Life working in a funeral home – What do you think?


I have a question…for those who read my blog or happen to stumble upon it… I am actually ‘trying’ to be serious and not sarcastic because I am really curious to know…

What do people (families) think Funeral Directors and or Funeral Home Staff do all day?

When someone in your family has passed away and you knew you had to make funeral arrangements, what did you do?   Did you call the funeral home for an appointment?  Did you leave your loved one who passed away and immediately drive to the funeral home to make arrangements?  When / if you did call to make an appointment what were you told…to come right in? or did they schedule an appointment later in the day? Did they ask YOU when you wanted to come in? or did they just give you a time to come in without giving you any other options?  If you did not call for an appointment, when you arrived at the funeral home, did you have to wait long to sit with a Director? How were you treated?  Was there any visitation going on when you were there? Was there an actual funeral service going on? If there was a funeral service and when you arrived you saw that a funeral service was going on, did you feel like you were intruding or did you think for a second that maybe you should come back at another time? Did you leave because you saw a funeral and come back later? Or did you feel that even though there was a funeral, you had just lost someone so it didn’t matter, that the funeral home should accommodate you and that surely someone was available to help you?

What about when you think about funeral homes and what goes on during business hours when the funeral home is open, but no visitation is going on or a funeral at the funeral home…do you think that, for example, ‘no people, no cars, than the funeral home staff is not busy so you should be able to ‘just stop by’ anytime? Or do you think, ‘it’s a regular business and you should call to see if you need an appointment or if you can just stop up anytime’?

Do you think that funeral homes are usually a quite place, where the environment is quite and business is slow if no visitation is going on or funeral? What do you think the funeral director and staff do all day, even when visitation or a funeral is going on? 

Again, I am not being sarcastic in my questions. I am truly curious to know how others view a funeral home as a business and how they perceive a funeral director and the staff. Thank you in advance for anyone who chooses to answer any of my questions.

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15 Responses to “Life working in a funeral home – What do you think?”

  1. Hi. We’re “that” family! I planned my husband’s funeral at age 30, and I helped my mom with my brother, dad, and grandpa’s funerals. We’re from a small town, so we know the funeral directors personally. I can call at 1:00 am and talked to a human to schedule a time to meet. I always like to call ahead and plan rather than just pop in. I lost a cousin earlier this year and missed the visitation the night before. The funeral director called me by name and hugged me when I arrived for the funeral the next day and said “We missed you last night.” That’s when you know you’ve been to too many funerals!

    Back to us being “that” family, my son took a class in college called “death and dying” as he needed one credit of something not related to his major in order to graduate. He’s always been a funeral junkie and counted that he had been to 30 funerals by age 23. I suggested that if his current career doesn’t work out he should become a funeral director. He’s the one all his friends go to when they have to go to their first funeral and are upset.

    I’ve lost a sibling, spouse, parent, grandparents, great-grandparents, cousins, a sister-in-law, niece, nephew, a great-great aunt who lived to be 106, so my son and I now critique the various funeral homes we go to. Our local one is the best by far, but some are held in other places. We’ve seen some big mistakes – for example when my 2 year old nephew was being buried they almost dropped his casket in the grave. It was small so they lowered it by hand with the straps and one slipped. That added to the already tragic event. That was at one of the largest public cemeteries in our area where the cemetery people do the burying rather than the funeral home. That was interesting.

    A friend of my daughter passed away at about age 12 or so. Since he was Jewish, their tradition was to get him in the ground as soon possible. She was sad that she didn’t get to see him since we didn’t know the funeral was going to be immediately.

    The people you have to be most concerned with are those who are planning their first funeral and the ones attending one for the first time. I think parents shield their children from important parts of life such as this, and then their “child” is 24 going to her first funeral and freaking out. But I guess that is up to the parent.

    Good blog – I’ll have to check it out more often.

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      Hi & thank you for reading my blog!! I havent been able to post because of my computer being down..i am still trying to respond to all my comments via my phone..please excuse any spelling errors. When you mentioned that the cemetery did the burial instead of funeral home do you mean that the funeral home did not go to cemetery with tje family or just that the cemetery workers are the ones who lowered casket & covered it? That is how it is all the time here…we are required to be at cemetery with family but never does the funeral home lower casket or cover it. Most of tje time the family only goes to the chapel at cemetery & afterward the cemetery takes casket to gravesite. There are those families who have graveside services and then there are those who will only have chapel serv then family only will witness burial.
      You are unfortunately a pro at funerals…but when we get families like yourself at least you know how “it goes”…& that makes it easier on us. There are those families that have been to us before tho & they know what they want but over think things too much. Almost as if they are actually trying to do the work for us…things always get messed up that way!! It never fails…!!
      I hope you do not have to plan or attend any funerals in the near future…you’ve been to enough!!
      Thank you again for stoppin by & be sure to come back again..

