5 Mistakes Every Funeral Director Makes (And What We Can Learn From Them)

Let me start by saying this: I’m not a funeral director.

Yet, after working in the funeral profession for the last 15+ years, I’ve made a lot of friends with funeral directors, funeral home owners, cemetery owners, grief counselors… you name it.

And as someone who is very familiar with the emotional weight it takes to run and be in a business in emotional-based industries, I see and experience the pitfalls, the “newb” mistakes, the different superhero complexes and the blind spots.

After listening and working through many of these issues myself, with my team, and with my friends working in every aspect of the funeral profession, here are the 5 most common mistakes I see, and what we can learn from them:

1. Taking it personally.

When you combed dad’s hair the wrong way and a family is absolutely infuriated with you, leaving you less than friendly voicemails, don’t take it personally. I know, it sounds easy. And it’s not. But, think of like this — yes, it was your personal mistake, but it doesn’t mean that you have to take it on as a judge of your character. Taking into account criticism is one thing for improving your service and skill. However,  letting complaints affect your self worth as a human is not.

I learned this principle many years ago in one of my favorite books of all time called the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. To learn more about this principle, watch the video below:

2. Not saying no enough.

The list of requests you get from families might feel never-ending sometimes. And if you don’t want to step on toes or hurt feelings, you do your best to make them all happen. This is a great way to start in the industry, but eventually you learn that you have to draw the line somewhere. If you filled every request and every wish, you would never sleep or eat or even breathe.

So there has to be a line you draw. Where do you draw it? How can you communicate that line with love? Be clear with yourself. What feels do-able, and what doesn’t? Your gut knows. Don’t be afraid to say no when it’s a no it’s simply not in the family’s best interest. Say it with compassion, and a no can actually be a yes. What if you said “I’m sorry, I can’t meet that request, but I can be in support of you doing xyz”. That feels much easier, doesn’t it?

For more on this, check out this article by Lesley Witter on saying “no” called Use Your Voice! The Best Ways to Stand Up for Yourself and The Funeral Profession


3. Trying to be everything to everyone.

Many of you are encouraged to be a superhero by industry blogs and trainings, including ours (we’ll be the first ones to call ourselves out). But the truth is, you can’t do it all.  And if you try, you’ll fail. The key to not overwhelming yourself in all of this is discernment. What are you good at, and what are you not? If you know you’re not good at writing obituaries, own it, and see if you can get support by having other people on your team write obituaries instead.

I’m not sure how dynamics work at your funeral home, but creating a supportive environment where everyone can thrive in their own unique way truly works. I know, because I’ve built a business around it. Maybe it takes getting together as a team to talk about it more, but it’s not impossible. The key, again, is owning your gifts, and speaking up about what’s not your jam.


4. Taking on other’s energy.

Everyone knows that working in the funeral profession, is a very emotionally charged job to do. It can be energetically draining, and in the long-term, even dangerous for you to do this work without creating energetic boundaries for yourself.

As “whoo whoo” as it sounds, I have seen a huge difference in my energy and mood when I create energetic boundaries in my work and when I don’t. If I don’t draw boundaries, I’ll get sick, or even take on the feelings of others.

How can you create these boundaries? Really it’s just distinguishing what energy and emotions you’re feeling that are yours, and what energies you’re taking on from others.

To help alleviate the emotions you’re taking on from those around you, you can imagine that you’re washing it away in the shower, or when washing your hands. Or take a 5 minute breather after meeting with a family to realign yourself.

If you want more info on drawing boundaries, check out this article here.


5. Forgetting self care

No one here is immune to compassion fatigue, stress, anxiety or even depression. You can be the most talented human on Earth, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you certainly cannot show up for the families you serve, or your own family, in ways that are meaningful to them.

How can you practice self care? Try these tips in our article “Say NO To Busy: 11 Self Care & Productivity Tips For Funeral Pros”.

These aren’t all of the mistakes funeral directors make, but they’re some pretty big ones to think about as you continue on with, or begin a career in this profession. They might sound simple, but they can take years of practice. Even a lifetime. Be patient with yourself. This is lifelong work that’s cut out for us. There is no perfection. We will always be making mistakes. They’re what teach us.

What have you learned from your mistakes at your funeral home? Tell us in the comments below!

Joe Joachim


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