different forms. From choosing a headstone, scattering ashes somewhere special, creating jewellery or vinyl records with ashes or making memory wands, jars or pebbles.
Some people may choose to host a memorial service and invite many people; some may place a bench in a preferred location, and others may cook a favourite recipe or cake. It might be very helpful to renovate an old piece of furniture, paint a picture, write a poem or complete a physical challenge to raise money for the funeral charity – if people know what is possible, then they are more likely to find something that will enable them to create positive continuing bonds and support their wellbeing.
With thanks to Sarah Jones from Full Circle Funerals. Sarah’s first guest blog post will be published later this week.
Sarah can be contacted directly by telephone: 01943 262626 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org her website is: https://fullcirclefunerals.co.uk/about-us/funeral-directors-harrogate/
Full Circle Funerals branches can be found in Halifax. Bramley, Leeds, Harrogate and Guiseley.
© Text: Sharon Malone & Sarah Jones 2021 Images: Sarah Jones, Full Circle Funerals.