  2. Somehow I stumbled across your blog.. I read it periodically and am fascinated and deeply appreciative of the work those in the funeral industry do.
    I have been trying to get in the industry for years.. I do not want to go back to school for mortuary science, and most business are family run here. But since the days of playing hide and go seek at the funeral home, my fascination has been plenty full. (yes yes.. we probably were “that family”)
    I can say that for our family.. we have had both funeral experiences. Some family members are batshit crazy and if left un attended will do all the things you describe. Now the more normal ones have either a) had a plan laid out and paid out before they kick the bucket or b) have been reasonable with requests and accomodations.
    I think it is hard for people to grasp that the world does not revolve around them when a loved one dies. Behavior is at its utmost irrational and unfortunately those that work the services in the industry have to take that one.
    For that I am deeply appreciative. Reading your blog gives a heads up for those who understand that, everyone dies.. and just because there is a loss, does not make them excused from respect, responsiblity and reasoning.

    Keep doing what you are doing 🙂

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      Hi!! Thank you for reading my blog!! I fully understand that most people are not thinking clearly when they have lost someone and planning a funeral…but i’m sure ‘someone’ in their family or a close friend is thinking clearly..so i wish they would tell them they are misbehaving…lol sorry it took so long to reply..my computer is not working..it seems to have got a virus and i have yet to get it repaired. Thank you again for stopping by my blog…!!

  3. your blog’s design is simple and clean and i like it. your blog posts are superb. please keep them coming. greets!!! lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails

  4. Well…Emh that was interesting… Start of the day we have a guy who has been murdered. We had CSI and detectives in to view the body and take photos for evidence. After death over a week ago you can imagine the smell (he wasn’t embalmed) After sitting in on a different persons arrangement, I made a copy of a will and gave the original back to the family. They were lovely and didn’t mind me there as I was leaning. (They were asked first, obviously). Then back in the mortuary, the f/d had to prepare someone. Did their hair, shave, close their mouth (sew it shut on the inside) and I helped dress them. All the while murdered guy smelling! (f/d not allowed to touch them as 2nd p/m going to be done).

    I was really thrown in the deep end. I suppose I have learnt a lot but I want less of a hands on approach to the bodies. Due to it being a small business the staff do all aspects. Do you only arrange Bizz or help the f/d with the bodies? I enjoy working with the families but the mortuary was all a bit too much. Showing people to the viewing room is fine. Do you think there is still a chance for me in the business if I don’t/can’t work in the mortuary. Bigger businesses do have separate jobs for different people, (i.e only arrangers).

    Whilst all this, we have two first calls and many other phone calls to make and being received. Such a busy day. I never thought it could be SO hectic. Afterwards the f/d said, in over 20 years, even she found today emotional and stressful and for my first day I handled it all very well, and I got extra points for not being sick!! Yey! That gives some confidence, and I was told to go to take everything in and if I wanted to go again next week, I could and learn some more. Oh, but, the smell is still with me, despite having a shower. Inevitably, I wasn’t that hungry afterwards. Hehehe.

    I’m glad I did it though. Even if I do feel a little overwhelmed.

    Hope to hear from you soon Bizz.

    Thought of the day:- Funeral workers close the eyes of the deceased, and open the eyes of the living.

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      Whew…you made it though! That does sound like a hectic day, especially to someone who isn’t use to it. Yes, the smell can be very overwhelming. Not something you expect either…there really is no description you can give to someone who has not had to opportunity to inhale that odor!! LOL I think you have a great chance in the business, just because you would rather work with the families. I’m not sure who your laws and regulations are over there, but in the U.S every State has their own laws and regulations when it comes to who can embalm. In my State you MUST be a licensed Funeral Director (one who has graduated from the Moturary of Science Program) to own/manage a funeral home and to embalm and to be able to do a pre funded funeral. I can sit with a family who wants to pre fund…however my boss and or another director must be there and be able to sign the paperwork.
      I do not embalm, altho, I do help when needed, such as dressing, casketing, hair, etc… Watching for so long, I could probably do it with my eyes shut tho, but I am sure the law would not like that very much!!
      But, I don’t see why you couldn’t have a long career in the funeral business as a secretary or greeter or arranger. It all depends on the funeral home.
      I’m so glad you got to experience it!!! So…are ya going back next week??
      (i like your ‘though of the day’)

  5. A drinking convention around the coffin then under it!

  6. I say we get all the ‘funeral crew’ on this blog and all go out for a nice stiff drink! You in, Bizz?

  7. It’s not us Bizz, it’s people in general who suck and expect us in the community service industries to drop whatever we’re doing even though we’re busy and bow down to a bunch of assholes who act like royalty-polish-my-boots-peasant- crap and don’t realise we actually have a job to do. If they want a service there’s a thing called a telephone to make an appointment and a skill called manners. Being a dickhead over the phone or in person won’t help the situation.

