Funeral Directors Category: West Midlands
Lucy Forrest. This is Lucy’s business, and she has created the look and feel of it to reflect her personality and her values. Everything, from the light, bright colourful premises through to the comprehensive company website has been put together personally by her, thoughtfully, with care and consideration, and a talented eye for detail.
Lucy is absolutely lovely; she was described to us as ‘kind and thoughtful, compassionate and professional’, and when we met her, these qualities were evident as she described the journey that she has taken to becoming the newest funeral director in Stoke-on-Trent. We like her very much indeed, her quiet strength and intelligence and her dedication to her work make her just the sort of person we would want walking alongside us when somebody died.
The daughter of an accountant, Michael Duffy, Lucy’s career before funerals included accountancy, law and estate agency, providing her with a varied and comprehensive set of skills. As her two children grew up, she found the world of estate agency beginning to lose its appeal; as she describes it “I grew tired of the ‘rat race’ of property and had a hankering to do something that made a genuine difference in people’s lives.”
Sadly, it was to be the sudden death of her beloved father in 2018 that was to be the catalyst that opened her eyes to the possibility of working in the world of funerals. The excellent care that Lucy, her mother, and Lee, her husband, received as they struggled with the unfamiliar experience of organising a funeral while dealing with the shock of their loss meant so much to them all, and almost immediately after the funeral Lucy told her husband that she wanted to work in funerals.
Wisely, Lee suggested that she wait for six months to see if she still felt the same as the rawness of her grief subsided, but six months later, the urge to find a new career in the funeral sector was equally as strong, and Lucy joined a large corporate funeral company as a driver/bearer.
She absolutely loved it and took to the role instantly. Within a short while, her potential was spotted by the management, and she was promoted to the role of funeral director, responsible for a branch where she worked alongside a funeral arranger and the team of driver / bearers she had previously been part of. She was a natural in her new role, and even as the Covid-19 pandemic bore down on the world, she continued to thrive in her work, serving families through the most difficult of times and effectively on the front line.
This thorough grounding in all the elements of funeral directing led to Lucy being highly respected by those who worked with her. One of the testimonials we received as part of the accreditation process said ‘My colleagues were always relieved when they knew it was Lucy they would be working with, as they knew they and the bereaved families were in very good and capable hands. The staff at the local cemetery and crematoria were always pleased to see Lucy as they, too, knew the family were being looked after.’ Other testimonials all echoed similar praise, citing her kindness, empathy and professionalism.
As time went by, and as the world emerged from the worst of the pandemic, Lucy began to find working under the restrictions of corporate policies increasingly frustrating and limiting. She yearned for the freedom to be able to truly support the wishes of each family, to help clients be creative with their funerals, and she found it harder and harder to only offer funerals that fitted with the company structure and customs. The idea of creating her own funeral business began to take shape.
And then Lucy found the premises in Burslem. She remembers the first time she and Lee went to look at the former funeral home, on a dark rainy night in February. As they stepped into the empty, drab space, she knew it was perfect, even before she had seen all around it. Lee looked at her and said, “we’re having this, aren’t we?”, and the Lucy’s dream of having her own business took a step closer a reality.
It took a huge amount of time and effort to bring the functional building to life in the way Lucy envisaged it. The former owners had made the internal structure practical and workable; Lucy’s touch has made it beautiful and welcoming. She knew exactly how she wanted it to look and feel, and she was involved in every step as the premises began to take on ‘the Lucy touch’.
Light, bright and colourful, the building has an open layout and is fully accessible for everyone – this aspect is particularly important to Lucy who is passionate about ensuring equity and accessibility. From the street outside it’s easy to see what you’re going into, whether you’re walking in or using the ramp to wheel in your wheelchair; the half frosted windows allow light to fill the open plan reception area where Lucy is usually found sitting at her desk near the entrance. The colour scheme is light and bright, with the signature splashes of orange amidst green that identify the company’s look picked up in the soft furnishings.
