What Is It Like To Be A Funeral Director?

I can’t call being a funeral director a job, it’s a way of life. I don’t think that there are many who could be a funeral director, it really takes a special kind of person.

How Does Being A Funeral Director Affect My Life?

It’s not just the hours, which can be long and take you away from family. Many times, I’ve had my son ask me not to go to work because I have had to leave in the middle of dinner or a trip to the park so that I can help a family. Most of the time he wants to come with me, and as much in his little heart he thinks that I’m leaving him to go and have fun with Uncle B, it’s not that.

It ridiculously hard to spend so much time away from him and my family, and honestly, if it wasn’t something that I loved, I wouldn’t do it. This doesn’t mean that I love being a Funeral Director more than him, I feel like I am helping to make some kind of change in someone’s life, and that experience is something I can pass on to him. Being a Funeral Director has changed me. It’s made me more empathetic, considerate of alternate situations, more aware of life. 

What Do I Struggle With?

I’m confronted with situations that routinely break my heart. A daughter losing her dad. A son losing his mother. A husband losing his wife. A wife losing her husband. And perhaps the hardest of them all, a parent losing their child. While their grief might all be heartbreakingly similar, the sound of a mother crying over their child is something that is incredibly unique, it’s primordial. It’s a sound that I had never heard before, a sound that I will now never forget. While most people would want to scrub that sound from their memory and file it with all the other trauma they never want to experience again, it’s a sound that I’ve become familiar with. Along with all of the different sounds that come along with grief.

Sometimes there is confusion about what to do next, what did the person want? Sometimes there is conflict and bitterness, not just towards other loved ones but also towards the deceased. Sometimes there is shame, shame about how the deceased loved their life and their loved ones want to distance and disconnect from the entire situation, and they look to me as the funeral director, to provide the acceptance they need, that disconnecting is ok. That their shame is justified. 

No family is the same, no deceased is the same. They all are unique. Their stories, trials, tribulations and triumphs are unique. And, as each are unique, every approach from a funeral director is also unique. What support do they need from me? How can I help them through this process?

How can I make this easier?

I can’t give a definitive answer for any of them. It’s something that you just need to feel out and adapt to each person and each family. While training and reading and learning can teach you some crucial things, when it comes to actually being in the present with a person in the throes of grief, no book has the answer. 

I am lucky that I am supported by a great team of people who have become my family. We can talk, laugh and share our feelings. Sometimes when a day has been particularly hard, the best thing you can do is to laugh. Not about what has happened but about something randomly weird that has no parallel to what you have just gone through. 

What Have Been Your Biggest Lesson So Far?

I guess I have learnt that life cannot exist without death, and yet people only value life and we despise death. No one see’s life and death as one, I know I didn’t used to. Life and death are inseparable, without death there wouldn’t be life. Death is described in the most horrible ways, sometimes lurking around the corner almost waiting to pounce and snatch us from life. It’s a game we all are playing. Death will inevitably come to us all. If it didn’t, what would be the point of life?

Sometimes there is something powerful in knowing and understanding death, that it is coming, we will experience it in whatever form it takes. I have learnt to be ok with death, with that acceptance comes the appreciation for life. With life we talk about time. How much time we have, sometimes putting off what we really want with the belief that we have more time. I have come to realise that there will never be enough time to get all the joy out of life, time is immeasurable. You never know when your time will run out. So, I look to enjoy every moment, seize every opportunity, this way when death does come at least I can say I’ve made the most of life. 

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