A FUNERAL celebrant has received a prestigious title at the National Good Funeral Awards recently after only qualifying in the profession 10-months ago.

Kirstie Atherton was named ‘Celebrant of the Year’ at the Association of Green Funeral Directors' ceremony.

The awards took place in Oxfordshire on Saturday, September 24 and gives bereaved family members and industry professionals a chance to nominate individuals within the industry for their services.

Kirstie, 47, from Bold Heath, was awarded the honour after only completing her qualifications in funeral celebrancy in December this year.

She said: “The 'best' celebrant is the one who gives their bereaved family exactly what they need and want, who leaves them comforted and feeling that they've honoured their loved one just as they wanted to.

"But to be nominated by families I have worked with and by funeral directors who have supported me so early in my career, is an absolute joy."

The job of funeral celebrant is to host and officiate funeral services that are not linked to religious beliefs or practices.

With their duties including conducting the service and working with bereaved families to plan the ceremony and write the eulogy.

Kirsty explained how her choice to change career and go into the role of a funeral celebrant was one from the heart.

After losing her father, Ozzie Osbourne, when she was a teenager, she said how at the funeral one of her dad’s friends stood by the coffin and did a speech which brought her ‘great comfort’.

“Losing him was monumental. It took many years to reach a place in which I felt I could offer others the opportunity for similar comfort.

“The first days of grief are some of the darkest of our lives, but thoughtful words and actions, carefully chosen and delivered with love, respect, humour, and sometimes a little irreverence, can be transformative. A step in the process of loss which is much too important to be left to chance,” She added.

Kirstie was nominated for the award by Helen Horne Funeral Directors in Orford, among many others.

Owner of the funeral directors, Helen Horne said: “We nominated Kirstie Atherton as she is such an amazing alternative celebrant, and all our families love her. If the family love rugby she will wear the top, they support to wacky shoes to favourite bright colours.

“We have worked with Kirsty for the past year, and she listens to our family’s needs and requirements and carries out their wishes to perfection.

“We only use the best at Helen Horne Funeral Directors as it reflects on our Funeral Home, and she is truly amazing.”

Kirstie is not only passionate about her role within the funeral industry but also wants to promote a change in societies approach in talking (or not talking rather) about death.

“Having conducted funerals for people as young as 20 days and as old as 91 years, for people who’ve died after long term illness and those who’ve taken their own lives, I’m now even more passionate about getting people to talk about death and dying,” she said.

“We need to remove the silence that surrounds the whole subject. It’s a silence which festers fear and leaves us unprepared for the emotional and practical parts of someone’s death. Someone once described funerals to me as ‘the most emotionally charged impulse purchase you will ever make’ and for most it is, unfortunately, true.

“I’d like to see a change that normalises discussing what we’d like to happen as our lives end.”