An Oldham embalmer, who quit her fashion degree for a career that has seen her embalm her own grandad’s body, has revealed what it takes to work in the funeral care sector.

Rachel Carline, 31, who works as an embalmer with Co-op Funeralcare in Oldham, was drawn to a career in embalming after seeing her late grandmother’s body made a “lasting impression”.

She said: “I went to see my grandma when she died but she didn’t look good.

"That experience must have left a lasting impression, as years later I decided I wanted to become an embalmer and care for people after they died."

Rachel started training for the role aged 22 which involved five theoretical and two practical exams.

She said: “To work out the amounts of fluids you need, such as formaldehyde, water and dyes, you have to know how much the body weighs, how long it's been since the person died, how long until the funeral, plus many other factors. But we always see them as a whole person, not an equation.”

People Rachel has embalmed include her grandad who passed away from oesophageal cancer in 2015.

The Oldham Times:

Rachel and her grandad Dave on her wedding day

She said: “No matter who it is, I embalm everyone as though they are a close friend or relative, so the technical aspect of the embalming procedure didn’t feel that different.

“I had been heavily involved in looking after him when he was ill at home, so why wouldn’t I do it when he passed away?”

She added: “When a family come to see their loved one, I want them to look peaceful and knowing I’ve created a comforting and pleasant lasting image for their family is incredibly rewarding.”

As an embalmer, no two days are ever the same. On a typical day, Rachel might embalm three or four people which takes two hours on average.

“You never know what you’re going to be presented with. If I take someone into my care who had a post-mortem or who’s been in an accident, I might spend the whole day restoring them.

"But that’s the best bit of my job: knowing the difference my work makes to what their families will remember”, she said.

In 2017, Rachel cared for victims of the Manchester bombings.

Reflecting on that experience, she said: “Some people in the industry still have the attitude that having feelings stop you from doing your job properly.

"It’s the opposite for me. The day it doesn’t affect me, or I don’t care who I’m embalming, is the day I stop. Until then, I’ll keep working to care for the person who died and comfort their families.”

Through both Co-op Funeralcare and the British Institute of Embalmers, embalmers receive mental health support due to the challenging nature of the role.

Anyone interested in pursuing a career in embalming can visit the Co-op Funeralcare careers site.