Caleb Wilde

Caleb Wilde

(223 comments, 645 posts)

I'm a sixth generation funeral director. I have a grad degree in Missional Theology and a Certification in Thanatology.

And I like to read and write.

Connect with my writing and book plans by "liking" me on facebook. And keep tabs with my blog via subscription or twitter.

Posts by Caleb Wilde

21 Tips for Aspiring Funeral Directors

041012 - Richmond, BC Chung Chow photo Laura Van Sprang - profileAspiring funeral directors (specifically, those who AREN’T coming from a family business) will often ask a variation of one of these three questions:

“Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into the funeral business?”

“Have any tips for funeral students trying to get an apprenticeship at a funeral home?”

“I just got my license.  How do I land a job at a funeral home?”

Aside from the obvious advice, like, “Don’t make any jokes about necrophilia during your interview”, I feel it was best to crowd source advice from other professionals in funeral service.  Over 150 replied.   Some of the advice is similar, but each comes from a different perspective.

Here are 21 tips for aspiring first generation funeral directors from those who have made it.

“Do you have any advice for those wanting to get into the funeral business?”

1.  From Kristen A.: My advice is … funeral services isn’t a “job”, it’s a calling. If you don’t have it in your heart you’ll never succeed.

2.  From Jim S.: (If you have questions about the funeral industry) the worst thing to do is just “pop” in (to a funeral home) and ask to see anyone. The best course would either be to ask for an introduction from someone you know or make initial contact via e-mail. This is directly from my instructor as well, if you have questions (about the funeral industry), contact a school that offers the Mortuary classes, they have all the time in the world to talk.

2.  From Heidi B.: Job shadow a funeral director for one week if you’re able and tour/talk to a mortuary school.

3.  From Geoff C.:  (Aspiring funeral directors) need to get their foot in the door (very hard) and try to experience as many aspects of the job as possible BEFORE going to mortuary school. They need to understand it’s not all about wearing nice suits and driving nice cars. I personally saw so many, in school, their first time in a prep room was at labs. They do their apprenticeship and get licensed and within a year, they leave the industry.

4.  From Kyle S.:  I was talked out of my career in high school when I approached a funeral director in my town for advice. She told me to basically go away and find another career because I would never get a job, not having relatives in the business. I regret listening to her…so my advice is: if you really want it, DO IT. There will always be a place for you, perhaps not in your town or state….but life is long and hard when there are regrets.

5.  From Erica C.:   Networking is a great tool. Knowing people at a removal service in a larger area is a good thing since they have contact with the majority of the funeral homes. Also, I did my apprenticeship at an embalming service and learned invaluable skills. As an embalmer you are much more marketable.

6.:  From Shandel P.:  Get a job (if you can’t get a job, then volunteer your weekends) at your local funeral home BEFORE you commit to going to mortuary school in hopes of making a career of being a funeral professional. I’ve had quite a few people I went to school with who quit when they started their internship (i.e. after they were done with Mort school) because they couldn’t deal.

7.  From Tony G.:   Be sure to get your Bachelors degree in something else. That way in five years, when you are married and have kids you don’t feel stuck. This business isn’t for everyone and if you find out its not for you, you have a back-up plan. That’s my personal advice, because I am not sure that if I had other options available to me that I would still be in funeral service. It’s changed so much and is so far away from why I started

 “Have any tips for funeral students trying to get an apprenticeship at a funeral home?”

1.  From Boyd C.:  Be willing to relocate (especially for an apprenticeship).

2.  From Ada O.:  Write up a solid résumé and cover letter. Mail it to as many places as you can, and follow up in two weeks if you don’t hear from anybody. I did this for 15 funeral homes and finally got an apprenticeship.

3.  From Cortney N.: There are internships out there! You just have to be proactive. I am not from a family of funeral directors, so I am a first generation. You will most likely have to relocate, there are head hunters out there as well who do assist in finding interns/ internships.

4.  From Matthew S.:  Personal Presentation is HUGE. Dress nice but don’t look like a hooker or pimp. Hide all crazy tattoos and piercings!  (And you should probably shave your beard and cut your hair.)

5.  From Boyd C.:  Follow up. Call funeral homes and ask to just meet with a director to ask questions about the industry. Above all, just keep at it. Eventually a door will open.

6.  From Anna K.:  Yes, you will work A TON of hours your first year. But at what professional job you wouldn’t? Besides, if you love the job you won’t mind spending the time developing your skills and know that it won’t be a waste of time because those hours will pay off in the long run. There are good firms out there. Just be proactive and stay positive.

