What a notion – first aid for the professionals that deal with death every day?   Let’s talk about a successful internal programme we launched to assist our colleagues in 2024.  

What is GFA?

Grief first aid is just that.  First aid for anyone facing loss.  Normal first aid is about taking early steps to minimise a critical situation and to hand over to more experienced professionals who can provide the necessary expertise in a more appropriate setting.  So grief first aid is being equipped to recognise and take early action to respond to anyone who may be suffering as a result of loss, grief or bereavement.

Why do funeral directors need GFA?

There’s three parts to why.  

  1. First, our job takes us into the heart of families who are coping with one of life’s most challenging experiences.  For some it’s been anticipated and for others, completely unexpected.  Shock, sadness, fear, guilt, distress, anger are some of the common feelings families experience when we come to meet them.  Whilst we are entirely professional, we’re also very human.  Our role is to look after those who have died, and serve the families left behind as well as those who are wanting to get a future funeral plan in place.  And we do this because we care. But it’s also true that there are some funerals which make us pause, just for a moment.  We’re close up to death daily, and sometimes it can take it’s toll.  

  2. We’re also not immune to bereavement in our own lives and have learned that even events from many years ago can be triggered by something in our jobs or lives today creating an unexpected response.  

  3. Finally, the Covid years disrupted our profession.  We stepped up and didn’t stop during and after the pandemic.  During the worst months, we were prevented from caring for families the way we were used to and had to navigate our clients, our staff and other stakeholders through unprecedented times. The legacies of those years left a build-up of untapped emotions and expectations in our people.  

Working with the Professionals

Last year we approached Cruse, one of the UK’s leading bereavement charities and became one of the inaugural teams to trial a Grief First Aid course they were launching.  Around 20 of our staff across each region attended a series of online courses and set about creating our first GFA support team. 

We’re now equipped with a deeper understanding of how grief impacts on everyday life, in the workplace and crucially, we recognise signs of need which we may have ignored before.  In only a few weeks, a team of people looked at their colleagues through a different lens and two months later, were actively supporting folks around them.

The benefits to this training are many but one to single out is this.  Listening in a safe, secure place (on line or in person) is the most effective early intervention a person needs, and is also the most human of responses to anyone suffering loss.  Being heard, respected and supported early on can potentially stave off far more serious behaviour or consequences as well as strengthen and build internal bonds of support.  

Creating a team of qualified listeners and safe spaces means we are more conscious about offering help than before – something we can be guilty of exactly because of our professionalism. Grief first aid has been a catalyst for many new internal initiatives focused on employee well-being generally, ensuring the benefits cascade throughout the company.  

So, yes, funeral directors do benefit from grief first aid.  We’re proud to share this and look forward to a year ahead we’re even more equipped to support those facing loss.

Further information is available from https://www.cruse.org.uk/organisations/grief-first-aid-training/