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.
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.