To the left of the entrance door, comfortable sofas create an informal, cosy area where visitors or passers-by can sit for a chat and have a coffee from the little drinks station. Just beyond, a door leads to the cosy Cedar Room, with more comfy sofas where you can have privacy to discuss funeral arrangements. On the wall in the arrangement room is one of Lucy’s ‘trademark’ decal designs of a little tree with green and orange leaves blowing away, along with a gorgeous picture of an owl. A little LED tree and lamps provide lighting and make this room immediately feel inviting.
Towards the back of the open centre of the building, there is a second space with a large table and higher chairs, offering an alternative, slightly more formal setting for funeral arrangements, particularly suited to clients who might find sofas a little too low. Another decal design of the ‘Forrest tree’ is on the wall here, and another feature picture, this time of a robin.
We commented on the two striking pictures of birds hanging in the arrangement areas, and Lucy explained that they are in honour – and memory – of the two most important people whose love, support and inspiration made the creation of Forrest and Family possible; Lucy’s Nana, Irene Moss, who loved owls, and Lucy’s Dad, Michael, who she feels is closely identified with robins (she has a robin tattoo in his memory). This lovely inclusion of tributes to these special people brings their presence and support into Lucy’s work every day, and again reminds you of how personal this service is.
One touch that we particularly liked was the clothes rail with assorted items of clothing hanging on full display. This means that clients can see – and touch if they want to – the various choices of clothes that the staff might wear, including Lucy’s stunning brocade frock coat that many clients ask her to wear to conduct their funeral. It is a deliberate choice, to have the clothes rail visible and accessible, and such a simple but important idea, that we haven’t come across before. Usually company clothing is stored away in a wardrobe or cupboard, but Lucy instinctively feels it can be helpful for clients to be able to see what staff will be wearing in advance. The client loo is also entirely accessible and suitable for wheelchair users.
Tucked away at the back of the open space is the lovely Willow Room of Rest where you can spend time with your person who has died. Beautifully simple and attractively decorated and furnished, this room has a calm and quiet that is perfect. On the wall behind where the coffin is placed, a huge decal of the Forrest tree with the drifting-away leaves is a lovely feature, with gentle subliminal messaging about the natural cycle of life.
Lucy has made sure there is comfortable seating in here, and also some high stools so that, if you want to, you can sit alongside the coffin and look into it easily, without having to reach up to hold a hand or to touch the person’s hair. The room is designed to be comfortable, to invite people to stay as long as they want, and of course, if you want to bring in personal items to make it feel familiar, you are positively encouraged to do so.
Behind the scenes (although you are absolutely able to visit it if you want to see where your person will be kept) is the mortuary area, fully equipped with refrigeration and a large embalming table which is used to easily bathe the people in Lucy’s care and to wash their hair. Once they have been dried and dressed, every person is wrapped in a light blanket while they rest in the fridge. As you would expect, Lucy is fully involved in the care of all of those she is responsible for – she calls them her guests, and treats every one as though they were someone known to – and loved by – her family.
The building extends further, with more space which will, in time, be converted into a room specifically for washing and dressing guests, and there are plans for air conditioning to be installed in the future which would mean that guests could be placed in their coffins and not need to be in a fridge. Discrete access to and from the mortuary is available from a private drive alongside the building, with a purpose-built ramp. Screens ensure privacy from nearby houses, while gates block the view from the street. The company’s Mercedes Estate car which is used as a private ambulance is parked alongside the building – “I didn’t want a van,” Lucy says, “I feel a car is far more respectful and appropriate for collecting guests in.”
Outside the front of the building are bowls of water for any thirsty dogs that may be passing – a clue about another of Lucy’s passions. She loves animals, and has a collection of five cats, two rabbits and a gecko at home, and the company supports a local animal hospice.
Forrest & Family is a genuinely family-run company; Lucy’s utter dedication to her young business is supported by the strong commitment from her husband Lee and her two children, who are both genuinely interested in what she is doing. Lucy’s values of consistency of care and her holistic, progressive approach to her work are embedded in everything about her company, and her intelligent, thoughtful approach to every detail is evident to anyone looking at either her premises, her informative website or at the funerals she carries out.