7.  From Hannah K.:  As an apprentice or new guy/gal everyone is your boss. You do not have a job description. Do your best to do whatever (in legal and moral boundries)it is you are asked to do.

“I just got my license.  How do I land a job at a funeral home?”

1.  Tony G.: Interview, interview, interview and interview. Don’t be desperate to find a funeral home. You will end up quitting and jumping from one frying pan to another. Don’t rush it. You will know when you find the right place.

2.  From Kristin J.:  I had no connections when I started. Talk to teachers, they are huge assets and can help put in words of recommendation. Post resumes on state board websites and nfda. Be open minded and it helps to be willing to relocate. Make sure its something you feel passionate about because its hard day in and day out. Supportive family is a must since hours are all over the place and you don’t get holidays or weekends.

3.  From Dale C.  Now that I am in the position of hiring people, the skills that folks learn at mortuary school are just a small part of what they need to know in order for me to even consider hiring them. Technology, computers, writing and speaking skills are an absolute must. Whether you are fresh from mortuary school or an experienced funeral director the following skills are an absolute requirement.  (You can read more of Dale’s thoughts HERE.)

4.  From Leslie S.:  It’s easier in a bigger city that has corporately owned funeral homes. They tend to hire more workers.

5.  From Ron M.: SCI (Dignity Funeral Homes) are always looking for new hires. I’m a former Location Manager (No License). I started as General Duties and learned as much as I could. Eventually that led to My Several Promotions.

6.  Some real practical advice from Rose A.: Learn proper composure. Walk and talk in such a way as to lend dignity to your profession. Sharpen your listening skills. Don’t jingle your change or check your phone in view of funeral attendants. React with compassion, but do not speak in platitudes. Don’t say, “Good morning” or “good evening” when answering the door, say, “welcome”. Have tissues handy in your pocket. Don’t chew gum.

7.  Rachel M.:  Don’t get discouraged. It may seem difficult to find a job, but it is worth the wait. This is a very rewarding profession and you can’t stop before you start.

If you’ve made it this far, I’ve written three pieces that directly and indirectly answer those questions:

10 Burdens Funeral Directors Carry

Ten Reasons I’m a Funeral Director

So, You Wanna Be a Funeral Director? 


15 Things I Wish I’d Known About Grief

Today’s guest post is written by Teryn O’Brien:

After a year of grief, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve also made some mistakes along the way. Today, I jotted down 15 things I wish I’d known about grief when I started my own process.

I pass this onto anyone on the journey.


1. You will feel like the world has ended. I promise, it hasn’t. Life willgo on, slowly. A new normal will come, slowly.

2. No matter how bad a day feels, it is only a day.  When you go to sleep crying, you will wake up to a new day.

3. Grief comes in waves. You might be okay one hour, not okay the next. Okay one day, not okay the next day. Okay one month, not okay the next. Learn to go with the flow of what your heart and mind are feeling.

4. It’s okay to cry. Do it often. But it’s okay to laugh, too. Don’t feel guilty for feeling positive emotions even when dealing with loss.

5. Take care of yourself, even if you don’t feel like it. Eat healthily. Work out. Do the things you love. Remember that you are still living.

6. Don’t shut people out. Don’t cut yourself off from relationships. You will hurt yourself and others.

7. No one will respond perfectly to your grief. People–even people you love–will let you down. Friends you thought would be there won’t be there, and people you hardly know will reach out. Be prepared to give others grace. Be prepared to work through hurt and forgiveness at others’ reactions.

8. God will be there for you perfectly. He will never, ever let you down. He will let you scream, cry, and question. Throw all your emotions at Him. He is near to the brokenhearted.

9. Take time to truly remember the person you lost. Write about him or her, go back to all your memories with them, truly soak in all the good times you had with that person. It will help.

10. Facing the grief is better than running. Don’t hide from the pain. If you do, it will fester and grow and consume you.

11. You will ask “Why?” more times than you thought possible, but you may never get an answer. What helps is asking, “How? How can I live life more fully to honor my loved one? How can I love better, how can I embrace others, how can I change and grow because of this?” 

12. You will try to escape grief by getting busy, busy, busy. You will think that if you don’t think about it, it’ll just go away. This isn’t really true. Take time to process and heal.

