Why Would Anyone Become a Funeral Director?
These are words I hear often. Often! Like about once a week.
Over the years I have heard different responses to that question. Each Funeral Director has a personal reason why they were drawn to work in funeral service.
- Some were born into it. Some colleagues come from a long line of Funeral Directors. They started to serve bereaved families on some level from an early age. They didn’t have to stay in their parents’ vocation, but some felt called to do so.
- Others fell into it. One of my best friends went for an interview for a manager position and was surprised to find himself at a local funeral home. He was convinced that he had the address wrong. But no, they wanted a professional with managerial experience who they felt that they could take under their wing and train in funeral service.
- Then there are the funeral professionals like me. Twenty years ago, you couldn’t just google anything that you wanted to know. Learning about funeral service as an outsider was not an easy task. All the details seemed “Top Secret”. They didn’t have Funeral Directors writing blogs and empowering the public about a healthy death discussion.
Before I was in funeral service, I was an Event Coordinator. Someone who I loved died and we had an awesome funeral for them. Guests were coming up to us saying, “That was the best funeral that I have ever been to.” Hmmm. Best funeral? This was a new concept for me. I was an event coordinator who planned a lot of weddings, anniversaries, and corporate events. Was a funeral the ultimate event? The final farewell. With my background in theatre, I thought to myself, “Well, I guess it is the final Curtain Call.”
The answer to this question has changed slightly over the years for me, but my current answer is this:
We can’t stop death from happening, but we can treat the deceased as if they were our own loved one, and we can companion the bereaved and help launch their grief in a healthy way.
The other question I frequently get asked …
How Do You Deal With Death Every Day?
When someone has an experience with death, it is because someone who they know and care about has died. It is heart wrenching and often life changing. As a Funeral Professional, we don’t have a personal connection with the deceased. If every time we were dealing with a death that we were personally connected to and loved, we would all quit funeral service.
But we are human and have empathy. We feel your pain. This is why so many Funeral Directors burn out multiple times during their career.
We are on call almost all the time. – We deal with trauma regularly.
It is not easy. However, we feel called to serve. The wise Funeral Directors have learned to keep a healthy life work balance. One of my colleagues drives by his favourite fishing hole regularly on his way home from work to unburden himself before going home to his beautiful wife. Others ensure that they get to the gym to exercise the stress away. Some pray. Some meditate. And some don’t cope, which is one of the reasons why there is such a high turnover rate in funeral service.
We do deal with death every day. We listen to the bereaved and guide them for the practical and heartfelt aspects during their darkest days. Funeral Directors wear many hats. We can be Event Coordinators, Embalmers, Advocates, Travel Agents (Repatriation), Confidantes, Ceremony Specialists, Vital Statistic Agents, or DJs on any given day.
What Have You Learned From Working In Funeral Service?
- Don’t sweat the small stuff that life brings you. A lot of details that we humans fret about are unimportant in the big picture of life. When I am in the middle of a stressful personal life situation, I ask myself, “Will I even remember this moment of stress next year or even next week?”
Family, chosen family, and close friends are the most important part of my life. Stuff doesn’t matter. Stuff is replaceable.
Last Thanksgiving when I had committed to hosting Thanksgiving Dinner, I got busy serving a family. I was out on a service instead of cooking Turkey. Did anyone really care? No. It will be remembered as the year that we had barbecued pork chops for Thanksgiving dinner. Did anyone care that my house wasn’t perfect for the occasion? Heck, no. What I remember about that day is the stories that we shared with each other about my great grandparents who I never knew.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Celebrate all the good stuff. Make memories. I will say it again. Make memories. Life is short.
Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
– Jamie Anderson
If we didn’t have something wonderful in the first place, we would have nothing to grieve when it is taken from us.