One aspect of running a floristry business I learned very early on is the communication skills I would need.
The shop I worked in was very cold (it had been a funeral directors), which was ideal for a florists. So we all worked in a very slightly warmer part of the building, being alerted to customers by a doorbell (which would sometimes get low on battery, making a very amusing noise – but that’s another story), and we would take it in turns to go out and serve people. I must have been about 18 the day I walked out to probably my most vivid and memorable consultation with a client.
There stood a man, I would soon discover, who was distraught and consumed by grief for the loss of his young wife, accompanied by some of the children he’d been left to care for.
I have since put my careful handling of this down to subconsciously observing my mother’s natural ability to counsel the distressed.
What followed was a lesson in how to guide the bereaved – calmly, patiently, and with empathy.
This gentleman could barely speak. Occasionally he would have to walk off to the other end of the shop to compose himself.
With time, we were able to put together a plan of the tribute we would make for his beloved wife. Cards were sent away with him to write, as I knew he needed privacy and quiet to say what he needed to.
As it happens, this lady is two plots down from my own dad. They passed not too long apart. When I see her name, I remember her husband.
I’ll never forget that day, and what it taught me – skills I still use now. Dealing with the bereaved doesn’t daunt me. I don’t think it did back then. Probably because I have stood in their shoes, and tried my best to treat them how I needed to be at a similar time.
It continues to be an honour to produce the last “gift” for a loved one, and a lot of love and care goes into each and every one.