little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

Addressing something I’ve noticed within the funeral community.

There’s something that I’ve been noticing in the funeral industry that I’d like to address, however, I’m not certain how I’d like to go about it. I’ve been looking at my computer screen for quite some time already, pondering if I should even address it. But I’ve always been honest on my blog and I’ve always used it as an outlet to get my emotions out, so here I am, typing away.

I’ve always loved the funeral community that I’ve found online. I have been able to make some great friends and have valuable resources thanks to the internet and other people similar to me who work in the death care industry and put themselves out there online. I’ve always been proud of fellow funeral professionals who stand up for what they believe in and who put the care of families and the dead above all else. After all, I became a funeral director to help people. I’m still a funeral director because I believe that I’m good at helping people.

But recently, online, I’ve been seeing a divide. I’m certain that this divide has been here for a while, but I’ve just either been ignoring it or ignorant to it. Either way, the other day I noticed a comment on a social media platform that was very obviously directed at me. When I looked into the person who made this comment, I noticed that the hashtag #deathpositive was used in their profile.

I love the death positive movement. It encourages people to speak openly about death, all the while being able to stare our own mortality in the face. Part of this movement involves individuals who want to take back death by taking care of their loved ones directly in death. More family and less funeral directors. A concept that many people in the Western culture still aren’t completely comfortable with. You see, our society has been sweeping death ‘under the rug’ for so long, that we don’t want to see it or think about it. If we don’t get our hands dirty it didn’t happen. And when a death ‘hasn’t happened’ (although, spoiler alert, it actually has happened) that can complicate our grief because we’re not being an active participant in mourning the loss of someone who we love.

The death positive movement is something that we desperately need.

I became a funeral director to help people. And I realize that my viewpoints do not match everyone’s viewpoints. I realize that how I believe things should be done isn’t a universal truth. As a funeral director, I believe that it is my job to be able to supply myself with as much knowledge as I possibly can so I can be a resource for those when they do have to go through a loss. I call myself a traditional funeral director because that is the setting that I currently work in. This does not mean that I believe this is the only way to do things. I wish that my community had more green options when it came to funerals. I love the beauty and simplicity that comes along with a natural burial. My mother on the other hand wants to be cremated and has informed me numerous times if I don’t abide by her wishes she will haunt me. And I’ve seen families cry tears of thanksgiving as they’ve looked down upon their loved one who died such a tragic death, but were able to see them one last time because of the hours that went into embalming and restoring them. But still, by calling myself a traditional funeral director, there are some in the profession who immediately look down upon me or believe that I’m doing funerals the ‘wrong’ way.

All funerals are good funerals, if the care of the family and deceased are the top priority. As funeral directors, we honor the life of those now gone by treating their bodies with respect. We also provide a starting point for the grief process for those who are left with a hole in their heart by these deaths. You see, we cannot sweep death under the rug. We have to look it in its eye, acknowledge that it has occurred and that someone we love will no longer be with us. We have to honor that life the best way we know how and begin to pick up the pieces and reconstruct our life around that loss.

However

As someone involved in the funeral profession, I cannot be involved in what I’ve been seeing with other funeral professionals. I see so much of a divide between traditional funeral directors and new aged funeral directors.

Now do not get me wrong, I have seen many people involved in this career, who frankly, should not be. The minute you put your own gains above the people you are serving is the minute that you should no longer be in this profession. This is a service industry, after all.

And I appreciate those who are so passionate about a certain aspect of funeral service. For instance, Melissa N. Unfred, known as the Modern Mortician, is such a passionate woman who works hard everyday to be able to provide families with green burial options in and around Austin, Texas. She has so much knowledge and sees the beauty and dignity that comes along with a simple burial. Not only does her work help our planet, but she’s able to involve families in the final care of their loved ones, while still being a professional who can handle the details. Add in her therapy dog Kermit (who is amazing, by the way AND Texas’ first certified therapy dog in funeral service) and you know that by working with Melissa you’re going to be in the best hands. I’m thankful that I have gotten the opportunity to meet her and Kermit and I’m proud to be able to call her a colleague and friend.

Not every ‘traditional funeral director’ feels the same about her, though. She sometimes shares information that old school funeral directors do not want her to share and that has not made her very popular around them.

You see, the death positive movement talks and is open about death. This means talking about the industry and putting things out there that have previously been behind closed doors.

My entire career is based on being honest. I have always been very open about what I do as a funeral director. And if I continue to be honest, I can answer questions that people have regarding death and funerals. Embalming is not going to be right for every family,  for instance. But if someone asks, I can explain the process and tell them the pros and cons behind it. I can explain why it’s beneficial in certain instances and unnecessary in others. I can continue to be a resource by providing information and letting a family decide what option is best for them. Because when they lose someone they love, my personal opinions on death do not matter. What matters is how they want to honor their loved one, and I should be able to help them accomplish that.

