little miss funeral

an average girl working at your not so average job

Tag: funerals

All About Death Certificates

There’s a lot of paperwork involved when a person passes away. More paperwork, I believe, than people realize. Below, I talk about one very important document, a certified death certificate. I explain the information funeral directors are required to fill in at the time of a passing and different things you may need a certified copy for.

On reminding myself to breathe.

It’s happening again.

I’m feeling myself tumble-down that rabbit hole just like Alice.

One thing, that I want to state before I go further, is that I love my job. I really and truly love being a funeral director. But I would be lying if I said it was easy.

The funeral home where I’m currently employed does quite a lot of calls every year. In fact, when I tell people the amount of calls we do, they’re often taken aback. It’s a small building with two funeral directors, one full-time assistant, a trade guy, and part-time help that I can count on one hand. It doesn’t make sense, how everything can get done. But it does, and we do a damn good job.

It’s a joke, it really is, that anytime the owner goes on vacation, everyone in my town dies. This past week and a half was no exception. Ten death calls in ten days. Seven full funerals (visitations, church services, burials). One cremation with a memorial service. Two direct cremations. And I was the only funeral director in the building.

I find myself conflicted emotionally during these times. In one way, I crave these challenges. I drown myself completely with work and the families that I serve because I love proving to myself that I can do it all and do it well. I get a high off of this. Instead of cracking under the pressure I push myself harder to be a better funeral director. My organization was so spot on and communication with my assistant so clear that these services could not have run smoother. I’m proud of myself.

But in the same breath, I only have so much inside of me that I can give. Today was the last burial. The phone hasn’t rung. And now that I’m coming down from my high, I’m tired.

Compassion fatigue is a real thing. And now, it’s almost eleven at night on a Saturday and I’m feeling the pull. I’m feeling myself slipping because I haven’t had a break and for a moment, I’ve forgotten how to take care of myself. I know the steps. I know what I have to do. But when you’ve fallen down that rabbit hole in the past, the route can be just a little too familiar.

So I wanted to write this down, to remind myself that I’m human. Sometimes, I do an exceptional job being a funeral director. And sometimes, I let all the bad stuff choke me. I have to talk about it, because it’s not bad that I’m feeling these emotions. It would be bad if I didn’t share these things and hid them away all to myself. There are resources to help me and people who care about me. This is just a little bump in my journey, not my destination.

Dogs In Funeral Homes

Hi everyone, remember me?

I know that I’ve been terrible at blogging this year. I’ve had a lot of personal things going on that I’ll be able to talk more about in a few months, but to say the least, I’ve been busy. I have been able to somewhat keep up with my YouTube channel (not completely, but much better than I have been with writing.) So below, you can watch a video where I talk about dogs in funeral homes, but more importantly, where my dog Lindy Ruff makes a special guest appearance.

Having a dog helps my mental state tremendously. Lindy is 45 pounds of pure snuggle and love when I come home from work and he immediately lifts my mood. I hope you like the video and don’t worry, I promise I’ll be posting more on here soon!

 

(Also if you want more videos on grief therapy dogs and their training you can check out this video from TalkDeath and The Modern Mortician)

Public Speaking + Advice

One thing that you tend to do a lot of in funeral service is talk. You talk to small groups during arrangements. You talk in front of larger groups on days of services. You talk one on one with a grieving widow. Mortuary school did not prepare me properly for all of the public speaking that comes along with this job.

In this video, I talk about my own tips and tricks that have been passed down to me by others and ones that I’ve picked up myself throughout my eight years of burying people.

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when she wants to be a ballerina.)

I can already hear all of the traditional funeral directors disapproving this particular look. I mean, one of my own funeral associates even looked at me and said “What are you wearing?” But you know what? I loved this outfit. I felt confident in this outfit. What more can a girl ask for when she gets dressed?

For those of you who may not know, for the past year I have been taking ballet classes. I’ve never done ballet before, although I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember. I love the grace, softness and femininity that comes along with ballet. And yet, there is something strong and disciplined about ballerinas. It’s the perfect mixture. So the moment I saw this skirt from Pink Peonies blogger Rachel Parcell, I knew I needed to have it, even at the high price point. I normally don’t mind investing money into pieces that I can get a lot of wear out of, but this one was hard for me to justify. I actually couldn’t justify it besides for the fact that it looked like a tutu and was pretty, so I held my breath and closed my eyes as I hit “purchase” on her website. Hashtag no regrets.

Now, I wore this outfit Friday and had no funerals or visitations scheduled. If I had, I would have chosen to wear something a little more Wednesday Addams rather than Rachel McAdams, but since I was just doing paperwork and running around I decided to branch out of my comfort zone.

