My wife did not want to talk about it. I had come home and waited patiently through dinner. Our young daughters had run off to play and now I was ready to share.
I had spent my day at a local funeral home (the funeral home I now work for). I had decided early in my career that if I was going to be writing articles and presenting to funeral and cemetery professionals, then I would need to spend more time “in the trenches.” As a grief psychologist, I had a lot of knowledge about the bereaved, but I would need to see the challenges and rewards of funeral service first-hand. The funeral home owners had allowed me to sit in on some arrangement conferences that day. After asking permission from the first family, I was ready to witness the process of planning a funeral.
The first arrangement conference of the day was to plan the funeral for a two-month-old. I will spare you the details, but death was tragic and accidental. As a former therapist, I’m no stranger to tough, emotional conversations – but I was not fully prepared for this. Thankfully, the funeral director I was shadowing was ready. He handled the entire meeting with empathy and professionalism. I marveled at his ability to know when to shift from allowing the parents to share their pain to offering personalized options that would allow them to begin to heal from this tragic loss.
When I arrived home, I wanted to share the experience with my wife. As a former child therapist, she has experience with difficult conversations and has dealt with painful, emotional topics. But she did not want to hear about the funeral arrangements for a baby. And yet I wanted to talk about it. That’s when it struck me. This is exactly what funeral and cemetery professionals deal with every day. You regularly see and hear things that other people never want to think about. You are the “odd one” in your community – and in some cases, even to your own families.
I could imagine the funeral director I had shadowed that day going to a barbeque with a group of friends later that night. While the accountant could complain about the stress of tax season and the teacher could share stories about unruly children and disgruntled parents, he already knew that no one wanted to hear about his day at the funeral home. Even his spouse would not want to hear the details of his day. And so, he would have to keep it inside – like the thousands of other funeral and cemetery professionals who perform the same duties each day.
I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had witnessed. In hindsight, the events of that day were the seed that grew to become my presentation on preventing burnout in funeral and cemetery professionals.
Given the challenging two years we have all had, I want to share three tips for dealing with the challenges of funeral and cemetery service.
(Continuing reading this article by Dr. Jason Troyer by opening the drop window below)