13. Liquor, sex, drugs, hobbies, work, relationships, etc., will not take the pain away. If you are using anything to try and numb the pain, it will make things worse in the long run. Seek help if you’re dealing with the sorrow in unhealthy ways.

14. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to need people. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay.

15. Grief can be beautiful and deep and profound. Don’t be afraid of it. Walk alongside it. You may be surprised at what grief can teach you.

What are things you’ve learned about grief that you wish you’d known when your loss first happened?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teryn O’Brien works in marketing with various religious imprints of Penguin Random House. She spends her free time roaming the mountains of Colorado, writing a series of novels, and combating sex trafficking. She’s of Irish descent, which is probably where she gets her warrior spirit of fighting for the broken, the hurting, the underdog. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on Facebook.

Death and Funerals

Today’s guest post is written by Laura Bock.

“Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering.”

- Roland Barthes

Death and funerals have never frightened me; I’ve had my share of close encounters with death, mostly from my own period of suicidal thoughts due to severe depression. Death and I have become friends of sorts over the years.

I’ve always held a fascination with death, even as a child. With my fascination came an understanding; I accepted death as a natural part of life at an early age. I knew all living things had to die; from the moment of birth, we are essentially living to die.

My mother didn’t want me attending funerals when I was young; she did not fare well with funerals and did her best to never attend any. I am thankful I didn’t pick up on her phobia.

527When I was around 12 years old, I experienced the death of two major people in my life: my Nana and the pastor of the church I was attending.

My Nana’s death was sudden, yet expected; she had emphysema and was in the ICU when she passed on. I remember going to see her in the hospital with my nephews, who were just toddlers; we had to slip in quietly, because we were so young and it was after hours. Nana took my hand, squeezed it and told me not to be sad; I had to be strong for my dad and the rest of the family.

I was sad, but even at that young age, I knew to not dwell on her passing, but to rejoice and celebrate her life by remembering how she touched my life and the lives of others.

At her funeral I bounced around smiling, singing and laughing, trying to make everyone smile. My dad held my hand and took me up to Nana’s casket to say goodbye; I touched her hands placed peacefully across her torso, with her rosary in hand, then looked up and smiled at my dad who was holding back his tears. “Don’t cry dad, she’s at peace and doesn’t want you to be unhappy.”

After returning home from Nana’s funeral, I went through my grieving process. The hardest part was accepting the fact that when we would go to visit her house, that she wouldn’t be there anymore. The first time we visited after her death, I stood in the spot where her rocking chair was, right in front of the window looking out to the road; I pretended she was still there. I could feel her presence; I knew she was watching over all of us.

It seemed like hardly any time passed when the pastor of my church suddenly died. He was working on a car in his driveway when the jack gave out and the car crushed him underneath. This death was more shocking to me than my Nana’s.

When I attended the pastor’s funeral service, my philosophy on death was reinforced by the happy and uplifting hymns that were chosen for the service. I knew that life had to carry on, and while we would always miss the person we lost to death, we should always remember to celebrate their life. I became a pro with funerals at a young age.

I remember collecting all the loose change I could, putting it into an envelope and giving it to the pastor’s widowed wife with a letter that said what he meant to me and how sorry I was for her and her sons’ loss. I ran into her about 10 years ago; she still remembered my act of kindness.

Immediately after graduating high school, a friend of mine was killed in a car accident; she was very popular and the wake was packed wall to wall with friends and loved ones. Everyone was crying – except me. I remember being told by a close friend that I was insensitive because I was not upset and crying like everyone else was. My reply was simple, “Everyone mourns death in their own way. She is at peace – we should celebrate her life.” I understood I was merely a target for her anger as part of her grieving process.

I make it a habit to visit the gravesides of loved ones that have passed on. Cemeteries are not only for the burial of remains, but they also serve as a place for those of us still alive to remember and cope with the loss of our loved ones. Cemeteries are a peaceful place to reflect on life.

I have become a grief counselor of sorts to friends and family over the years. I understand the grief process; I am a very empathetic person, offering strength and comfort to all. Sometimes all someone needs is an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. I’ve often thought about pursuing grief counseling as a career, but I do believe I’ve found my calling as a writer.

Perhaps I am an old soul and that is how I accepted death without it having to be explained to me by one of my older relatives. Maybe it’s because I read a lot as a child and was exposed to death in many of the books I read; whatever the reason, I am thankful that I have that balance and understanding in my life.

Mourning and grief are such deeply felt and personal experiences that vary with each individual. We should always remember to never judge a person because they are not reacting the way we think they should – that person could be falling apart and crying on the inside.

