How Funerals Professionals Can Go From The Underdog To The HeroSeptember 14th, 2016
Recently I’ve read several articles, seen countless videos and overheard numerous conversations questioning the value of the services provided by the funeral industry and the integrity of its professionals.
Due to the emotional and taboo nature of our business, little is known about what it is that we actually do, why we do it, and just what kind of impact our sacrifice and service has on the individuals we serve. As funeral professionals, we’ve not only dedicated our skills, talents and minds to the families we help, but we’ve also given most of our lives to the arts of funeral service and mortuary science. We take on countless hours and cases that push us beyond the limits of comprehension mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually… and we do so all in the name of service.
So why do we do it? So that those who are grieving can do exactly that… grieve.
Funeral professionals offer a plethora of services that allow surviving loved ones to experience the reality of their loss, without the added pressure and worries of independently coordinating service details, properly treating and disposing of their deceased, and so, so much more. Yet there are still so many who undervalue what we do, and even question our motives and morals of working in such a emotional industry.
How Funeral Professionals Became The Underdogs
In the eyes of most families, the role of a funeral professional is to exclusively serve those experiencing the loss of a loved one. Sometimes we may be sought-after to guide those who are pre-planning for their own final arrangements. But in both cases, funeral professionals are asked to extend their time, service and expertise to guide distraught and grief stricken individuals through the protocols of service and disposition. As a result, arrangements are finalized, a method of disposition is selected, and the deceased are properly cared for… and to many, it may seem that this is where our job ends.
However, behind the scenes, so much more goes into our role as a funeral professional than what families see. In many cases (if not most), the patrons in need of these services may be unprepared to take on the financial obligation associated with their needs and desires at the time of service. In response, most funeral service establishments will cut their losses, extend various forms of credit, or take a number of other non-required steps to do whatever it takes to help the family that is in their care. But sadly, this is not often the story that you hear about…
Unfortunately, because of a small number of negative business practices that have occurred in the funeral profession itself over the course of our history, many people make incorrect assumptions and critiques about our entire industry. It goes without saying that this is not fair, but the real question is – what can we as an industry do to change it?
How To Go From The Underdog To The Hero
The questioning of the value of the products and services that funeral professionals offer has lead me to question exactly who is to blame… Is it the society we live in, for a lack of initiative to educate themselves on the subjects and naturality of death, dying and grief? Or is the funeral profession, for failing to educate society on the value and necessities of a funeral?
From what I have seen, families will always have a hesitation to actively learn more about the subject of death, because to them, the unknown can be “creepy” or “scary.” So it’s up to us as funeral professionals to take responsibility for shifting the perspectives of our patrons, as well as our society.
How can this be done? I am glad you asked. After much thought and research, I’ve compiled three simple practices that that you, the hard-working funeral service professional that you are, can implement into your daily life to educate the consumer and, at the same time, enhance the level of service that you provide.
1. Live Up to the Funeral Director’s Oath
For those who’ve taken the path of official educational training, reciting the Funeral Director’s Oath may have been a part of your commencement ceremony. For others, you may have not yet had the enjoyment of reading these powerful words. Regardless, the Funeral Director’s Oath embodies the core fundamentals of funeral service. By learning, living and applying its principles, we can be sure that we’re not only offering a level of service that’s valuable to our families, but we can also feel more confident that we as professionals are operating with integrity.
“I do solemnly swear, by that which I hold most sacred: That I shall be loyal to the funeral service profession, and just and generous to its members; That I shall lead my life and practice my art in uprightness and honor; That into what…soever house I shall enter, it shall be for the benefit and comfort of those bereaved; That I shall obey the civil laws; That I shall hold inviolate all professional confidences; And that I shall be faithful to those who place their trust in me. While I continue to keep this oath, may it be granted to me to enjoy honor, in my life and in my profession, and may I be respected by all men for all time.”
2. Properly Respond To Criticism and Opposing Views
This is a tough one because many of us (dare I say all) are passionate… not only about our craft, but in caring for the families that we serve. So it’s easy to become offended or irritated by negative critical opposing views and comments. But it’s important to keep in mind that criticism and opposition are natural and necessary in any profession.
The power that we have to shift the perspective of the masses all depends on the way we choose to respond.
Responding inappropriately can be detrimental — not only to your reputation personally, but to the reputation of the firm you represent and the industry itself. When responding to negative opinions, take into consideration that many people simply do not know what our line of work entails, or what the funeral service industry itself is founded upon. Those that are somewhat familiar are so because they have interacted with us briefly when experiencing a loss. And many times, the emotions and stress associated with the grieving process can cloud the perspectives of our patrons.
This leads us into our final practice….
3. Educate Yourself, Educate Your Families, And Educate Your Community
We tend to shy away from the details of what it really takes to operate effectively in our line of work. Some of the gory details and the emotional aspects of our work can be off putting… yet saying, “I do everything you can imagine and then some” can be offputting or seem arrogant to some. But on the other end of the spectrum, not divulging vital information about what goes into the work that we do can create an undesired veil between the consumer’s perspective and reality. This is part of the reason why our services are not truly valued.
The more our families and our communities know about what it is that we actually do, the more they will respect and value our services. Though it is not necessary to overload our patrons with information, it is necessary to paint a realistic image of our roles and highlight the details of our services that make us unique. This will build trust and appreciation for our industry as a whole.
Educating ourselves and remaining abreast to the changes within the industry and communities we serve is also vital. The more that we know, the more confident, comfortable, commutative and effective we will be in educating our customers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joe’l Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a graduate of the Gupton Jones College of Funeral Service in Atlanta, Georgia. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straightforward discussion about death through the use of her blog and website. She also regularly posts videos to her Youtube Channel. To learn more and to submit your comments, questions and requests visit her at TheGraveWoman.com, The Grave Woman blog, or by email – firstname.lastname@example.org.