Caring Cian | 

Belfast teen (17) becomes one of the youngest undertakers in the business

“When you experience death yourself in the family, when you lose your friend, you want to help”

Cian O'Riardan

Having recently turned 17 years of age Cian O’Riordan, from west Belfast has choose a strange appentice path to become a Funeral Directors.

Cian O'Riardan

Laurence O’Neill founder and proprietor of O'Neill'S Funeral Directors on the Stewartstown Road, with his son also Laurence and Cian O’Riordan.

Cian O'Riardan

Having recently turned 17 years of age Cian O’Riordan, from west Belfast has choose a strange apprenticeship path to become a Funeral Directors. Cian, is delighted to have joined the team at O’Neills Funeral Directors on the Stewartstown Road.

Having recently turned 17 years of age Cian O’Riordan, from west Belfast has choose a strange apprenticeship path to become a Funeral Directors. Cian, is delighted to have joined the team at O’Neills Funeral Directors on the Stewartstown Road.

Cian O'Riardan on the job

Roisin GormanSunday World

Teenage undertaker Cian O Riordan has revealed how he signed up for the caring career after his own experience of loss.

The young Belfast man recently joined the staff at O’Neill’s Funeral Directors just a few days after his 17th birthday.

It makes him one of the youngest in the industry, but the teenager has no doubt he’s on the right path.

After watching how undertakers helped his friend’s family following a fatal car accident, and his own family through bereavement, Cian decided he want to help others.

“When you experience death yourself in the family, when you lose your friend, you want to help. In our family it was my grandmother, my cousin, and an uncle.

“My friend died in a road traffic accident when was 14 or 15, which hit me at the start and then you process it.

“It made me want to help out families who are grieving. Some people will say to you if someone’s son died ‘you understand what I’m feeling’ but I will say no because I never lost a son.”

Cian O'Riardan

Cian had thought about being a teacher, until he felt the call of funeral directing, and contacted companies across Belfast.

“I contacted loads of places and melted their heads, and O’Neill’s gave me a chance,” he says.

“My daddy said if that’s what you want to do go and do it and he’s proud of me for it. My friends think I’m mad.”

After just three weeks in the business the teenager is already learning on the job.

As part of his in-house training he’s dealing with bereaved families, helping to make funeral arrangements and will eventually begin his formal training with the industry’s regulatory bodies.

He’s also learning how Covid has changed traditions like wakes, which are often held now in funeral homes.

“I want to show families respect. I want to help out in the biggest way and in the smallest things by going into a business like this.

“You try and take as much pressure off the family as possible.

“The first thing is to offer your condolences, and you go through the arrangements for the funeral. Is the deceased going to rest here in the Chapel of Rest or are they going to be brought home? What colours of flowers the family wants as well as clothes, make up. You try and make the deceased look their best to try and give the family the comfort of how they remember their loved one.”

Before taking him on the company had to consider how the teenager would cope with clients’ bereavement and help them through the early stages of their grief.

He’s also learning how to deal with remains, and the embalming process will be part of his training.

“It can be sad but at the same time it’s not about us, it’s about the family,” says Cian.

“We’re caring for them and the deceased, so you have to show respect in how you care for them. They may be deceased, but they are still a person.

“I think we are not counsellors, but we are there to try and comfort the family as much as we can during the hard time they are going through. We will try and be there as much as possible for them.

“With families coming in you build up a relationship with them. You know their name and you’re chatting away to them and getting everything sorted out and you understand what they are going through to an extent.”

Laurence O’Neill, whose dad Laurence set up the company 31 years ago, says Cian is one of the youngest in the business. The funeral director worked part-time in the family firm from the age of 16 and joined full-time after university.

He says the teenager stood out from other applicants because he already understood the job, and the work that goes into planning a funeral and helping a family through bereavement.

Cian O'Riardan on the job

“Cian identified that before he came here,” says Laurence.

“A lot of people have this perception that you wash the cars, you bring the coffin to the house, the chapel, the cemetery and that’s it.

“Cian knew the whole process from having dealt with losing somebody.”

In his first few weeks with the firm they have already been impressed with their newest employee’s empathy with clients, and willingness to learn.

“With Cian meeting families you see how every family coming through the door is different, how every conversation is different.

“You get to establish how to speak to families by seeing and doing, and you can’t learn that out of textbooks. That’s what he’s doing at the minute and he’s excelling at it,” says Laurence.


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