New York State Funeral Directors Association

I always thought that I had a pretty good understanding of this life.

At least in the sense of being able to process events that happen to me logically.

That’s one gift that has been given to me through my career as a funeral director.

I’ve seen it all; the death of the ninety-eight year-old who passed silently in their sleep. The sudden, tragic suicide of the young person.

The second trimester miscarriage leaving the grieving parents baby-less.

As a funeral director, you learn to take this heavy career and burden of death and apply it to your own life in a way to make you understand that every single moment on this earth is a gift.

Everything does not happen for a reason.

Even though those offering their condolences to the bereaved will often state that it does in hopes of comfort, we quickly learn that some things just happen.

Life does not always make sense. There is no use in thinking “If only I had done this,” a person would still be around.

As people grieve, they sometimes come up with these scenarios in order to help them through a death.

But the dead are still gone and even if something different had happened, there is no way to bring them back.

I try to help those who walk into the funeral home to understand this.

But sometimes, all I can really do is offer them a hug.

My words can fall short, but as a fellow human, the greatest gift I can give to another is to just be there.

This is something else that the funeral profession has taught me.

You would think, because my life work is death, that I could logically process grief in my own life.

And to an extent, I have been successful in doing so.

But being a funeral director does not give me a free pass to grief.

In some ways, I believe that I have grieved harder.

On December 14, 2016, I lost a very important person in my life by the name of Eddie.

He was like a grandfather to me.

I worked with him at the funeral home and he was my constant through the long hours and unpredictable days that this job brings.

He was rough around the edges but soft when it came to his relationship with me.

I could talk to him about anything.

He would give me advice that he’d learned from his eighty years on this planet, and before he’d go home for the day he’d make sure to leave some candy on my desk.

I loved Eddie and his death was sudden.

I received the phone call from his son and went into ‘funeral director mode’ immediately.

As soon as the call disconnected I fell to the floor.

The next days followed the same pattern.

In front of his family I was in work mode, making certain that everything I could do was done perfectly, ensuring them that I was the best person to take care of him and prepare his funeral.

But once I was alone, I was a mess.

This is the situation that comes with grieving when you’re the professional.

You have to create a wall that separates you from the heartache so you can make certain all the details are taken care of.

People are counting on you and it’s personal, so now more than ever you have to be on top of it all.

However, this makes your own grief process messy.

It took me a long time to come to terms with Eddie’s death.

It would not have mattered if I made another phone call to him or if I checked in on him at his home. A walk in the woods

Some things just happen.

Logically, I can process this. Grieving, I think “what if.”

As a grieving professional in the death care industry, it can be extremely difficult to ask for help.

Like I stated before, I’ve seen it all.

There is not a death scenario that could surprise me.

I’ve walked the paths holding the hands and ushering others through the fog.

I’ve been the shoulder to cry on and the rock through the storm.

I’ve said words of comfort, made certain that there was someone close who made sure the bereaved were eating and resting, and have been present to listen.

I know the steps that have to get done to begin to heal after a loss.

That’s why it can be near impossible to turn to others when I’m experiencing difficulty.

I have been the strong one for the families I serve, so when I can’t take care of myself it can seem like I’m a fraud.

But that’s what grief does. It’s messy and hard. It makes you question everything because your life is now different.

And no one should be ashamed to ask for help.

As funeral directors, our best resources are in our own professional community.

We understand this job and know how demanding it can be.

To be able to lean on a fellow professional and friend can be the tool that is needed to push yourself through the grief.

For me, that person was Keith, another associate at the funeral home.

He knew and loved Eddie as well, and he was there for me when I needed him as I was for him.

We were able to help each other, to check in and to just be there to listen to one another.

I am becoming so optimistic when it comes to the funeral profession.

More and more resources are becoming available to help professionals.

Whether it’s helping us deal with a death or even just dealing with the demands of the job and the burnout rate, the help that we need is out there.

We just have to be brave and vulnerable enough to look for it.

We may see it all, but that does not mean we know it all.

And if we cannot help ourselves, there is no way we can help others who walk through our doors.

The best funeral director out there is the one who realizes this and is open to the fact that we are human, we grieve, and we will need the help of others.

The other best funeral director out there is the one who reaches out to pick the other funeral director up.

They’re the ones who say “I understand what you’re going through, I’m here and you’re not alone.”

We’re all a part of the same club of not only funeral service, but of mankind.

Needing help does not make us any less of a funeral director.

On the contrary, it validates what we already know; the best way to get through the loss of a loved one is to realize that we are not alone in our feelings and that no matter how much the pain hurts, there are always others out there for us to lean on.

Lauren LeRoy 2018Lauren LeRoy
Lauren LeRoy, AKA Little Miss Funeral, is a licensed funeral director in New York State. A 2010 graduate of the New England Institute at Mount Ida College, Leroy started blogging in 2012.