More about Holly
So how does a girl who dreams
of horses become a Funeral Director?
Hello, my name is Holly and I care for both the dead and the living, not something I dreamed of when I was a little girl!
I grew up on a farm, spending all my time out with animals in the countryside, that was where I was always happiest. Horses were my passion and some of my earliest memories were of the excitement I would feel when I heard the trit-trot of horses hooves as they were ridden past our house.
Aged around 8 with my
2 brother's Charles & Simon
I was blessed to have been given my first pony, called Fudge, at the age of 9. I LOVED Fudge with all my heart and when I wasn't out with Fudge I enjoyed craft and walking with my mummy in the countryside and helping my daddy on the farm.
So you see, I wasn't someone destined to be a guide for the dead ...
Issy & Bo
Being outdoors, in the countryside with animals, no matter what the weather was like was my happy place.
I always wanted to work with horses but never felt comfortable with the British way of breaking in horses and riding them, I felt a more emotional connection to them, being able to sense how they felt.
At secondary school, probably aged around 12.
Back then there wasn't the prevalence of Natural Horsemanship as there is now, so I decided to become a Veterinary Nurse instead, a vocation that I enjoyed very much and only gave it up due to circumstances.
My beautiful son, Harvey, who loved to dress up as Superman, aged 3yrs
When I was 24 I had my beautiful son, Harvey and became a full time mummy. A job that has been one of the hardest and happiest of my life! It was during this time that I became aware that I had a natural gift in art, my mother has always been creative and so has my older brother, Simon, but up until then it had always been animals for me.
I started to both paint and sculpt in clay, yes, you guessed it, animals. . .
Harvey now, at nearly 20 years
having a pottery lesson.
I was lucky enough to have been selected for David Shepherds Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition 2015 and was delighted to have been awarded a Highly Commended for my piece, 'The March of the Leaves'
Oil painting commission
Mother & baby hippo's
'March of the Leaves'
mixed media sculpture
And then the following year I had all 5 of my porcelain miniatures accepted for the Royal Society of Miniature Artists Exhibition at The Mall Gallery, London and again awarded a Highly Commended.
My 'March of the Leaves' sculpture at The Mall Galleries, London
mother & baby Giraffe.
But I would say that the most fun I had was when I was Raku'ing with my friends! If you haven't had a go at this amazing art then I thoroughly recommend it, it's so much fun and the rewards are incredible, like discovering jewels as a child.
My 39th birthday happily spent outside playing with Raku
Raku is wonderfully dirty and smelly!
Very proud moment at The Mall Galleries,
London with my 5 porcelain miniatures
So how did I move from being an artist to being a funeral director? Well, in a way it's all down to my ex-husband, Andy ...
Andy used to work up in London and hated his job. On the train home one day he was doodling and he ended up doodling a coffin, as you do. It was an entirely new shape, made with bend plywood and softer in style not really looking like a coffin at all, rather a squashed Smartie tube.
I suggested he go ahead and make a prototype, which he did ... on our kitchen table ...
We ended up going to an exhibition with the coffin called The Ideal Death Show, and a whole new world opened up to me.
I would paint the coffins to whatever design the family would, this involved a lot of contact with the families.
Working in a very chilly workshop.
Pheasant oil painting on coffin!
This was a very popular design, wildflowers.
Demonstrating at The Ideal Death Show
I soon came to understand a more holistic way of supporting families during a bereavement through the very fact that I was supporting many of the families more than their actual funeral director was. I also became aware of the fact that people are so unaware of their choices with many funeral directors not educating people as to all their choices.
The more I thought about it the more I realised I had a duty to people to offer an alternative to the Victorian style funeral so at least people would have choice so, off I went to train as a funeral director and then with the help of Andy, I set up Holly's Funerals in Kent. In our first year we were awarded Best Direct Cremation Provider of the year at The Good Funeral Awards.
I left Holly's Funerals in November 2019 after my marriage breaking down, leaving my ex-husband to carry on that business but I left on a high note, I was delighted to have won Best Newcomer to the Trade at The Good Funeral Awards just before leaving in October 2019.
