Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Man, The Myth & The Funeral Director: 5 Misconceptions

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Let’s face it. Most jobs have their fair share of over-generalizations and stereotypes. All cops love their doughnuts. Firefighters spend their time responding to calls about a cat in a tree—that is, when they aren’t busy cooking chili. I’m sure we’ve all heard a few lawyer jokes, too.

Most jobs are portrayed through stereotypes so often, it becomes second-nature to think about them that way (no matter how inaccurate those stereotypes might be).

What about funeral directors? Let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about the profession.

  1. Funeral directors = depressing Grim Reapers

Let’s start off with the most common misconception: Anyone willing to make a career revolving around death is morbidly obsessed with the dead right?
This is as unfair as accusing all police offers of pastry addiction. It has more to do with how we as a society, especially in America, view death. It is something of a taboo, and so it’s reflected in our ideas about funeral directors. Those who work with the dead get sucked into that mindset. That’s how we get that grim reaper image—that black suited, clammy handed, pale-man perception. Of course, this just isn’t true.

Funeral Directors are as normal as the rest of us, with perhaps a slightly grislier job than most. Their work is more noble than we tend to recognize. Their primary focus is on the family and helping them through one of the toughest points in their lives. They are caring and compassionate people.

  1. Don’t they spend their day just surrounded by bodies?

Does a firefighter spend all his time just putting out fires? As mentioned, funeral directors focus first and foremost on the families they serve. They do everything in their power to provide some degree of comfort and peace as these families mourn their loved ones. Funeral directors also spend a great deal of their time in their communities, serving as trusted leaders and resources. Otherwise, they might spend some time on the same tedious tasks as everyone else: preparation, planning, and paperwork—and even less time still in hospitals, cemeteries, and morgues.

  1. It’s all about the money

Most jobs share one universal trait: they allow someone to earn a living. If a sizable income was your goal, there are many other career paths that would be much less demanding. This isn’t a 9-5 gig. A death can occur at any time. This includes weekends and holidays. There is little flexibility for a funeral director on call. They have to drop everything to respond to a call, day or night. The work of a funeral director can be rewarding, but it can also be emotionally taxing and exhausting.

  1. The profession is a boy’s club

In the past, many family-owned funeral homes would pass the business from father to son. Lately, however, there has been a surge of women entering the profession. The American Board of Funeral Service Education (ABSFE) reported that in 2015, 56 % of graduates from accredited programs were female. Two generations ago, the estimate was zero percent. As these women make their way into the industry, they can help shatter the perceptions of a once male-dominated industry.

  1. Funeral directing is a recent thing

While a modern funeral might not resemble funerals of the past, death is nothing new. Humans have pretty much always practiced ceremonies to mourn their loved ones. Somebody has always been needed to help orchestrate such ceremonies. The job might not have looked the same 1,000 years ago, and it likely won’t look the same 1,000 years from now, but the job has always been (and will always be) profoundly meaningful and important.

It’s easy for people to fall into the trap and make unfair generalizations about funeral directors, but hopefully a little education and good information can aid in combatting these unfair stereotypes. The very nature of funeral directing—to help guide and assist families in a great time of need—is an inherently human thing. Funeral directors are emotionally invested and passionate about their profession.

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