An Open Letter to Funeral Professionals Who are Losing Their Minds to Stress


To whom it may concern,

I’ve been writing in the funeral profession for about two years now, and there’s one common theme I’ve noticed among many funeral professionals: stress.

I always hear the same old line: “I’m a funeral director, I don’t get a life!”

And trust me, I believe you… I’m with you on this one.

I know a job in funeral service doesn’t allow to you guarantee holidays, family get-togethers, or even a moment of alone time. Heck, you probably wouldn’t even be able to make it to your own funeral with how busy you are.

But you know what? I’m going to go out on a whim and say that if you’re losing your mind from stress, it’s probably time that you do something about it.

Unfortunately, about two years ago I suffered from stress so bad that it was literally killing me. I developed depression, got an ulcer, lost 15 pounds because I couldn’t eat, and rarely slept. And that’s not a place you want to be, trust me, I’ve been there. I was so stressed it was literally controlling my life.

Then one day, I decided that I didn’t want to let stress control my life anymore. I decided that I was going to be strong enough to overcome my stress and get my life back. So, I made some (well, a lot) of changes to my lifestyle, and now two years later I’m one of the happiest, most positive people you’ll meet.

Below are five things I did to overcome my stress, and I hope that they work for you too:


Take responsibility for yourself.

By “taking responsibility” I don’t mean being responsible and remembering to run your errands or organize your closet. What I mean is that it’s time for you to hold yourself accountable for the way you feel. If you feel depressed or sad, it’s time to do something about it, rather than blaming other people or things.

There are obviously factors that we can’t always control, but even when it comes to those, you can still control how you react to them. Whenever I was faced with a problem, I made it a point to ask myself what I was going to do about it. Usually, I was able to come up with a solution and overcome that problem immediately.


When you’re not working, make the most of it.

I know you don’t get a lot of free time,  but once you walk out of the doors of your funeral home or cemetery… once the phone’s aren’t ringing, and once you finally get that moment of peace and quiet, enjoyyy it. Sink into your relaxation, turn your phone on vibrate (as long as you’re not on call), and avoid checking your work email. Because you know what? Even though you love what you do, your job takes a lot out of you, but this moment, this one right here… you are free.

Here’s some ways you can make the most of your free time:

Turn off the TV. As a child, I spent most of my time watching TV, and looking back, I really don’t have any amazing memories of things I did. Why? Because I was too busy watching TV, and sort of just let life pass me by. Do yourself a favor and instead of watching actors on TV live the life you want, turn the darn thing off and you’ll be surprised by how much more time you have to do the things you say you “wish you could do if you had time.”
Set goals for yourself to try new things. Many studies show that just by writing down things that you want to achieve on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis, you’re one step closer to achieving them. Personally, I like to write down new things I would like to try by the season. For example, in the spring I made a goal for myself to move to a place where I can be happier by the end of summer. And guess what? At the end of August, I’m making it happen and moving to Austin, Texas! This is obviously an extreme example, but trust me, when you write your goals down, you usually achieve them.


Surround yourself with positive people.

You spend most of your time hanging out with the grieving, so when you’re free from work, surround yourself with people who have a positive outlook on life. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why I was so depressed and negative until I realized that the friends I was hanging out with were incredibly depressed and stressed, and didn’t plan on doing anything about it. Negativity is incredibly contagious, and there’s no reason you should let other people ruin your “chi”. Once you start hanging out with people who look at life in the way you want to, you’ll notice a difference in your attitude almost immediately.


Get moving.

By increasing your heart rate during exercise, you’re helping your brain reverse damage caused by stress. Working out helps you produce neurohormones that improve your mood and brain power, making you smarter and less stressed. So it doesn’t matter if you’re doing yoga in your bedroom or running a marathon, get moving! The best part? The benefits of most exercise can take place immediately, reducing your stress within minutes of working out.


Remember that you are what you eat.

About 3 months ago, I decided to completely change the way I ate. I cut out a lot of carbs and packaged food and replaced them with nutrient-rich foods that were both lean and satisfying. Since I changed my eating habits, I’ve not only lost over 20 pounds, but I’ve also noticed a huge difference in the way I feel. I feel much happier and energized now, which in turn makes me more productive and therefore spend less time at work. I know it sounds cliche, but what you are what you eat. And by skipping meals, skimping on the GOOD carbs, omega-3 fatty acids and other important nutrients, you are simply fueling an attack of stress on your body.


Now what?

Now that you know how I overcame my stress, and what you can do to overcome yours, take control of your life!

And when you do, tell me about your experience in the comments below.



Krystal Penrose


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  1. Michael L. Hays

    Great article, Joe. I don’t know who Krystal is–because as the blog opens is simply says “by Krystal Penrose of…–but she’s shared from her heart and in the way of what I’ve called “The Wounded Healer (since reading a book by that title in the late 80’s).”
    At “Turn off the TV,” Krystal may also have mentioned the smartphone, tablet and computer, which seem to be obsessions for many of us today. I think sometimes that all technology–unless using it to stream music into your “meditative space”–just gets in the way of relaxation.
    Funeral Directors, especially Funeral Home owners, are very “stressed out” as a class; frequency of burnout is high. Krystal’s 5 points are not new, but we’d certainly do well to adopt them.
    Mike Hays ~ LifeSteps Services, LLC, Louisville, KY

  2. kimstacey

    Wonderful piece, Krystal. I agree with you on all points – reducing the amount of INPUT (from television, computers, smart phones…), and increasing the amount of creativity-inspiring “down time” is essential for all of us living in this information-saturated world. But especially important to those of us who work in funeral service. Nice job of getting personal with a powerful message!

  3. Arthur Raynor

    Good article and after 30 years as a Firefighter/EMT, I can fully agree about the job related stress…daily!

  4. julie pope

    The best lessons are learned from living experiences. Kudos to the author for sharing her lesson. It will save us a lot of time if it applies and we listen. Every one has so much to say…they don’t chill and listen. Thanks for posting this…totally makes sense.

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