The 10 Hardest Parts of the Funeral Industry
Each and every job has its hard parts. Here are 10 aspects of the funeral industry that I find difficult.
One. The Silence
Silence is the voice of death. It’s antithetical to the pursuit of Americans. Most of us are programmed to want answers to our questions, truth to our doubts, words to our emptiness and meaning to our voids. But when I’m sitting with a family making arrangements for their dead loved one’s funeral, sometimes I look them in the eye, I say “I’m sorry for your loss”, and then comes the most difficult of all things: the absence of answers, the lack of truth, the void of our existence and the silence of death. We just sit, acknowledge the silence, and embrace the sacred moment.
Two. The Money
Aside from the silence, tallying up the bill is always difficult for me. It’s not that our funeral home is expensive. We pride ourselves on being the least expensive funeral home in our area. It’s not that we’re trying to rip people off. We do believe our prices are fair and honest. It’s just that bringing up money when we’re talking about death seems like sacrilege. Sure, we have to pay our bills. Sure, paychecks are good. It’s just difficult for me, and I imagine many other funeral directors as well, to capitalize on death.
Having mature women flirt with me is … not that difficult. Yeah, I actually like that part. What funeral director doesn’t mind the occasional, “If I was 40 years younger” comment?
Four. Tragic deaths
These are the kind of deaths that come home with us. You just can’t help it. There’s not a funeral director that isn’t affected by the death of a child, the car accident, the overdose or the suicide.
Some people have major problems and baggage that get fanned to flame by grief and bereavement. Often times, they take their problems, their anger, their frustration and instead of dealing with their grief and bereavement, they take it out on us. If you’ve been in the business long enough, you know not to take it personally, but it’s nonetheless difficult to take a capricious verbal lashing for no apparent reason other than transference.
Six. Morticians not Magicians
There are some faces that we can’t restore.
Some bodies that are too far gone.
Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to make the dead look alive.
Sometimes, the process of securing a doctor’s signature, getting cremation approval from the county and the line up at the crematory means we can have everything finished in the time you want it to be.
I wish we had a magic wand, but there are things we can’t do. Wishing we could, but knowing we can’t isn’t an easy idea for you to accept, but it’s even more difficult for us to accept as we like to think we’re more capable than we really are.
Seven. The Night Calls
There’s no amount of coffee that can compensate for the lack of sleep caused by a 2 AM night call.
Eight. Meeting Our Own Demons
There are certain things in life, like marriage, or our kids, that have a tendency to summon our hidden demons. I’ve often said that I was a great person before I got married and then I saw just how selfish and prideful I really am. Death and the funeral industry can have a similar effect. Death culture is like the refining of gold; all of our impurities, our stress, our own anxiety, and our pride can come seeping out in the heat of the moment. But that very heat, while revealing our difficult demons, can also purify us and make us more beautiful.
Nine. Dress clothing
I like nice suits and I’m an absolute shoe addict, but wearing a suit on a sweltering mid-summer Pennsylvania day is an exquisite form of torture. I don’t believe in hell, but wearing a black suit in 100-degree weather is pretty damn close.
Ten. Personal Relationship Strain
I suppose every friend will disappoint you once in a while; but funeral directors will probably do it more often. We might miss your birthday party, we might have to leave in the middle of dinner.
Death has this way of keeping an untimely schedule. And as death’s minions, we’re tied to that schedule. Whether it be in the middle of the night, or in the middle of your wedding, when death calls, we have to respond. That respond-ability marks having a personal relationship with us somewhat difficult.
If you like my writing, consider buying my 2017 Nautilus Book Award Gold Winner, Confession of a Funeral Director (click the image to go to the Amazon page):