Funeral Director training
Speaking at The Good Funeral Guide, Be Better conference September 2019
Having started my End of Life Doula training, I am delighted to be End of Life Doula UK's and Living Well Dying Well's Death Care Specialist and so do training and speaking events for them helping to prepare the End of Life Doula's for the time when the person they are supporting dies.
Demonstrating at The National Association of Funeral
Winner, Best Newcomer to the Trade 2019, Good Funeral Awards
Winner, Best Direct Cremation
Provider 2017, Good Funeral Awards
Alongside many other funeral innovators, a day in London talking with the government on behalf of The Good Funeral Guide.
Teaching Ceremonial Care of the Body in Rye, East Sussex
I am passionate about educating people as to what their choices are and also how to care for their dead, something we have done since the beginning of time, only stopping in the last 100 years as death was hidden from us in hospitals and hospices.
So I teach, I hold 1 or 2 day workshops educating whomever wishes to know more as to how to Ceremonially Care for the Body. A 1 day course is £175 per person and a 2 day course is £300 per person if held in Rye, East Sussex. I am happy to travel but costs increase.
One of the most emotionally powerful aspects of my work is seeing how profound, how moving and helpful it is when family feel able to care for their dead with my support. It's a beautiful few hours that is so precious to the family and can help them process the loss and also care for and love their relative in death too.
Many people feel anxious about helping me do this, but every person who I have supported has has found peace from it, some comfort and acceptance.
When my son was poorly a few years ago I came across something called Sound Healing, the healing effect it had on Harvey was visible and profound.
Having witnessed the power of sound I am now training to be a Sound Healer with Sarah Stephenson, a registered practitioner and tutor at the London College of Sound Healing.
I will be incorporating this incredible healing method in with Libitina should families feel drawn to it.
Poppy & Frieda are never happier than when they are sitting on me!
Poppy having cuddles, something that is a common occurrence!
Funny Frieda enjoying the warmth of an open fire!
Sound Healing course with the College of Sound Healing
And now to introduce Poppy and Frieda, my friends, my absolute angels, they make me laugh so much, they give me cuddles and are always there for me. I am so lucky to have them in my life.
They are both Dachshunds, Poppy is a mini wire haired & Frieda is a standard and they are rescues.
I get asked how do I look after myself when doing such a highly emotional job. It's not easy, I do not want to be like many funeral directors who don't get emotionally involved at all, keeping the family at arms length. I want to emotionally be there for the family, whatever they need and so yes, it can be draining, I wouldn't be human if it didn't affect me.
So here's what I do:
I eat properly, I do Qi Gong & Wing Chun, I sleep well and drink plenty of water, herbs , have sound healing, see a herbalist & homeopath.
Alongside that I LOVE nature, so I have a bird feeder in my garden and enjoy watching the various birds that visit.
Watching birds fills my heart & brings me into the moment.
Beautiful Bertie! I love the smell of horses, the smell of hay, the smell of grass,
we are all connected to nature
Gardening is one of my favorite
ways to unwind
I am lucky enough to ride my friends beautiful horse Bertie when I can.
We take it easy and just have a gentle hack along country lanes and around fields and through woodland, it's a lovely way to see the changing seasons and be closer to the nature that is all around us.
Studying the ancient art of Wing Chun, helping to build both physical & emotional strength
I love watching the seasons change
Kate, Sue and my lovely mummy!
Friends and family are the most
important things to me
Harvey, me, my mummy and friend & potter Jane
The perfect way to enjoy my 43rd birthday... an all day long pottery class!
So for me, my beautiful family, my son, my mother, my brother Charles, my brother Simon, my father, not to mention my sister-in laws, my nieces and nephews and uncle and aunt my beautiful friends, my beautiful dogs, nature, the garden, horses, pottery and sculpture, jazz and classical music, silence, bird song, the countryside, reading, cooking, crafts, The Great British Sewing Bee, The Archers, James Herriot Audio books, Harry Potter Audio books, Mort, keeping fit, open fires,Brambly Hedge, Springwatch, learning new things and connecting with people are what fill my heart with joy.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it gives you a little more of an understanding of who I am.