Perhaps that person is like myself and understands that every journey must end and we should celebrate and live life to its fullest – after all, we will never get out of it alive.


Laura Bock is a freelance writer and photographer. She lives her life with no fear and has taken the leap of faith many times over, which explains her sometimes wounded wings. She’s recently learned to de-clutter and simplify, so that she might pursue the life she so desperately craves. Her passions are writing, travel and photography. You can connect with Laura on FacebookTwitter and her blog, Tales of a Formerly Inadequate Fat Girl.



11 Worst and Best Things to Say at a Funeral

I’m often asked, “What are the best and worst things to say at a funeral?”  And it’s a great question to ask because the right words can help speed up healing, while the wrong words can delay the grief process by days, maybe even months.

I stumbled across this list from and thought they were very helpful.  Of course, there may be one or two pieces of advice that should be taken lightly.

508The Worst Things to Say to Someone in Grief

  1. At least she lived a long life, many people die young
  2. He is in a better place
  3. She brought this on herself
  4. Edward Cullen does not exist and even if he did, he wouldn’t bite your loved one
  5. There is a reason for everything
  6. Aren’t you over him yet, he has been dead for awhile now
  7. You can have another child still
  8. She was such a good person God wanted her to be with him
  9. I know how you feel
  10. She did what she came here to do and it was her time to go
  11. Be strong

The Best Things to Say to Someone in Grief

  1. I am so sorry for your loss.
  2. I wish I had the right words, just know I care.
  3. I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in anyway I can.
  4. You and your loved one will be in my thoughts and prayers.
  5. I have a ton of bacon in my car with your name on it.
  6. My favorite memory of your loved one is…
  7. I am always just a phone call away
  8. Give a hug instead of saying something
  9. We all need help at times like this, I am here for you
  10. I am usually up early or late, if you need anything
  11. Saying nothing, just be with the person

Taken (mostly) verbatim from the incredibly helpful

If you’d like to share your experiences with what should or shouldn’t be said, please feel free to share.  Or, if you agree or disagree with any of the above suggestions, let me know!

150 Year Old Reputation for 15 Minutes of Fame?

Over the past month I’ve been featured by NBC, CBS and the Facebook god George Takei (oh myyy).  And while the NBC and CBS posts were rather innocuous, this post has been making it’s rounds.  Like, it’s everywhere.


For those of us who watch “The Walking Dead” and other Zombie films, the joke is mostly funny. For those who aren’t interested in the zombie genre, though, it’s created some discomfort.  Being that the post has gone viral, millions have seen it and not everyone has liked it.

One local person (who refused to give us their name) called the funeral home and demanded that I take down the post (by the time they called it was too late and the post had already gone viral).

Another person actually reported me to the Borough Council of my home town.  Thankfully, the Borough Council realized my post was in jest and didn’t kick me out town.

But when a friend that I really respect was uncomfortable with that particular tweet, it made me reflect upon my platform.  He constructively and kindly let me know what he thought via a Facebook message, and it provided me with a moment of clarification, which I communicated with this response:

So sorry. It is certainly something that I would never ever consider doing in real life. I understand why the thought of this would upset you and sincerely apologize. It has been a difficult process for me to understand how I can engage my generation in the death and dying conversation without being over the top. This is a process that I have continually modified based on constructive feedback. I thank you for being willing to offer me your thoughts and do know that I am very sorry this tweet called into question our trustworthiness. I will learn to do better.

I just want to make some things clear:  I am first and foremost a funeral director who has the utmost respect for those I serve.  And I would never, ever knowingly do anything through social media that would break the trust of my community.

Through six generations and over 150 years, our family has earned the trust and confidence of our community and I would NEVER trade that trust for anything.  I would NEVER trade our reputation that my family has built for 15 minutes of personal fame.  I have too much respect for my family and too much respect for this wonderful community that we serve.

So, why do I engage in social media?  And why are some of my posts “edgy”?

My goal with social media is simple: I want to start a conversation about death.  And, as a funeral director, I’m well suited to initiate the discussion.  We need to talk about death, we need to embrace it, we need to understand it better and – at times – the best way to start the conversation about an uncomfortable subject is through a little bit of humor.

This whole death and social media thing is kinda unique.  We’re doing it together.  We’re learning.  And we’re going somewhere.  We’re learning how to live life better through a healthy perspective of death.  So, learn with me.  I’m trying my best.

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