At times she has simply stayed silent, knowing instinctively when to talk and when to keep quiet and simply be there.
Death has been part of Jenny Andrews’s life for 15 years. Providing bereavement support at Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors, the Blenheim District councillor retired from the role at the end of September.
It was, she says, a role she felt privileged to have held and one that has led to life-long friendships.
Casting her mind back over the years, memories of families she has helped and those that died are still vivid. No one has been forgotten.
For Andrews, the recollections are important.
‘‘I think of grief as being like a puzzle that’s been put together but a piece is missing.
‘‘When you see a piece is missing the first thing you look for is that missing piece but eventually you will see the bigger picture,’’ she says.
Andrews’s experience with death began when she lost both her parents when she was in her 40’s.
Over the years, she has realised there is ‘‘no right or wrong’’ way to grieve.
‘‘People grieve differently, some for a long time and others not so long but if you’ve loved then grief is the price you pay,’’ she says.
Sitting in the peaceful chapel at the funeral home, the wooden pews awash with pale sunlight, Andrews is quick to clarify that she was not a grief counsellor.
She had been offered the position by former funeral director and monumental mason Ken Rooney, who has since retired, who believed it was a service that was needed. He was right.
‘‘I did not hesitate to say yes. It was about offering extra care and support or even just company to those who needed it,’’ says Andrews.
Her task has not been an easy one and at times she says it was overwhelming. The support of her family and friends was vital as was finding ways to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
‘‘While I couldn’t talk to them about what had happened specifically, they were always there. I have a circle of very dear and close friends.
‘‘I’m also a gardener and a keen reader. My grandchildren bring me a great deal of joy too,’’ she says.
The decision to leave was not an easy one but the Blenheim District councillor found she had less time available for the role. Between her council duties and as co-owner of an estate assets and downsizing company, Estate Busters 2013, time was tight.
While she may be leaving the role officially, Andrews says she will continue be there for those who need her and the memories of those she has helped will be with her always.
‘‘People deal with grief in individual ways and some don’t need to grieve for long but for others, it’s an ongoing journey.
‘‘The loss of a child is the worst; it’s a