This profession should not be an “us against them” fight.

This profession should be filled with caring people who want to help others. People who are passionate and arm themselves with knowledge and resources to serve families during one of the most difficult times of their lives. We cannot grow and change and be able to provide all different options to families if we are constantly pointing our fingers at others and proclaiming that “they’re doing funerals the wrong way!” We have to be able to work together as a team, lift each other up, and realize that when we are unfamiliar with a certain aspect of this profession, that there are others out there who can be valuable resources if we allow them to be. There is no one way to do a funeral. The minute professionals in this industry realize that, the better they’ll be able to serve families that need them. Because once again, shouldn’t that be the reason behind joining this profession?

 I am proud of the work that I do and the platform that I’m blessed with to be able to share it. And I’m going to continue with my journey, no matter where it may lead me, being positive, helping others, and hopefully growing my own personal funeral community by uplifting those who are making a difference.

How To Become A Funeral Director

I get a ton of questions asking the steps that need to be taken to become a funeral director. This is such a difficult question because every single state is different! What this means is that since I am licensed in New York, I am only a funeral director in New York. If I were to travel to New Jersey, or Ohio, I am no longer a funeral director unless I take the steps necessary in that state.

For a list of the requirements for your state you can always check out the National Funeral Director Association Licensing Boards and Requirements. For New York, I had to complete the following steps.

1. Graduate with an Associate Degree in Funeral Service

2. Pass the National Board Exam (both sections, Arts and Science)

3. Complete a one year residency with a licensed funeral firm

4. Pass a NYS Funeral Law Exam

For more information, you can watch my video below.

Requiring Bodies To Be Embalmed

By now, I believe anyone reading Little Miss Funeral knows that I’m a licensed funeral director in New York State (or maybe not, which is why I’m mentioning it again). In New York, there is no law that says a person has to be embalmed prior to viewing. Many funeral homes, however, will make it their policy that if a family wishes to have a public viewing, the deceased must first be embalmed. Sometimes, as in the case of the funeral home in my video, they will make it a policy to embalm a person for other reasons.

Watch the video below to hear my opinion on the matter.

St. Jude’s Novena.

I’m currently at my parents house (we have a family dinner every Tuesday) and my mom came up to me and asked what I know about publishing. So I asked her, “Like in a newspaper?” And she looked at me and said, “I guess” and gave me this novena.

After looking at it, I asked her if she wanted me to publish it on my blog, and she said yes. (Selfish reasons, I told her she better be praying for me.)

If you’re interested, I hope it can be helpful and a comfort for you.

St. Jude’s Novena

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be adored, glorified, loved and preserved throughout the world now and forever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, pray for us. St. Jude, worker of miracles, pray for us. St. Jude, helper of the hopeless, pray for us. Say this prayer 9 times a day for 9 days. By the 9th day your prayer will be answered. It has never been known to fail. Publication must be promised. Thank you St. Jude. T.M.D.

When You’re Sick + Have To Work

I don’t really get sick days at work. I’m not saying that if I have a terrible cold I can’t take a day off. It’s just that when you work in a funeral home you work on a different kind of schedule.

I always joke and say that I live in a perpetual state of sickness during the winter months. Somehow, I always find myself with a cough, or sore throat, or stuffy nose. Often times, these little illnesses are not terrible enough for me to call off of work. Sometimes, even if I want to take a day to rest up, I just have too much to do! Watch my video below and see some different things that I do to make myself feel better when I’m feeling under the weather.

I’m having an emotional night.

 

I have been having a difficult time, lately.

And it’s been a while, since I’ve found myself slipping into this familiar territory. It’s been a very long time, since I’ve found myself this unhappy with my job. On one hand, it’s kind of funny that I’m feeling these emotions because my life is so different from where I was five years ago. But in the same breath, it makes so much sense because it’s my work environment that is causing these feelings.

Sometimes I sit down and wonder why the hell I became a funeral director. Why would I decide to dedicate my life to a career that is so heavy, unpredictable, and generally shunned  from the majority of the public? Why couldn’t I have become a school teacher, working towards enlightening the minds of the children of tomorrow? Why did I chose death? Why, as I type this now, do I feel like I never had a choice?

My life has always revolved around death. Not in a dramatic, dark way. Sure, I’ve lost my fair share of people who I love. But it’s more than that. I never felt like I had a choice in becoming a funeral director. It’s just what I was always supposed to do. Every single path that I’ve found myself on has led me to this career.

And the thing is, I love it. I really, really love it. I have this fear, that I’ve never really talked about before. That at the end of my life, as I’m looking back on what I accomplished, I’ll actually realize that I never did anything of any importance. I love being a funeral director for selfish reasons. This job gives my life purpose.

