Former beauty writer Yasemin is now the hippest funeral director in Australia. How did she go from Beauty to Funerals?
Welcome to the dirty world podcast, where we talk about sustainability, health and beauty for busy, busy women. I’m Louisa Hollenberg founder of earth and skin organic spa and beauty shop and author of ‘clean skin in a dirty world’. This podcast comes to you from the clean side of Beauty we will talk about tips and tricks for improving your life and your health without damaging planet earth for the animals to share it with.
Former beauty writer Yasemin is now the hippest funeral director in Australia. How did she go from Beauty to Funerals? After leaving her job, her home and her security to move with two young children and her husband to the USA. Yaz and her husband realised this was a dream they no longer wanted to pursue. Listen to find out what Yaz did to turn her life around in the ‘strangest’ way possible!
What do you do?
I am the founder and head funeral guide of rite of passage Funerals and we organise modern and meaningful end of life events.
How did you become interested in starting rite of passage?
Well, it’s kind of one of those stories it’s a bit of a journey actually. So before I got into this, I was a health and beauty editor. So my background is actually in beauty, wellness, writing, I worked for magazines, online, I was in media for over 12 years. And then my husband and I moved to America, we were going to start a whole new business, we bought a building and we were going to start an organic chicken shop of all things so really, really, different.
So that plan was in the pipeline for 5 years, so we were always working towards that and always planning for that business. And then when we got to America, within a few weeks we realised that not the plan that we want to execute anymore. We had 2 young kids, but we sold everything we owned. We sold our house in Sydney, we sold all our belongings, we had 4 suitcases, A 10-month-old, a 3 1/2-year-old and this commercial building that we had bought but a dream that was now not going to be realised.
At first, it was really a period of free fall, I mean when you’ve worked towards something for 5 years and you think that what you want to do. I’d let my career go because I had another baby, I wasn’t writing anymore. And there was this really intense period of ‘oh my goodness’, ‘what have we done’.
I call it, it is my dark night of the soul. You kind of build up this expectation of the life you think you’re going to have. like I moved away from everything, my family, my friends, my career, my safety and it all fell away. And what I find is in those moments of when you think I ’oh my goodness’, ‘what have we done’, what are we doing’, it gives you the opportunity to say okay ‘what are we going to do now’ and really dive deep into the things that are important to you and by having nothing essentially, you also have the opportunity to have everything. Because there’s nothing holding you back.
So Alex and I kind of took the time to really think about how we want to curate our life moving forward. What it looked like, did a lot of meditation, lots of hiking, lots of navel-gazing I guess and soul searching. And it was in that period, I was reading the economist. My mother-in-law subscribes to the economist magazine.
And I was reading it one day, and I was reading this article about how Crematoriums in Europe being designed by architects to really help people re-imagine this idea of death. And while I was reading this article I had this full-body reaction, it really was like an Epiphone. My whole body started tingling, everything inside me, while I was reading this article, was just saying this is the space I need to be in. The way that we look at death especially in the west, it hasn’t changed for hundreds of years. The way we plan funerals, our lack of knowledge and education around death literacy. I realised that there is a real potential there and I think that my background in wellness especially was like this is the last frontier. people spend their life, eating healthy food, doing all the right things, practising yoga and yet there still not contemplating their own death and their own mortality.
There is an opportunity there for people to start really leaning into the discomfort o death and planning ahead and then also reimagine what a funeral could look like. so once that kinda idea came to me, it was just all systems go. it was really intensive, my reaction was so intense. I remember back downstairs to Alex and saying I know what I’m gonna do, I’ve figured it all out. and he was like ‘what’ i said I’m going to become a funeral director, but not the kind of funeral director that you think of. and he was like ‘ what just happened upstairs because something in the last hour has really shifted’ and that kinda what I’ve done, I’ve gone one step at a time learning reading everything I can about death. Finding a mentor to help me in this field and learn about new ways of doing things as well as the more traditional and how we fit into that and how I can really help people with this end of life.
What are some of the upcoming trends we can see in the world of funerals?
I think definitely more environmentally friendly practices and green burials and things like that. And even with. Families that I help if they know they want a cremation but they still want to look at environmental awareness and more conscious practices I look at ways that we can bring that into cremations as well. So how can we use it in the service. If we use environmentally friendly caskets or the way that the body is supposed you know even using recyclables instead of plastic. You know what I mean to you. Catering. Everything every single thing is really thought through And just looking at ways that we can minimise the environmental impact.
If someone wanted to start planning what would you say is the first thing that they should do?
Well the steps that I’ve really taken is firstly just really taking a little bit of time to think about death. Mostly that’s like the first step that can be through meditation or journaling or anything and just kind of really leaning into this idea of your own mortality and those around you and realising that. It’s inevitable. So just taking a little bit that’s kind of step one. Just think about it. You don’t even have to do anything. Just think about it a little bit.
Then as curiosity starts to rise you start to get a little bit more comfortable in this space. You can start reading books listening to podcasts really tuning into areas where you know you feel comfortable. So my new website has a whole bunch of resources. for you it’s got a blog. I have a spiritual will template. You can download for free. I have another resource what to say when someone dies or someone close to you loses a loved one it’s another free resource for you where you know what to say.
So it’s quite uncomfortable and people run away from it. So it’s really about hope to be able to hold space and be an awesome friend. And so reaching out for resources I have a course in the pipeline as well which is going to be the whole end of life from a spiritual emotional and practical. Perspective. So all the tools you need basically to do all that that should be out in a couple of months and just really looking for resources to help guide you in that direction and start planning you can also reach out to me personally or a funeral director some have this kind of pre planning process.
So finding someone that aligns with you and how you want to end your life and talk to your family about it and talk to them is just over like Sunday dinner. Start asking questions. Why would you want to you know what do you say your funeral looking like. And really just opening up this conversation. And you’ll find once you start talking about it other people will start opening up as well.
What have you got install for the upcoming year?
Well, hopefully lots of funeral planning and helping as many people as possible and also really looking at resources and education. I’m so passionate about educating people on this kind of stuff. That is the course and lots of free resources as well for people. So yeah busy year on the work front. We have another project in the pipeline. Which is kind of modernising urns an end of life products. So more on that when we’re a bit further down the track. But yeah there’s a lot in this space and a lot happening.
Yaz has an array of different resources available on her website including blogs, will templates, online guides and more. Stay tuned in our next podcast we’ll learn more about Yaz and we’ll delve deeper into eco funerals and how to make your funeral easier on your loved ones.