little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

Category: youtube

National Grief Awareness Day + Goodgrief App

When Eddie died, I didn’t know how to feel.

I don’t mean that in the literal sense, because I hope it’s quite obvious that I was grieving very hard, but I didn’t know where I stood relationship wise. I loved Eddie. I often describe him as my second grandfather, a protector, but we were close because we worked together. So even though he meant so much to me, when I described who he was to an outsider, they could not understand how I felt exactly because they saw our relationship as it was; co-workers.

In my grief, I needed others to understand. I needed to talk about it, and write about it, and explain how I felt so I didn’t hold it all inside. So I did those things. And even though I was met with support from others, no one really got it. In one way, I am sort of happy that others didn’t understand, because that meant that they never went through a loss like that. But one the other hand, it would have been nice to be able to really communicate with someone who had been through something similar.

Every one has a different way to cope and deal with grief. There’s no one way to grieve a loss and the road is hard and can be long. Companionship during this journey can help when you just feel overcome with emotions and feel like the days will never get better. Sometimes, it’s enough to have someone check in and see how you’re doing. Sometimes, you need someone to just be there with you, sharing in the silence. And other times, what we need is someone in a similar situation so we can explain what we’re going through and have the other person get it.

Today, August 30, 2018 is National Grief Awareness Day. I am so proud to be able to partner with the Goodgrief App and share this wonderful resource with others.

The Goodgrief App was co-founded by two women named Kim and Robynne. It’s a social network for people dealing with loss. It puts you in touch with others who have lost their partners, parents, child, relative, or friend. It allows you to connect with others who are in the same boat as you and who get what you’re going through.

I know there were so many times when I actually felt bad for talking about Eddie. It’s so silly to actually type those words, but I would sometimes feel like I was bothering those in my immediate circle because I just wanted to talk about him and get my grief out. If I would have known about this app, it would have helped me so much during the beginning of my grief journey.

There is no time frame for how long a person should grieve. This app, allows you to find others who can be a support system for you, no matter how long you may need them. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, you are never alone, and there are wonderful individuals out there like Kim and Robynne who are working hard every day to make certain that we all have resources so we understand those truths.

For National Grief Awareness Day, I ask you all to look into the Goodgrief App and see what it can offer to you on your grief journey. I also ask you to pick up your phone, and send a little text or call someone you know who may be struggling. Let them know they’re not alone. Maybe just sit with them in their silence. Because one thing in this life is true, at one point or another we will all lose someone we love. It really does take a village and there is no need to be ashamed of that.

 

Complaining About Complaints in the Funeral Industry

Do you know what I’m really good at?

Complaining.

When it comes to funeral service, I’ve heard my fair share of people complaining about what it is that I do for a living. I think that a large reason for this is because for so long funerals and the work that funeral professionals do have been behind closed doors. If the public has no idea the job that we do, they can’t possible understand the value in it. And you know what? That’s our fault. The work of a funeral director is some of the most sacred work that we can undertake as humans. To be able to care for a deceased person is a privilege that many do not have. One of the main reasons why ‘normal’ people do not get this privilege in our Western culture is because we’ve decided that death should not be a part of our everyday lives. Even though we know that everyone who lives will die, we block this from our minds.

Our society therefore, does not understand that death is not a nine to five job. Death does not wait for a convenient time to occur for the living. Death is messy, and difficult, and heavy, and funeral professionals have chosen to carry this weight. All the while, sacrificing time with our own loved ones. Many times, taking on this job for not great pay. We do this, because we understand the importance of this work. We understand that every life deserves respect when it ends. We understand, that by caring for the dead, we are also caring for the living.

“Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land and their loyalty to high ideals.” – William Gladstone, British Prime Minister, 1809–1898

So if you’re interested, in hearing me complain about complaints that I’ve heard within the funeral industry, you can watch my video below. The work that we, as funeral professionals, do matters. Until the day comes when are nation will care for our own dead, funeral directors will continue to be there for families and help them through the death process.

Depression + Compassion Fatigue

I’ve talked about this so many times. This topic is so close to my heart because it’s still something that I struggle with day in and day out. The only difference is that I now know what to call it.

Depression is something that never truly goes away. Once you find yourself slipping into that dark hole, it’s so easy to find your way back down, time and time again. The only difference for me is that I’m now aware of what happens. For a long time, I thought that I just wasn’t meant to be a funeral director. I thought that this job was too much for me to handle. I thought that I was a weak person.  I wasn’t weak, but instead I thought I was so strong that I was invincible. I thought that I could carry the weight of others all by myself. I thought that death didn’t affect me and that I would be able to save all of these families from their grief.

But people who are truly strong, know when to ask for help.

Compassion fatigue is real. When you completely submerge yourself into helping other people and when you forget about your own well-being, you are experiencing compassion fatigue. When you want to help others so bad, that you neglect your own health and wellness, you are suffering from compassion fatigue. You are not weak, it’s just that you’re not invincible. It took me a long time to realize that, and a new job within the funeral industry to be able to begin climbing out of that dark hole. There are still dark days, but since I have more knowledge and resources I am better equiped to handle this career and the depression that can come along with it.

Everyday is a new opportunity to learn and grow. Every morning I wake up I can put my own health first while still being able to help others. It’s a balancing act, but I’m learning.

Read more about me finding my resilience here.

Finding Resilience is a burnout prevention program in partnership with Homesteaders and Dr. Jason Troyer to create resources to help you cope with difficult situations and find the joy in the important work you do to serve your community. You can sign up for a free journal or weekly emails here.

My Father’s Wake Review

Have you all heard about My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die by Kevin Toolis? I was extremely lucky to have been sent a copy of it a few months back and quickly read the entire book. Back in 2011, I was able to visit a friend of mine who was studying in Ireland, so this book appealed to me even more because of that!

My Father’s Wake revolves around Sonny, Kevin’s father. It starts off with him actively dying and eventually follows his entire funeral. Throughout the book, Kevin also shares different parts of his life in which the reader is able to get a deeper understanding with his relationship with death. Stories shared regarding his brother and job as a reporter allow the reader to dive more deeply into an intimate part of Kevin’s life. One thing is for certain throughout this book, death is apart of life, and should not be feared. Instead, we should allow ourselves to be part of the process of dying and the act of caring for our deceased.

Sonny’s story was so beautifully told. Kevin’s writing really forces the reader to think about how we deal with death here in the West. Growing up in the United States, my experiences with death on a personal level has been vastly different from Kevin’s. In a society where we pay professionals like myself to care for the dead, Kevin reminds us that these dead bodies are those of our own loved ones. They are not to be feared and our relationship with them in death can be beautiful and therapeutic. By bringing a death back into our home, we are better able to acknowledge it and honor the life of our loved ones.

Below I have my video review of My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Die. After you watch it make certain to order your copy here. Honestly, do it, because this book is worth it.

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.

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.

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.)