Care and support in stressful times
Few experiences are as emotionally devastating as the death of a loved one. And few professionals are as engaged with that personal trauma as funeral directors. Each and every day they care for people who are trying their best to cope with a tragic event.
SAIFSupport (designed for funeral directors and their staff) and SAIF Care (designed for clients) help people handle the stresses and strains that can sometimes be overpowering. One person who has seen their benefits at first hand is Sean Martin, Head of Operations at Peasgood & Skeates, an Independent with several branches in the south east of the country.
He explained: “We subscribed to SAIFSupport and SAIF Care from their launch.
“We’re a family owned business and Investors in People gold award holders. Investing in staff health, education and welfare is an essential part of our ethos. It helps to ensure that we recruit the best people and that they are supported to deliver the very highest standards. SAIF Care is a natural extension to the service we offer families. We endeavour to continue to support our clients after the funeral has been concluded. Very often it is in the weeks following when depression and loneliness can set in and when people need the support the most.”
As Sean pointed out, when a death occurs, families rally together and there is a lot to be done – funeral and reception to arrange, interviews with the vicar or celebrant etc, deciding on music, mustering the strength to come to view their loved one and so on. On the day of the funeral a bereaved person is surrounded by family, friends, warmth, love and empathy. Then, just a day or two after, that’s all gone.
“What we’ve experienced,” said Sean, “is that some people continue to visit our funeral homes for a cup of tea or chat for many months following the funeral. It’s the last place their loved one was cared for and often the last place they saw and talked about them. A lot of emotion is tied up in our homes and the relationships created with our staff.
“We are very happy for people to visit and to reassure them, but we are not qualified to deal with deeper set emotional feelings and those who are struggling with their grief and loss.”
That’s where SAIF Care helps. It allows Sean and his colleagues to refer those clients who are struggling with their loss on to professionals who can give personalised counselling support. They already have several examples where people have benefited (see this month’s full edition for more).
The advantages of SAIFSupport were made clear for Sean last summer. Sadly, one of the civil celebrants that Peasgood & Skeates worked with closely died very unexpectedly. “That event had a huge impact on some of our staff, some of whom are still in their 20s and 30s and have not yet personally experienced loss in their family. Seeing others go through bereavement at close hand can get a little overwhelming. The funeral profession can be emotionally trying at times for the people who work within it.
“At the same time, everyone encounters stress in their life every now and again, whether that’s difficulties with relationships, mental health challenges or money worries.”
He emphasised that there are two groups of people of paramount importance at Peasgood & Skeates. First, clients and their relatives they entrust to the staff. Secondly, the staff themselves. “That’s why we enthusiastically promote SAIFSupport with posters and leaflets throughout our office and discussion at staff meetings. It’s also why we have two mental health first aiders among our staff, equipped to identify individuals who may need some help.”
It is a natural part of the company ethos for members of staff at every level to have a duty of care to support each other. SAIFSupport is a natural extension to that, which helps support senior management when staff ask for help with particularly difficult emotional challenges or are finding it hard to cope. The alternative is asking their GP for help, but an NHS counselling referral could take 12 to 18 months to materialise. During that time their challenges can get worse and their effectiveness at work can be adversely affected.
Sean said: “We can get them help promptly, so that they navigate their way through their difficulties and remain effective and caring members of our team.”
He added that staff who have been helped through SAIFSupport have been very positive about the experience. “We do not get to know what issues have been discussed – that is wholly confidential, which is another reason why staff feel inclined to use it. For us it has meant fewer absences through illness, depression or low mood.”
Given his experience with the services, Sean has no hesitation in providing a recommendation.
“Any funeral firm wishing to provide strong aftercare to their clients and a fit and healthy team of employees would be very well advised to support the SAIFSupport and SAIF Care programme. Among other things, SAIF Care sets you apart from your competitors and a healthy workforce is a happy, dependable and reliable workforce. It’s in your interest to help your clients and employees who find life emotionally challenging.
“It is undoubtedly the morally right thing to do in executing your duty of care as a community facing business and employer.”