When a loved one passes away, a lot of work goes into planning the funeral service. A funeral director’s job is to coordinate this process and help create a service for friends and family of the deceased to gather and celebrate their life.
Funeral directors are caring people who are here to offer support and help you through the grieving process. While many people have a basic understanding of what a funeral director does, there are also many misconceptions. To learn more about a funeral directors life and what their job is like, our team reached out to actual funeral directors to get a better understanding of their day to day life.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Funeral Directors Are Highly Educated
To become a licensed funeral director, there is a lot of education and training involved. Many funeral directors complete post-secondary degrees before enrolling in a mortuary science program approved by the American Board of Funeral Service Education. After they are finished with school, they must complete a 1-3 year apprenticeship and pass a state licensing exam.
While in school they develop technical skills and take courses in psychology, grief and death counselling, business management, law, and ethics. Upon graduation, the mortuary science program has prepared them for a rewarding career in funeral service.
2. There’s a LOT of Paperwork Involved
When someone dies, there is a stack of paperwork that needs to be completed quickly. A large part of a funeral director’s job is completing paperwork to obtain a death certificate, arrange the service, purchase a burial plot and products, write an obituary, ensure guests are aware of the plans for the service and much more.
3. A Funeral Director and An Embalmer Are Separate Jobs
A funeral director and an embalmer are two unique jobs. Many people assume the job titles are synonymous with one another but that is incorrect. While some funeral directors may assist with transporting a body or cleaning/preparing it, many do not and have a more administrative role.
An embalmer is responsible for preserving the remains of the deceased. This is done with chemicals to forestall decomposition and keep the body suitable for public display at a funeral or for other medical and scientific reasons.
4. Embalming Is Not What You Think It Is
Many people have been misled to believe embalming is the process of removing internal organs from the body. Embalming actually involves pumping formaldehyde through the veins to remove all the blood from the body. The formaldehyde is then drained and soft internal tissue that has already begun decomposing is removed as well.
5. It Takes A Team To Serve Your Family
When you die there are several people who help take care of your body. The funeral director is the primary role and responsible for coordinating each member of the team. Other jobs include office staff, drivers to transport the body, crematory operators, embalmers, restorative arts, and more.
Each person’s job is essential to helping families say a proper goodbye. In smaller funeral homes, a staff member may be responsible for multiple roles. Larger funeral homes typically have teams of employees for each role.
6. Funeral Directors Are Really Creative
Today more and more people are transitioning away from traditional religious funerals and beginning to hold a more personalized celebration of life service. Funeral directors are creative individuals and help families arrange unique services that reflect the life and personality of the deceased. It is not uncommon for the funeral director to invite families to add a personal touch and color or decorate the cardboard casket their loved one will be cremated in beforehand. Other creative ideas include having a theme for the funeral or decorating the funeral home with unique decorations or personal belongings of the deceased.
7. It’s Not A Typical 9-5 Job
It all depends on the size of the funeral home and the number of staff. If a funeral director is on call, they may have to drop what they’re doing to go and help a family that has just lost a loved one. If they get a call in the middle of the night, they have to drive to the family’s home to pick up the body to transport it to the funeral home and begin comforting the family. While they may not be on call every day, their hours can vary and no two days are the same.
8. They’re Not Desensitized To Death And Grief
You might think because they deal with death so much that they have become desensitized to it. This is not the case though, and funeral directors make time to decompress and deal with the grief they absorb at work. Helping others cope with grief can be one of the hardest parts of the job and funeral directors make sure to find a balance between their work life and personal life so that death and grief don’t consume their entire day. Doing so allows them to help others grieve while not becoming desensitized to the world around them.
9. No, They’re Not Trying To Rip You Off
Yes, a funeral can be expensive, but funeral directors are not trying to rip you off or make a large profit. Many funeral homes offer a wide range of services and products that meet the needs and budgets of different people. While there are more expensive options available, most funeral homes offer direct burial or cremation packages at a rate far below the national average of a traditional funeral. Regardless of the cost of your arrangement, the funeral director will provide your family with the same level of compassion and care they would if you selected the most expensive option.
10. To Most, It’s A Calling
Many funeral directors have grown up around funeral homes their entire life. It is not uncommon to meet a third or fourth generation funeral director. For many, they grew up watching their parents and grandparents provide care for those in their community. By becoming a funeral director, they are helping to continue their family’s legacy.
There are also those who are first generation funeral directors. These are people who have always had a natural instinct to help care for others in a time of need. Many have claimed that the level of care they have witnessed a funeral home staff provide their family is what inspired them to join the profession.
11. They Like To Have Fun Too
Everyone enjoys their time away from work, and funeral directors are no exception. They’re a member of your community and when they aren’t working, they’re spending their free time with friends and family. Their kids play in the same baseball league as yours, they eat out at the same restaurants as you, and they enjoy a nice drink on the patio in the summer, just like you. Their natural instinct to help others is something that shines anywhere they go, a night out with a funeral director might just be the most fun you’ve ever had.
12. When You Need Them They’ll Be There For You
A funeral director’s main priority is to help your family in your time of need. Whether it’s 9 in the morning or the middle of the night, a funeral director will be there when you need them. Death does not have an off switch and funeral directors understand this. The truly good ones realize this and make the sacrifices necessary to be there for you. It is not uncommon to see a funeral director leave a dinner party or walk out in the middle of a movie because a family has just lost someone and they need to be there for them. Something many people do not realize is that a funeral director’s day never truly ends. If you make the call, they’ll be there to assist you.
Do you have any unique stories about funeral directors? Let us know in the comment section below!