Interestingly, along with the obvious values of openness and transparency and the quality of the personal service that Lucy can offer, one thing that impressed us was the importance that Lucy places on working collegiately, whether this is with her colleagues in her own business, or with a wider group of similar minded, independently owned funeral directors in the area. She has close connections with several other FDs who all help each other out if needed, and it’s clear that she values this support immensely, along with the closer-to-home, quiet, calm support from Lee and her two teenage children.
Offering an environmentally responsible service is also important to Lucy, as well as encouraging people generally to be more at ease discussing the subject of dying and death.
The whole look and feel of Forrest & Family Funeral Directors is different to the traditional, stereotypical funeral home. The branding is fresh and modern, and the inviting openness of the premises and the colourful furnishings mean that this business positively welcomes you in. This is a truly modern funeral company, one whose creator and owner has carefully and deliberately set out to make as approachable as possible.
Lucy is determined to break down the barriers that have gradually grown over the years that have led to many funeral businesses having an off-putting, curtained and closed frontage. She’s doing this by the way she’s designed her funeral home to be open and welcoming and by the way she works with her clients to create the funeral they want and need.
She also is passionate about encouraging people to have more natural, easy conversations about death and dying; this has grown from the conversations at home with her family around the dinner table to her co-hosting Death Cafes for people in the local community. The company’s active social media accounts share bright, thought inspiring images and suggestions, another way of Lucy to communicate her modern approach to funeral directing.
- Your first call will be answered by Lucy. It will also be Lucy and one of her colleagues who comes to collect the person who has died, and Lucy who will look after both them and you over the coming days. This continuity of care is of paramount importance to Lucy and to the values of her company.
- Home visits? Yes. Lucy always offers to come to you to make funeral arrangements and is happy to do so if you’d prefer.
- Family participation? Totally. You’ll be gently encouraged to play as much a part as you wish in the care of your person.
- Same sex person to wash and dress? Yes absolutely. Routinely, Lucy will carry out the care of all her guests, assisted by colleagues when necessary. Lucy also ensures she checks on all those in her care twice every day.
- Embalming? Not routinely offered. On the rare occasions where Lucy thinks it would be beneficial she will introduce the subject gently and make sure that the family concerned understands what is involved to enable informed decision making.
- Ethnic specialism? Lucy’s experience means that she is comfortable supporting families from all ethnicities and cultures.
- Home arranged funerals? Lucy will gladly support any clients who want to look after their person themselves. She is currently considering purchasing a Flexmort Cuddle Blanket which will be particularly useful in this scenario.
- Local celebrants? Lucy has good relationships with a number of local celebrants and will be happy to suggest any she feels are a good fit with you. She always sits in on funeral ceremonies, and when approached by a new celebrant she will arrange to meet with them in person, seek opinions of other funeral directors who have worked with them and assess their training and qualifications and observe a ceremony they are officiating at if possible, before entrusting them with a funeral for one of her clients. Lucy is also a signatory to the Funeral Celebrant Accord.
- Website – a lovely, elegant website with lots of useful information and advice. Easy to navigate, and prices are clearly outlined.
- Client support? As you would expect from someone so dedicated to service to their clients, Lucy offers exceptional support throughout your dealing with her, and she is able to signpost to bereavement support if this is needed.
- Money matters? Superb value for money for the personal service received. All pricing information is set out on the website here.
- Parking? In front of the premises, or on-street parking available on streets nearby.
We really like Lucy and the lovely company that she has created. She is intuitive and intelligent, supportive and empathetic, and she has the ‘superpower’ of attending to every single detail while juggling many tasks at the same time. She is reflective and thoughtful, and interested in the progressive funeral movement, absorbing and taking in different ideas and best practice. She’s undergoing in depth training while she works, undertaking studying for the DipFD to ensure she has the breadth and depth of knowledge required, but her experience and intelligence mean that she can support clients in even the most complex of funerals.
It’s clear that Lucy has imbued her company with the family values passed on from her Nana and her Dad, and she personifies everything that is good about being a funeral director. We wish her every success, and look forward to returning to see how her business has developed in the years to come.