But this job also takes so much from me. It takes time away from my own family. It takes my mental health. The times when I’m working a funeral that just doesn’t make sense. A funeral that should not be happening. This job takes away my reasoning and priorities. It makes me put other people first. That may not sound so bad, except when it makes me put strangers above my own family, or my own wellbeing. It makes me nervous, that I’m going to miss a lot in the future. And what if, at the end of my life, instead of looking back and realizing I never did anything of any importance, I realize that instead, I missed out on the little moments that could have really given my life meaning?

I can’t believe that after everything I’ve been through, I’m finding myself back here. I’m grateful, that this time around I’m recognizing it. Because I realize that I’m finding myself in more unhappy moments than I would like, I can actively work towards finding happier ones. The thing is, that right now, I’m tired. At this moment, I feel as if I have so many things outside of my control and that is very overwhelming. Like always, I’m working on one day at a time. And the beautiful thing about these emotions this time around, is that I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel. No matter what, I know for certain I have happier days ahead. Because life is always changing. Somehow, all of these pieces will fall into place, even if it’s not the final picture that I envisioned.

If you would have asked me seven years ago, I would have told you that I was going to retire out of the funeral home where I was working. I would have told you that I hit gold, and I worked for the best people, in a progressive firm, going above and beyond to service families. I would have never thought that I would have had to walk away to save my career in funeral service. I know that I am meant to help others in the death care profession. I know that I am good at what I do. And I know, that at times, I need help because death can be too much for me to carry by myself. I have no idea what tomorrow brings, but I know that I’m looking forward to it.

5 Books Related to Death & Dying That I’ve Enjoyed

I used to read all the time. As a matter of fact, in 2013 I thought it would be fun to keep track of the books and pages that I read. Seventy books and 19,609 pages later, I had a nice little library under my belt.

As my funeral career progressed and my workload became busier, I unfortunately have had to slow my reading obsession down due to a lack of time. But I’m still able to enjoy a good book every now and then. Books related to the funeral profession are normally on the top of my list nowadays. Below you can watch my video about five books related to death and dying that I’ve enjoyed. With this particular list, I tried to include authors who were not funeral directors or involved in the funeral profession directly. These are books about grief, loss, and the author’s journey along the way. Some books incorporate jokes and laughter, while others are stories told within a heavier setting. Any one of these books would be a great selection for a summer read.

5 Ways For A Funeral Director To Relax

You all know from my past blogs that being a funeral director can be a very heavy and stressful career. I have to actively work every day to take care of my physical and mental health. I’m happy to share with all of you five things that I love to do to help me relax. You don’t have to be a funeral director to enjoy these pastimes, so pour yourself a glass of wine, run yourself a bubble bath, and watch my video below to see the other things that I do to unwind!

Funeral Q&A With My Husband

One of the reasons why I am able to be a funeral director is because of the support that I have from my husband, Josiah. This is a heavy career. The grief that you carry from the families you serve can be so overwhelming at times that it makes you question why you ever decided to embark on this death journey. It’s easy to take all of these emotions and stress home with you. It’s even easier to succumb to depression within the funeral industry because there is often little to no work-home balance.

I started dating my husband when I was a fifteen year old sophomore in high school. We went to a Catholic school, and at the beginning of every year we would have a walk-a-thon to raise money for one thing or another. It was September, I was tired, and I spotted him walking a little ways in front of me. I never had classes with Josiah during my freshman year, and I just remember looking at this boy and thinking he was so cute! So I ran up to him and asked him if he’d carry me. He said yes, I jumped on his back and we’ve been together ever since.

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I laugh to myself when I think about this encounter. We started off with Josiah physically carrying me, but he has been emotionally and spiritually carrying me ever since that day. I can be a very weak person at times. When my job can seem too much for me to handle he is there cheering me on and helping me to overcome any obstacles in my way. Our life isn’t always perfect, but he is my best friend and he knows me inside out. He constantly encourages me to follow my passions and for that I’m eternally grateful.

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I’ve been able to grow up with Josiah. I can only pray that we get to have the privilege of growing old together.

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If you’re interested, you can watch a video that we filmed together below. I had him answer questions about what it’s like to be married to a funeral director. Spolier alert: besides for being super handsome, he’s also super funny. (I’m still pondering how the hell I convinced him to marry me.)

Always Memorial Podcast

It’s always awesome to be able to connect with people in funeral service. Because this job can be a little, well, different… it’s refreshing to be able to have colleagues and allies cheering you on. That’s why I was so excited to be able to connect with Tyler Fraser and be a guest on his podcast Amazing Departures!

We sat down and talked about my experiences being a funeral director. This podcast was so easy and fun to participate in because we just had a casual conversation with one another. I wanted to say a big thank you to Tyler for letting me ramble on about my experiences and for inviting me to be a guest! Listen to the show below and make certain to check our Tyler and everything else Always Memorial has to offer!

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Always Memorial Podcast: What It’s Like To Be a Funeral Director