little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when she’s six months pregnant.)

Well, this post won’t be going live until after this little baby is born. But right now, I am currently six months pregnant and feeling every little bit of it. I know that I’ve kept my entire pregnancy offline, and by the time baby is here, you’ll all know why.

Since this is the first I’m looking at these photos, the first thought that pops into my mind is that I’ve done a very morbid maternity shoot. But alas, although these photos are documenting me growing a tiny human, the main point is to share with all you female funeral directors out there how I’m dressing for work while also expanding at the waist.

As you all know, I basically only wear dresses. This has come in very handy during this pregnancy because I haven’t had to go through the shock of not being able to button up my favorite pants (spoiler, I don’t have a pair of favorite pants…I hardly have pants at all.) Because of my love of dresses, I’ve been able to get away with not buying any maternity clothes as of yet. Instead, I’ve just been wearing very loose dresses. To try to make myself look like I have even a tiny bit of a shape, I’ve been wearing belts. I’m past the point of hiding this baby, so might as well show off the bump.

Also, six months pregnant and still wearing heels. I know that this is crazy but honestly, I don’t want to be logical. I can still get around on them and they make me feel more like myself. I feel very out of control when it comes to many things in my life nowadays, so wearing heels still makes me feel like me. Maybe next month I’ll invest in a pair of flats. Or maybe I’ll wear heels when I give birth. I’ll keep you posted.

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Dress – BCBGeneration (can be found here)

Belt – Loft (similar style here)

Tights – Rite Aid (similar style here)

Shoes – Kelly & Katie (can be found here)

 

My husband Josiah LeRoy took these photos of me in St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga, NY.

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.

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.