Funeral directors don’t have to be doom and gloom all the time. And honestly, this was the first time in a very long time that I did not wear black, so it deserved to be photographed.

Also yes, my hair is blonde.

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Skirt – Rachel Parcell (can be found here)

Top – Antropologie (similar style here)

Shoes – Clarks (can be found here)

My husband Josiah LeRoy took these photos of me in Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY.

I’ve broken my rule.

I’m about to contradict myself.

I have gone on and on about how it’s so important to take care of yourself before you can take care of others; putting your own needs first. Being selfish.

And these last few busy weeks, I have not done that at all. I couldn’t do it. The funeral home was so busy and I was just one person who only had so many hours in the day. I was up before the sun rose and I went to bed way after my bedtime. I had to. There was no other way I was going to get everything done.

But something funny happened these past few weeks; I was energized.

Now I’m going to explain this the best way I can. When I say I was ‘energized’ I’m not saying I wasn’t tired. Because I was exhausted. It’s just that, I was getting so much out of helping these families in their time of need, that I forgot about all that other crap that comes along with this job. These families were wonderful people who appreciated everything that I was doing, and I was doing my job well. For as busy as I was, everything was working out perfectly.

I was exhausted, but I was making a difference.

I was doing the very thing that made me fall in love with funeral service in the first place. That feeling of helping people who can’t help themselves. I was drinking it all in.

Now what are we at? Day sixteen or day seventeen? Regardless, Everyone needs a break at some point. Everyone needs a chance to breathe. To be selfish. I was selfless for a time, breaking my own rules. But you know what they say? Everything in moderation.

Now it’s time for a glass of wine, a bubble bath and a good book. I think I’ve earned it.

What Little Miss Funeral Wears (when it was supposed to be a quiet day.)

Another day another outfit.

I didn’t start my day with the idea in my head that I’d be blogging my outfit, yet here we are. Today was supposed to be calm. I went to bed last night thinking that all I had to do at work today was to meet a family for a visitation. Oh, how wrong I was.

Shortly after my alarm went off this morning, my phone rang. It was my boss letting me know that we had gotten two death calls in the middle of the night and I had to meet both families. At first I didn’t think it was a problem since I had nothing on my schedule, so I got dressed and drove to work.

I am a fan of dresses. I’ve said this a million times and I’ll say it a million times more. They are so easy for me to throw on in the morning.  I’ve been putting belts on them to cinch the waist because so many of my dresses are shapeless, but they are oh so comfortable! It was cold this morning (I live in Buffalo, so it doesn’t matter if it’s June, it can still be cold!) so I wore some tights. Quickly add a necklace, put on my favorite shoes and I was out the door.

I got to work and nothing went as it should have. My easy day quickly turned into a running all over the place doing fifty things at once kind of day. It’s okay, though, because I got through it. Everything ended up working out, even if I mumbled one or two bad words under my breath during the process. I decided to blog about my outfit when I got home because when you’ve had a crazy day sometimes you just need to spend some time with your husband as he tries to make you laugh for photos. No matter what, I can always count on him to put a smile on my face. I am a blessed lady.

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Dress – BCBG (can be found here)

Belt – H&M (similar style here)

Sweater – Loft (similar style here)

Tights – Rite Aid (similar style here)

Necklace – Forever21 (similar style here)

Shoes – Chinese Laundry (similar style here)

My husband Josiah LeRoy took this photo of me in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Cheektowaga, NY. Thanks for making me smile, B.

A list of sad songs that I love.

Not too long ago, ASD’s Public Relationship Specialist, Jess Fowler, wrote a post called 6 Songs That Help Me Grieve. In this post, she talks about the anniversary of her dad’s passing and how she uses music to grieve. The thing that I enjoyed about this post was the songs that she included. Jess truly has great taste in music. We actually bonded over a shared favorite band, Rilo Kiley a few years back, so I wasn’t surprised that I loved all the tracks she listed.

Growing up, I enjoyed music that my husband describes as ’emo’. I mean, sure, I had Myspace back in the day. And yeah, I may have owned one or two pairs of black baggy pants from Hot Topic, and maybe I was obsessed with Benji from Good Charlotte, but…I’m not helping my case here am I?

The thing is, I’ve always enjoyed music that made me feel something. I’m drawn to music and artists that can make me feel all of their emotions, sadness included. My husband doesn’t get this. He doesn’t understand why I don’t listen to music that brings out more positive feelings. And the reason I don’t just listen to ‘happy’ music all the time is because I’m human. I experience it all, sadness included. And sometimes, you just need a good cry.

