A teacher has told how she quit the profession to retrain as a funeral embalmer.
When Laura Eave finished school, working at an undertaker’s was at the top of her career choices.
Growing up in the early 1990s in Lancashire, however, both family and friends felt it was too dark a career for a young woman.
So Laura, now 43, trained to teach English as a foreign language, heading to Shanghai in China with her boyfriend.
Laura found herself there for more than decade, enjoying life as an international teacher immersed in the local culture.
But when her grandmother died on the day of her wedding, and the funeral directors helped them organise the funeral to help her speed back to China as a newlywed couple, the seed of the career ambition was re-sown.
Laura eventually quit her job and started studying an online course with the National Association of Funeral Directors for a year before applying for a role in Shanghai.
When her initial attempts at making it in the funeralcare sector in China didn’t pan out, Laura and her partner returned to the UK, where she applied to join the Co-op Funeralcare in Preston. Now, seven years after returning to the UK, Laura works as an embalmer with the Co-op Funeralcare in Salford.
She said: “I liked teaching, but as an English teacher, there was only so far my career could go, and soon enough I’d reached the glass ceiling.”
It was the death of her grandmother on the day of her wedding that reignited an old interest in funeralcare for Laura.
She said: “The funeral directors at the time were fantastic in speeding up the process of organising the funeral so my husband and I could attend and bid our farewell before flying back to China as a newly-wed couple. Their professionalism meant so much to me.”
It proved a great move: “I instantly felt valued and seen, and always had a really good sense of just how much our work meant to each family that turned to Co-op for help.”
Laura began studying for her embalming qualifications, graduating only weeks before the pandemic began.
Laura said: “I often think it must be mind-boggling to others how I ended up in funeralcare but once my grandmother had died, I just knew this was my true calling. I allowed myself to pursue an old passion for looking after families during their time of bereavement and soon realised, it was not the living left behind that I wanted to take care of, but the deceased.
“Dying can be the worst, most isolating experience of your life, and I knew the second I joined Co-op that I would ultimately only want to be an advocate for the deceased. It’s a privilege to make sure they are taken care of the way they deserve to be for one last time.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you funeralcare is a dark, macabre career path to go down. It cannot be further from the truth - sure, we do look after the deceased, but our job is a celebration of life, through and through.”