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      Ohhhh, I hear ya!
      I understand it is our job. I understand that we are ‘the funeral home’ and that is the reason we are here…to help those in their time of need. I chose this profession, so I need to deal with it. I get all of that. What I don’t get is why some people (wether it be at work or not) are just so damn RUDE. MEAN. UNGREATFUL. IGNORANT. ETC….. I mean, I am only human as well…I can ONLY do so much. I cannot however change rules, regulations, laws, etc.. Sometimes people just DEMAND the impossible. I got a phone call yesterday (at work). It was a family that we had a few weeks ago. This particular family was, well, lets say….NUTS. No matter how many times I or someone else would try to explain something to them, they just could NOT comprehend what we were trying to say. At first I thought it was just me…but no, it was not! I mean, I was trying to explain to them about death certificates being Public Record. They were just not grasping the fact that ANYONE can go purchase a D/C on ANYONE they want. They kept saying “we don’t want it public record, it is no ones business. Why is it like that? Can’t you write down that the d/c is not to be released to anyone else? ” I told them, it is NOT the funeral home who make the D/C’s Public Record…it is the City Clerk. State of ___. It is NOT our rules, law, etc…. We have no say in the matter. They sit there and just stare at me with mouths agape…like I am speaking some sort of foreign language to them… they were just dumfounded….I said “you can go get Michael Jacksons D/C if you wanted..”(thinking that might jar something in, what little brain they have. Nope, they insisted on arguing with me about it. WTF! How many freaking times do I have to tell you! I started to get extremely frustrated. To be honest, I have no idea if they ever ‘got’ what I was trying to tell them…SO ANYWAY, back to the reason I just typed ALL of that. They called yesterday. Now they called just as a family was walking in for first viewing. I understand that there was no way of them to know this…Now, when I answered, she said who she was and she was calling about regarding the _____ family (understand that they have given us a very hard time with just about everything and have said some pretty nasty things to the staff as well) and she needed to talk to _____ (the Director). I said “I’m sorry, she is just now walking in a family for their first viewing, may I take a message and have her call you back as soon as she is available, she shouldn’t be that long”? She said “uhhh, mmmm, hmmm, WHO IS THIS?!?!?” I tell her. she says “well…uhhhh, who does the accounting over there?!?!” (altho, I typically do all the accounting, I knew better…) I said “she, ______ (the Director) does…” she says “well…I really need to talk to her! how long is she going to be…I don’t wanna have to sit and wait here all day for her to call me back! we need a bill! so…when is she going to be done!!!!!!!!!????????!!!!!! can you just go get her?!?!” I mean really…come on! GOD forbid if that was your family that had just walked in for first viewing and someone came in the room to get the Director cuz they phone was for them…. I am sure they would have thought, geee, aren’t WE MORE IMPORTANT than a phone call!!! I told her “NO, I cannot interrupt her right now, she will only be a few minutes and I will have her call you back AS SOON as she is done! she says “okaaaayyyyy, cuz this is important”! So, she called her back right away, it wasn’t more than 10 minutes later…. ALL THEY WANTED was another copy of the damn statement! They weren’t even going to pick it up the same day! They haven’t even came for it today! and I can guarantee they will NOT come for it tomorrow either! I know this because they have other important items here that they have NOT even picked up yet that they bitched about for days on end! Whew…okay sorry. was getting riled up!

  8. We try to make ourselves available whether people have appointments or not. Many times we have had families just walk in and announce their loved one has died in the hospital and they need to make arrangements. Sometimes they have come in just as we are ready to go to church on a service, but we try to be accommodating. Our firm is family owned, so when we have no services or visitation, we are usually cleaning and/or running errands.

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      Thank you.

      We always do our best to be available as well. There are only 2 or 3 of us working during the day. So a Director and Secretary or Director and office help (which means, answer phones, file D/C’s, cleaining, etc). So, if the Director is out of the building on a funeral or whatever, so at those times it is when there is no one available to help with a family that may have walked in. But, we do our best, we call the Director right away to see if they are going to much longer and when will they be back because there is a walk in… But, there are those times when if the Director is on a funeral and maybe just left for that service (at church or at cemetery) and isn’t available to answer the phone or will be gone a cpl of hours…so the family really doesn’t have much of a choice at that point to come abck later. And, it is sometimes difficult to explain to them why no one is there to help them, altho we let them know the Director is ON A FUNERAL, it just seems like ‘some’ of them get upset. . . .Anyway…thank you again for responding!

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