So getting back to Jess; her post inspired me to create a list of my own. Songs that I listen to when I want to cry. Or songs that I listen to when I’m in a bad mood. Heck, these are just songs that I listen to when I want to feel something. So, let’s get started.

Ray Lamontagne – Empty

God. What is it about Ray? I am in love with this man’s voice. My father introduced me to Ray Lamontagne a few years back when he picked up his CD from the library. My dad and I have similar taste in music (most of the time). I think his exact words were, “Lauren, do you know that commercial with the dogs and the bone? This is the guy who sings that song!” Of course, he was talking about his song Trouble. When I first heard Empty, I turned it as loud as I could, sat in my car and let it consume me. I love the violin. I love Ray’s raspy voice. I love it all.

Favorite lyrics: “Well, I looked my demons in the eyes
laid bare my chest, said “Do your best, destroy me.
You see, I’ve been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kind of bore me.”

Josh Groban and Kelly Clarkson – All I ask of You

I grew up in a house that listened to the soundtrack from The Phantom of the Opera every day while we ate dinner. My mother took me to see the show for the first time when I was eight years old. I lived and breathed Phantom as a child. I don’t know if I can put into words what Phantom actually means to me. So, when Josh Groban came out with his CD, Stages, I was ecstatic when I found this track included on it.

The moment my husband hears the first notes from this song, he will walk out of the room. Because soon after, I will be bawling my eyes out. And I’m not talking about a few tears rolling down my cheek. I’m talking about ugly crying. I listen to this when I had a bad day and just need to get my emotions out.

Favorite lyrics: “Share each day with me, each night, each morning
Say you love me
You know I do
Love me, that’s all I ask of you.”

Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On

Since we are on the topic of ugly crying.

GUYS, I CAN’T. I REALLY CAN’T.

This is one song that I have basically banned because it just makes me SOB. So many emotions. The words, Celine’s voice, the music video with scenes from the movie, so many feels. I need to stop, because I’m getting emotional just typing all of this.

I’LL NEVER LET GO JACK, I’LL NEVER LET GO.

Favorite lyrics: “Love can touch us one time
And last for a lifetime
And never let go ’til we’re gone”

Mumford & Sons – Where Are You Now

Another one of my favorite bands. I become obsessed with Mumford & Sons back in college. Once again, there is just something about Marcus’s voice and I cannot get enough of it. It was difficult for me to just pick one song, but Where Are You Now brings back memory of heartache and past relationships that so many people can identify with.

Favorite lyrics: “You said no one would ever know
The love that we had shared.
As I took my leave to go
It was clear you didn’t care.”

Rilo Kiley – A Man/Me/Then Jim

Jenny Lewis is my girl, hands down. This song is definitely one of my top five all time favorite songs. But beware, it is a sad song. I mean, it starts with a suicide and shows ‘the slow fade of love’ from three different perspectives; A Man, Me, and then Jim. This is another song that I like to turn all the way up and just breathe in. Does that make sense?  I’m writing a post about songs that make me sad, so does any of this really make any sense?

Favorite lyric: “Diana, Diana, Diana, I would die for you
I’m in love with you completely
I’m afraid that’s all I can do”
She said, “You can sleep upon my doorstep
You can promise me indifference, Jim
But my mind is made up
And I’ll never let you in again”

Gregory And The Hawk – A Wish

This is another one of my college songs. It was never about Gregory And The Hawk, but more about this particular song. This song is about being young, confused and caring for someone more than they care for you. It makes me feel vulnerable.

Favorite lyrics: “And it’s hard to find
What I want
When it’s buried beneath the biggest rock”

Ed Sheeran – Supermarket Flowers

When I bought Ed’s most recent album and listened to Supermarket Flowers, my first reaction was, “Wow.” I know that I’m very open when I write about my feelings and job, but this song just invited us all into a very personal time in his life.

But there is something else that makes this song special to me.

If you’ve read my blog before, you are aware that in December I lost Eddie. To this day, I still struggle with his passing. About a month ago, I was alone at the funeral home and decided to yell at Eddie, something that I do often when I miss him. I was in the middle of telling him the nerve he had for leaving me, when all of a sudden, this song came on my Pandora station. Immediate tears.

Now, every time I listen to this song, I think of him.

Favorite Lyrics “Oh, I’m in pieces. It’s tearing me up but I know
A heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved.”

I hope you all enjoyed this list of songs. And serious thanks to Jess from ASD. Thanks for being my inspiration to write this post and thank you for being so open about your own grief.

