The challenges we face as funeral directors

August 25, 2016   //   No Comments

blogWhen I was installed as President in March, I was advised that August is traditionally a quiet month in the SAIF President’s calendar. It was for this reason that I  decided, along with four members of my family, on 13th August to undertake the challenge of paddling the Great Glen Trail in Scotland for my chosen charity, MIND.

Although we had a good idea of what was facing us, we were well aware that in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands we could have been faced with any number of challenges. And so it proved! I will elaborate on the trip elsewhere, but during the challenge I found a remarkable number of similarities to the challenges we as funeral Directors face on a daily basis: tiredness, fear, relief, tears, joy, laughter and, thankfully in our case, plenty of love and support for each other. So I thought I would touch on each of these points individually here.

Tiredness: tiredness is such a common factor in the life of a Funeral Director, particularly those of us who are on call and may have been up through the night for 2 or 3 hours. We then have to be in work again first thing in the morning because we have a busy day ahead of us. One thing which may help is offering your staff the opportunity to catch up on some sleep during the day if there is a quiet period of an hour or two. Or maybe send them home early if all necessary tasks are complete. Not only would this help those who have missed out on some sleep, but it would keep them happier and fresher to be able to do their tasks to the best of their ability. A tired, grouchy member of staff is about as helpful as a chocolate tea pot! Give them a break.

Fear: I don’t necessarily mean fear in the form of being scared, but we all deal with cases which put us on edge. It may be that there is a breakdown in the family relationship of a client and you can’t help but wonder if someone might cause a problem at the funeral. Or, it may be that you’re chasing doctors to complete the forms for cremation, and you’re wondering how to tell the family that the funeral may have to be cancelled through no fault of your own. These are typical of things we all face from time to time, and managing these situations in a calm and dignified manner not only makes you feel better personally, but also eases the burden on the family. There may be some individuals in a company who are more suited to managing difficult situations like these, so there may be some value in identifying who this is and giving them the role of calm negotiator, if it’s not you!

Relief: this often follows on from situations of fear and the fact that you have handled a difficult situation well, and everyone seems to be satisfied with the outcome (both you and your client), as a result of good communication. Or, it may be from a family’s perspective, that there is relief that a loved one has died following the suffering that they have endured. How many times do we hear the term ‘it’s a happy release?’

Tears: well, I can’t believe that there isn’t a SAIF member who doesn’t have ample supplies of tissues in each of their public rooms for our clients and the times they can’t hold back the tears.  But what about our staff and ourselves? We cry too! Always be supportive and never judgemental.

Joy: this may seem a strange one to some when relating it to funerals. But in my opinion there should be great joy at what we as Funeral Directors achieve and the quality of service we can provide. If you don’t feel great pride from what you are achieving, then perhaps you’re in the wrong job!

Laughter: of course, tears and laughter go hand in hand in everyday life and at the time of death. It is a great shame if there are no smiles and laughter when reminiscing on the happy memories of a life shared.  In my experience there are equally as many periods of laughter as there are times for tears, and that is just as it should be.

Love and support: well, hopefully we all have some love in our lives and the support of those who love, but if things go beyond the point where we can help each other, don’t forget about SAIFSupport, who are there to help us all. They may be contacted on 0800 077 8578 or saifsupport@professionalhelp.org.uk.  If we can all keep our lives well organised and think of others before ourselves, we should all be content, and we should then receive the appropriate help and support when we need it ourselves.

Paul Allcock

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