'It's weird being young in this industry' - 22-year-old describes life as a funeral director
PUBLISHED: 12:00 14 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:01 14 August 2019
One of the youngest funeral directors in the county has talked about the role he plays in helping people say goodbye to their loved ones.
Rhys Askham, now 22, has been working for Rosedale Funerals since he was 14, when he started work experience at the Diss branch.
Since then the Attleborough youngster has become a fully qualified funeral director, regularly leading families in Wymondham and Attleborough between death and the final ceremony.
Being one of the youngest funeral directors in the county means Rhys often faces comments about his age from families, as well as reactions ranging from intrigue to horror from friends.
He said: "It is weird being young in this industry and even now I've been doing it for years people make comments about how young I look. Some of my friends want to know everything and others won't ask any questions because it's taboo to them. More people my age are starting to get into the industry, especially now that we're moving away from traditional funerals."
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Mark Hall, who trains aspiring funeral directors at the Attleborough and Wymondham branches, said educating new staff was crucial to producing staff able to deal with the often unpredictable funeral process.
He said: "There is a lot that can go wrong on the day. Hursts can break down, people can be ill and you have to think of everything. I always have safety pins on the inside of my jacket in case of any wardrobe malfunctions."
For many in the industry, remaining calm in stressful situations the hardest aspect of the job.
Rhys said the pressure of dealing with grief on a day to day basis could weigh on staff and that sometimes it was hard to say goodbye to a family at the end of the process.
This became even more imperative a few years ago, when Rhys arranged his own grandfather's funeral, even preparing the body ahead of the ceremony.
He said: "This role is an incredible honour because you are the person in charge of restoring someone's dignity after they die. It is rewarding to make peoples' loved ones look like themselves again, particularly because often the last time they saw them they looked so ill."