Article as published in Funeral Service Journal, May 2018
Benn Abdy-Collins explains the route he took – and what motivated him
My why began whilst I was mentally preparing for my mum’s death from cancer; known to be soon, just not when. Mum had just stopped breathing when I entered her room and I felt her carotid pulse its final two beats.
Those moments in April 2004 changed my life. Mum’s death was expected but still devastating. In preparation, I’d volunteered in a hospice and decided I wanted to work with dying and death. Afterwards, I trained with Cruse Bereavement Care and became Hillingdon Branch Chair.
Having specialised in helping people through times of significant change, my interfaith minister friend suggested funeral celebrancy. I took two and a half years getting through the course, before feeling ready to take funerals. Finally, in October, 2017, I qualified as a Green Fuse-trained Funeral Celebrant with an NVQ 3 from the Open College, London. In the days surrounding this, my favourite aunt and mother-in-law both died. Together, these deaths reminded me of the rending grief death can wreak on life.
Whilst completing my course, I’ve be pallbearing part-time for 18 months; this gives me a broad understanding of how the “front end” of a funeral works. I admire the dedication of funeral teams, often under difficult pressures, to keep everything running smoothly for the mourners to say goodbye. In that respect, I may be one of a handful of celebrants who do.
Our world is changing, whilst traditional religious funerals continue, I am told that secular, alternative or non-religious funeral are on the increase. Greater personalisation of ceremonial rituals and a greater focus on the individual, their life and legacy, are gaining traction.
My vocation is to facilitate family needs and to provide unique, personalised services that fulfil what the family and friends are wanting. At the end of a service, the priceless quiet ‘thank you’ and ‘lovely service’ always show me the priceless value my work brings. And ‘good job’ from the FD is always welcome.
I know how devasting grief and bereavement can be. Britain has an aging population and as the older generations slowly go, midlifers become heads of the family and see the world change around them. It is in these times that I’m honoured to be there to help; to listen, to build effective ceremonies to say goodbye and to support people through these difficult times of transition.
For me, my work, whilst new, is nerve-wracking, invigorating, rich and rewarding. I consider myself very lucky to be following my vocation; long may it continue.