How Imogenn went from grieving troubled teen to working as undertaker

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As a teenager, Imogenn Thornton’s lifestyle was bordering on destructive.

Following the death of her stepfather, the now 19-year-old from Preston spiralled into a chaotic lifestyle of self-harm, violence, drink and drugs and at 15, found herself pregnant.

Photo Ian Robinson'19-year-old Imogenn Thornton has turned her life around through the Princes Trust and has now been nominated for a  Samsung Young Achiever of the Year Award. She gained an apprenticeship through the trust at the Martins Funeral Directors and is now pursuing a career in undertaking

Photo Ian Robinson'19-year-old Imogenn Thornton has turned her life around through the Princes Trust and has now been nominated for a Samsung Young Achiever of the Year Award. She gained an apprenticeship through the trust at the Martins Funeral Directors and is now pursuing a career in undertaking

By 17, her substance and alcohol abuse was frequent and she was regularly in trouble with the police.

Imogenn says, “My life was a mess. I was drinking, taking drugs, I was in a bad relationship that made me scared I couldn’t do anything right.

“I was grieving for my step dad, but then I went through a pretty bad time.

“I was getting arrested and getting angry with people and it wasn’t really fair on my little one; I was always here, there and everywhere really; never settled.”

Imogenn enrolled at Preston’s College hair and beauty course but dropped out after a year and a half.

She says: “After I dropped out I attended a number of other training courses but nothing was for me, I ended up just dossing about going back and forth for about two and a half years.

“A big chunk of my life had been taken away and it was really hard for me and I started hanging around with the wrong people.

“I felt like I was on my own.”

Social Services became involved when Imogenn’s mother raised concerns and it was the wake-up call Imogenn needed.

Realising it was time to change, she got in touch with The Prince’s Trust and asked to enrol on the Team programme, a 12-week course, delivered in partnership with Lancashire Fire and Rescue, designed to improve the skills of unemployed young people so that they are better equipped to find work.

“One of my close friends had been on the course and had told me how much it had turned her life around.

“Meeting the other people on the course made me realise that there isn’t just you who has difficulties, everyone has their own problems and that I wasn’t really worse off.

“Some of us did clash and at first I did think everything was about me, I did have run-ins with a couple of people.

“But we got over them and we learned how to respect one another and I quickly realised that other people had a lot more difficult problems.”

Imogenn grew visibly happier and secured a work placement at a Martins Funeral Directors on Tulketh Brow where she now works as an apprentice.

She said: “I didn’t know what to expect and I was a bit terrified at first – the only dead body I had seen was my stepdad when I was 13.

“The first week I thought it was a bit scary and spooky but after that I was fine.

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoy it, I feel really comfortable there, it’s like my second home.

She adds: “Life’s going great now.

“I’m happy in my job, I have my own home, I’m settled and my little girl’s my world.”

Imogenn will soon become a fully qualified undertaker and eventually wants to run her own company.

She says: “I’m not a big believer in ghosts or the afterlife or anything like that but I do feel like my stepdad is guiding me and is the reason I’ve ended up here.

“I feel like I’ve come full-circle.”