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The Lancashire funeral director who chose her career at age 9

"I remember saying I wanted to be an undertaker, they just told me I had no chance because undertaking was for the men."

Meet Lianna Champ from Accrington, the woman who has dedicated her life to death.

A seasoned funeral director and grief counsellor has talked about her extraordinary profession.


Lianna Champ, 56, from Accrington, has had a desire to get involved in the business of death since she was just nine years old and became the youngest female funeral director in England when she was just 19.


The 56-year-old has directed more than 500 funerals over the past 30 years while spending time as an embalmer and a grief counsellor.


Lianna told LancsLive that her fascination with the undertaking profession stemmed from a desire to help people.


"It was all about stopping people from feeling sad," said the 56-year-old.


"I have always had a natural understanding and awareness of what people needed even just with arranging funerals.


"It's not just a process for me, it's an experience. You have to have a beautiful funeral, sometimes people aren't in the right head space and I like to think that I can navigate people out of that so they can have a meaningful funeral."


Lianna has wanted to go into the undertaking business since she was nine-years-old.


The funeral director says she faced animosity towards her dream at every turn while growing up and was even discouraged by her school.


She said: "I remember going to the school careers counsellor, every school had one in those days.


"I remember saying I wanted to be an undertaker, they just told me I had no chance because undertaking was for the men."


She says that she was alienated at school and seen as a "weirdo" by many of her class mates for wanting to enter the funeral trade.


"It is only now looking back that I realised that it was their own feelings about death and their mortality that scared them," said Lianna.


"People used to think I was obsessed with death but we are all going to die, it was a certainty, being faced with that is scary."

At 15, Lianna's mum tried to put her off the trade for good by organising an apprenticeship for her.


She hoped that the sight of bodies and the dark nature of the morgue would push Lianna towards an alternative profession but it had the opposite effect.


Lianna's experiences spurred her on and, age 19, she became the UK's youngest qualified funeral director.


But the stigma attached to Lianna's job didn't end there.


"I've been shunned at dinner parties because of my profession," said the 56-year-old.


"People will say I have the worst job in the world. But it's a great job, I help people at a time of great need, it's a privilege.


"Now I see more and more that it's a respected job, people are fascinated by what I do but it has taken time for that to happen."


Lianna's undertaking profession has taken her through all aspects of death including in excess of 500 funeral services.


She qualified as an embalmer, treating and dressing bodies before they are placed in the coffin, and, in 2011, she trained as a grief councillor.


Lianna says she always felt that grief counselling was an unofficial part of the undertaking business anyway, helping people deal with the loss of their loved ones.


"When my mother died in 2011 it was one of the most isolating experiences of my whole life," said Lianna.


"Everyone left me then, because they didn't know what to say to me, people saw me as the funeral director.


"They stayed away because they thought I knew it all when it came to grief."


The 56-year-old now uses her experiences of grief and mourning to deliver presentations on the subject and has even written a book about it.


She has a strong idea of how to have a positive experience when it comes to mourning a loved one.


Lianna said: "When someone dies you say goodbye to their physical body but their mental body stays with you forever.


"We can grieve in a better way by having better relationships with the people in our life and by allowing forgiveness to happen on a daily basis.


"We must accept that we are all working from different places, its not one size fits all, we are all different and we grieve differently.


"Say the things you need to say, do the things you need to do, then you can have no regrets. It is still natural and normal to miss someone and be sad.


"But it's about accepting that completion at the end of a life, everyone dies, we all have to face that."


Lianna's book about mourning "How to Grieve Like a Champ" is out now.


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