How actions can speak louder than words.

This past week I had a very difficult funeral.

A young person passed away under traumatic circumstances. During the visitation, I found myself making up excuses to steal their mother away so she could come and sit in the office with me for a few moments. She needed a break.

Each time she would tell me that all of the callers were saying the same thing over and over again to her. She was drowning in her grief as it was, and the amount of people who came to pay their respects was overwhelming her.

I told her that each person would tell her things from a good place in their heart, but during times of grief words fall short.

When someone dies, no matter the circumstances, we don’t know what to say. We tell the grieving that we are sorry for their loss. That their loved one is in a better place. Or that their loved one is not suffering anymore.

These are sayings that have become so familiar with those of us who visit funeral homes that at times we may not really know what we are saying.

And nothing that you say can make a death better. No words can bring someone back to life. So what do you say? Maybe, instead, it should be what you can do.

You would be amazed at the healing work a hug can do. Or the next time you have to go to a funeral, you could share your favorite story of the deceased with their family. Or maybe in the weeks following the funeral, you’ll stop by with a warm meal, or you could offer to take them out to dinner so they can get out of the house.

Words cannot fix a death, but actions can help us feel less alone.

Words can be empty promises, but actions are proof that people care.

Sometimes, you don’t need to say anything at all. Sometimes, you just need to be there.

I know that this person’s mother appreciated all of her family and friends coming to pay their respects. But I have a feeling that in the days and weeks to come, she’ll remember those who were there for her in other ways a lot more than some of the “I’m sorry for your loss” statements that she received during the funeral.

Top 5 thoughts when leading a funeral procession.

In my town, funeral processions are still a thing.

Now, I used to despise leading funeral processions, for the sole reason that I was unsure of myself. When you’re leading a large group of cars you want to make sure that you’re taking the easiest route and most importantly, that you don’t get lost. Being new to the business, I, of course, doubted my ability. But it’s like anything, and as time went on I became more comfortable and sure of myself. And today, leading a funeral is like second nature to me.

So last week as I was leading a procession from the funeral home to the cemetery, I took notice of some of the thoughts that went through my head during the journey. So now I’m going to share with you all the top 5 thoughts I have when I lead a funeral procession.

5. What Church/Cemetery am I going to again?

I swear, when I’m placing flags on cars and instructing people to turn on their headlights and flashers, I have my destination in mind. However, the moment I get into my car and turn on my lights, I have a slight panic attack. Where am I going again??? is often the first thought that comes to my mind before I drive away.

4. Can these cars leave any bigger gaps?

When you’re in a procession, you want every car to drive as closely to the car in front of them while still being safe. I am a close driver, always. So if anyone is more than five feet away from me at any given time I feel as if they are light years away. The thing is, that you really have to avoid leaving any large gaps. Otherwise, drivers may think the procession is over and weave in and out. Or cars may weave in and out anyways. Because people can sometimes be jerks.

3. Can I make this light?

I wish that I was a magic fairy procession leader who always made every green light and always got to the destination in the perfect way. Sadly, one of my most thought ‘thoughts’ is OH MY GOSH WILL I MAKE THIS GREEN LIGHT? And then proceeding to speed up so I can usher all my cars though an intersection.

2. Am I using my horn too much?

Whenever I come to an intersection, I always beep my horn two or three times to alert other cars that a procession is coming though. People don’t pay attention that much when their driving (music, talking, cell phones, etc.) so I want to make sure we’re seen. Even though this question runs through my mind, I always answer it; No, I am not using my horn too much, in fact, I’m not using it ENOUGH.

1. They did NOT just do that!

This thought is not just a thought, as I find myself yelling this out loud at least once every procession. Whether a car cuts me off, or weaves in and out of my procession, or is just plain rude (because everyone is always in a hurry) I find myself wanting to pull out my hair at times. So yeah, this is definitely my #1 thought.

With all of this being said, I just want to add that although for others, funeral processions can be annoying (I mean, waiting for fifty cars to go though a light when you have to get to work is definitely a pain in the butt) just remember that we’re carrying someone’s loved one to their final place of rest. It’s an inconvenience for others, but honestly, it only lasts a few minutes. Please, the next time you’re held up because of a procession, take a deep breath and have some patience and respect. After all, one day we might be carrying your loved one.

Bonus Thoughts!

Will the Priest or Minister be driving with me?

Will I make it to my destination on time?

I’m not going to make it to my destination on time…

and finally:

I AM SWEATING LIKE A MAN IN THIS HOT CAR. (appropriate thought for summer, only.)