Once a rarity, there are now many female funeral directors, arrangers and crematorium managers helping families to say farewell to their loved ones.

Former pub landlady and office manager Susan Taylor is a funeral director with Wolstenholmes in Accrington, part of Dignity Funerals.

“The past 12 months have definitely been the most challenging time of my career,” said Susan.

“We have had to quickly adapt to both the restrictions on funerals and constantly changing circumstances to ensure that our clients and colleagues remain safe.”

Last month, one funeral director at a Hyndburn home said they had been “burning the candle at both ends”.

And Susan says, like so many families, hers has been touched by bereavement in recent months.

“Last October my own grandmother passed away and we had to organise her funeral - adhering to the same restrictions with a limit of 30 attendees,” she said.

“We are a family with six children, 13 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren so it was difficult, but gave me a better understanding of what our clients have had to go through.”

In pre-Victorian times, before funeral directing became a profession, the practical tasks required when someone in a community died were divided among the male and female members of the family or village.

Facing death as part of her daily life and work, might seem difficult for some, but like many in the funeral sector it’s a vocation for Susan.

“As soon as I joined the funeral profession, I loved it - it felt like the job I had waited my whole life for,” she said.

“Like many women, a successful career hasn’t come easy to me and I’ve had to work hard. I am a single mother to three children so juggling home life and a career is difficult and you have to be very organised.

“I do sometimes get told ‘you wouldn’t get a woman doing this in my day’, but the reaction to female funerals directors is generally very positive. My children are very proud of me and other women are supportive.”

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 is “Choose to Challenge” - which is somewhat appropriate for the funeral sector as it strives to cope with the changing demands of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the challenges, Susan says it’s “very rewarding” when a family tells them that they have helped them or provided comfort.

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