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Postby chris the limey » 21 Jul 2007 08:37 pm

It\'s probably the biggest hairdressing taboo and the only service you can offer that every one of your clients will require.

Not one salon in the world has it on the price list and it would be positively distasteful and shocking if you asked your client to \'book in advance\'.

So, how do you broach the subject of styling your client\'s hair for their funeral?
Jayne of JD\'s & Co. Washington State told us, \"The very first time I styled a deceased clients hair was about 10 years ago. It was my mother in law. I was very upset when viewing her in the casket that her hair was not like she wore it. I instinctively grabbed my comb-out comb and began back-combing her hair around her face the way she liked to wear it. I didn\'t think twice about what I was actually doing. I just knew that she would have wanted me to make sure she looked her best.\"

Clients trust us to make them look their best throughout their life, from their wedding day to their grandchild\'s christening, but what about the very last time? It\'s entirely reasonable to state that a client who ensures her image is impeccable throughout her life, deserves to be remembered so in death. So who else should fulfil that wish, but her trusted hairdresser?

Beth Sophiea Parth of Salon West, Michigan comments, \"We had a client who was a very close friend and died very suddenly, she was only 46. She was young looking and wore her hair in a very funky kind of wild tossed way. I went to the funeral early to check her hair because I knew how she would want her hair to look. When I got there I found it had been set on rollers! I had to mess it up and chunk it up the way she would wear it in life. Her daughter was so happy I did that as she had been afraid to ask me beforehand.\"

Special Considerations

When styling a deceased client\'s hair, usually only the front of the hair needs to be styled, as the client will be lying peacefully in the casket. It\'s important not to use too many styling products such as mousses and serums etc. and you need to be extremely careful when using heated appliances such as hairdryers and tongs. Whilst too much heat obviously won\'t hurt the client, it can leave a permanent mark on the skin. Usually a spray bottle with water, a warm hairdryer and a little hairspray is all that\'s required. You may also have to compromise to hide any autopsy scars or bruising around the hairline.

Something else worth considering is the fact that dead bodies can still move.

\"I had one client jerk on me,\" Jayne told us. \"It scared the living daylights out of me and I had to go outside and have a cigarette before finishing. When I got back inside to finish her hair, I gave her a good scolding and warned her that if it happened again, I wouldn\'t finish her hair!\"

Funeral directors will tell you that the recently deceased may move, make noises or even pass air, as if they are still breathing. \"Sometimes it can get so intense that you have to bring humour into it,\" Jazz explained. \"Even if it means talking to the body!\"

How is it arranged?

So how do you actually arrange to do a client\'s hair for their funeral? Well, oddly enough, some clients may just come straight out with the proposition or even arrange it themselves. Jayne told us, \"I had one client that had it in their will that I was the one to do their hair after they left this world. She had told me a while before she passed away that she had arranged this and so by law I would have to do it. I always thought she was joking, but in the end the joke was on me.\"

Usually though, you are asked by the client\'s family if you would style their loved one\'s hair; especially if the family knows of the relationship between you and your client.

Sometimes however, the client may not have been close enough to her family to convey her final wishes. When this is the case it would be perfectly acceptable for you to communicate to the client\'s family in your sympathy card. Something along the lines of, \"I was so saddened to hear of your loss. Grace and I have been friends for a long time and I have been her hairstylist for many years. When you are feeling up to it, please call me on 0123 123 4567. I would be honoured to style Grace\'s hair for the funeral service as I understand how she liked to wear it.\"

Jayne explained, \"It is the most gratifying thing I have ever done. The family of the deceased is always so totally eternally grateful that you would take the time and effort with a loving heart to do such a gesture for their loved one. It all comes down to respect.\"

Talking with spirits

Of course, you also have your own emotions to contend with.

Beth Sophiea Parth told us, \"When I styled my friends hair I began to feel very angry inside that she had gone. While I was re-styling her hair I kept asking her what she thought she was doing. I still miss her terribly.\"

Jayne also explained, \"Sometimes it is like the client is there; sitting at the end of the table, swinging their feet watching me. Many times I turn just knowing that they are there and it brings a smile to my face. I relive the past times they sat in my chair. I focus more on the funny times and usually will start to giggle over some of the stories they have told me throughout the years.\"

We asked Jayne if anything ghostly had ever occurred when styling her deceased clients. She replied, \"There have been a few times when strange things have happened in the room. Lights blinking off and on or a slight warm breeze briefly comes through the room without any plausible explanation. Thankfully, nothing bad or too scary has happened though.\"

Final Thoughts

Before offering or agreeing to style a deceased client\'s hair you need to ask yourself if you\'re emotionally able to cope. Even stylists with nerves of steel may find it difficult if they are tender-hearted. Jayne advised, \"It is an awful thing to say, but if you\'re the type of stylist who can\'t see beyond that the person is dead, I wouldn\'t advise you to take on this type of work. You have to be able to detach yourself from the situation.\"

If the thought of this has left you with shivers running up your spine however, consider this final parting thought: \"Rather than getting the heebie-jeebies,\" says Jayne, \"Try to look at the positives. No matter what you do to the hair, the client won\'t complain about it and it could always be worse. You could be asked to do their make-up!\"

Article written and edited by C. Parker 2006
I try to get online to answer forum posts at least once per day. If I miss your post, let me know. :)
chris the limey
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