UK. Brentwood. Funeral director reveals tragic reality of baby services and mediating family bust-ups

15.02.2020
UK. Brentwood. Funeral director reveals tragic reality of baby services and mediating family bust-ups - Похоронный портал
There are many different sides to being a funeral director (Image: Bennetts)

Some funerals can be so big it's like arranging a wedding


By Hope Woolston. Multimedia Reporter


The sight of a dead body might be unthinkable for some.

But there are those for whom death is in their daily routine.

Meet the funeral directors who make even the most garish requests work, mediate family arguments, and are faced with heartbreaking situations daily - some of which are so sad it causes them to break down.

Bennetts Funeral Directors have been serving Essex for more than 125 years.

Over this time, the funeral business has changed, so much so that Bennetts has recently purchased a Land Rover hearse to accommodate 21st century requests.

Managing director Jane Bennett and operations manage Tina Pettengale, have spoken about the best and worst parts of their jobs and how funerals have changed in Essex.

"We are only human"




Jane Bennett, Managing Director


They will arrange funerals for all ages, including babies who have been lost due to a miscarriage.

As parents themselves, Jane and Tina find witnessing such grief difficult.

Jane said: "Parents who lose their child before they are born are always given the opportunity to have a funeral for them.

"Some people haven't even told others that they are pregnant, so they don't know what to do.

"It's the little things that get to me, I will be sitting with a family and you cannot forget how so tragically sad they are"

When arranging a funeral for a child, the chapel is set up for the family to go and spend time with them.

Jane said: "We make it a comfortable place for them to be, more like a living room.

"They can spend whatever time they like in there."

Tina arranges the majority of child funerals and is not afraid to express her emotions.

She said: "I remember coming for my interview and telling Jane that I don't think I would be able to deal with a baby's funeral as I thought I would just end up in floods of tears.

"She said 'good' otherwise I wouldn't be good for the job."

Tina was right, she has found herself crying when working with bereaved parents, but she believes it is a sign she is good at what she does.

She explained: "One family wanted me to read a poem in their service.

"I ended up crying my eyes out and the dad put his arms around me.

"I believe it is still professional if you breakdown.

"You cannot become desensitised, because if you do then you can't give the family the empathy that they deserve.

"I think every single baby service I have ever done I have kept a connection with the family.

"People don't know what to say to grieving parents, so they don't say anything at all.

"I have even had people tell me that people have crossed the street to avoid talking to them after they have lost a child.

"It must feel like your heart is being ripped out, how do you even begin to cope?

"How could we not take that home with us at the end of the day? We are only human, not robots."




The memory tree at Brentwood


Heightened tensions

After someone dies, it is obviously stressful and it is the job of a funeral director to liaise with families - some of whom may be arguing.

Jane said: "We are finding more issues within families.

"We have had massive family arguments in here before."

Tina said she has had times where she thought she was going to have to make people leave funerals because of their family feuds.

They often deal with multiple members of the family so that they can include as much as possible to please everyone.

Tina said: "We have had to make people leave the premises before because they are arguing about arrangements.

"When families come in and get along, you almost look at them like they are strange."

Challenging tradition

Jane explained how funerals have become more of an event than they once were.

"It's like arranging a wedding, we have to do the same things but within a two week time scale.

"We have to consider the catering, the venue, the music and who is going to do the service.

"We used to just be the people who looked after the deceased, but we are so much more than that now."

In recent years, the staff at Bennetts have seen more and more people choosing to personalise funerals in Essex.




A funeral arranged by Bennetts in the past


Jane said: "In this area more people are open to being a bit different.

"We have every colour tie you could imagine for our staff and plumes for the horses."

Another big trend change they have noticed is the lack of religion in services.

Jane explained: "Traditionally you would have has a church service, but now the majority are at the crematorium.

"Direct cremations are also becoming more popular.

"We will take the deceased to the crematorium and that is that."

Tina explained how families can often find it hard to accept it when their loved ones request a simple funeral with no service.

She said: "families want to fulfill their loved ones wishes, but it can be hard for them.

"The funeral service is a ritual part of the grieving process, if you don't have it it can be hard for some people to move on."

With changing traditions, Bennetts has also added some modern touches.

As well as the traditional Rolls Royce limousines and hearses, and the horse drawn carriages, they offer some more current options.

Most noticeable of these is their Land Rover Defender hearse.




The Land Rover hearse (Image: Bennetts)


It has become a popular choice for those wanting a more alternative funeral.

The idea for the Land Rover came from Jane's son, a Land Rover enthusiast, and it has been extremely popular so far.

She said: "It's good for more uplifting services.

"A lot of people prefer it for young people because it is less somber looking." 

Tina and Jane said that they will do all they can to give people the send of their family wants, however they do have limits.

Tina told us about one of most memorable requests she has had, she said: "I have been asked to dress as a jester before, but I wouldn't do it.

"Even though we are a part of the funeral we don't want to be noticed, we are there to be in the background."

Jane continued: "There are some things we won't do.

"We have certain standards and we still have to look respectful."

"People haven't got the time for respect"




Tina Pettengale, Operations Manager


Over the years, Jane and Tina claim that respect for funerals has reduced.

It is something they have noticed in Essex specifically, and not elsewhere where they occasionally work, such as Norfolk.

They described how many drivers do not allow a funeral procession to pass, something they believe is extremely disresprectful.

Tina said: "One of our conductors has been hit before, I was almost run over at one funeral twice because people just have no respect.

"People will drive between the cars and get between the horses." 

Jane explained how she believes people do not think about how it makes the families feel.

She said: "People haven't got the extra five minutes to travel behind us.

"It is that person's last ever journey, we don't travel too slow but people just haven't got the respect to wait.

"People haven't got the time or the manners and sadly it is becoming more and more common."


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