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spittingamethyst's avatar

Are there any funeral directors or morticans on Fluther that'd be willing to tell me about their jobs?

Asked by spittingamethyst (246points) September 16th, 2011

I’m a sophomore in high school. I started considering the idea of being a funeral director in 8th grade. As time went on I began to get more serious about it, and my freshman year my father committed suicide. I was present with the funeral director and my family in deciding his burial arrangements and such. Being there really made the job a reality for me. So I was curious to hear what people had to say. Do you have any advice for me? Are you happy with the direction you took in life? Also, I’m very interested in doing volunteer work at a funeral home. How would I go about doing that?

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9 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have a lot of information, but a relative of mine knew fairly young that she wanted to go into that line of work, and she did. She is happy with her choice, she never regretted it.

spittingamethyst's avatar

That’s good. The funeral director I talked to said that she started out with just strictly embalming but it made her too depressed.

TexasDude's avatar

Not to be a debby-downer or anything, but I recommend you give this book a read.

JLeslie's avatar

Well, my relative is Orthodox Jewish so no embalming. I am not sure what she started doing when she first got into the biz. She seems to be very comfortable around dead bodies, she sees them as peaceful I think. It’s wild because she was this out of control party teenager, and then she goes into this serious caring profession. I never would have guessed it for her, but she likes it, and is good at it.

Dog's avatar

@Fiddle_Playing_Creole_Bastard I was trying to remember the name of that book- it is great! Thanks for the reminder.

I was considering applying for a funeral director job a few years back. I am not easily grossed out and read “The American Way of Death”. I agree you should read it first.

NOTE: The link above is to the REVISITED version- also read the original.

ddude1116's avatar

My uncle has a friend whose brother is a mortician. He told me an interesting story about how he went to pick his brother up from work and he brought him in to show him a guy he was working on, asking if anything was out of the ordinary. Aside from him being dead, he didn’t notice anything. Well, apparently this guy died in a car accident and was fairly torn up, so his brother rebuilt his face during the embalming process and wanted to see how he did. So there’s a certain craftsmanship involved, I gather, because you would need to make these bodies presentable depending on the requests of the family. I figure having good people skills would be necessary, as well, since you would be dealing with people during sensitive times in their life.

Kayak8's avatar

This is a beautifully written book by a funeral director who speaks to the special calling of his profession. I was very touched reading this book.

Being a funeral director is one license (in the US) and being an embalmer is a separate license. Both involve apprenticeship, VERY odd work hours, and a closet full of dark suits. Someone is always “on duty” at the funeral home because you never know when someone is going to die.

The funeral director deals with all the legal paperwork regarding disposition of human remains. This requires good organizational skills and excellent people skills. The funeral industry relies on families coming back to the funeral home with each successive death, so the effort to do a good job is really important. Funeral directors often participate in Rotary Club and other civic organizations and are often leaders in their towns (build trust). Collecting bills for funeral services that have been provided can often be delicate because you want/need the return business.

A funeral director arranges for transportation for the family and the body (from a far away place to the location of the funeral, from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery, etc). A funeral director must be familiar with many different religious traditions to honor the various customs of different families. Often a funeral home will only handle Jewish funerals and others specialize in Catholic funerals.

An embalmer’s job is to restore the deceased to a natural and life-like appearance. They prepare the body with chemicals and makeup to temporarily stave off the natural decaying process so the family has the option to see their loved one in death which often helps the grieving process. The embalmer’s work, as indicated above, is often a real art. The dying process, for some, involves startling injury that can be repaired with the right skills directed by caring and talented hands.

Some funeral director’s also hold embalming licenses, but others have employed licensed embalmers and only do the funeral directing.

augustlan's avatar

I grew up around a fair number of funeral directors, because my grandfather sold limos and hearses to funeral homes and made friends with a lot of his customers. They all seemed happy with their work, and were some of the funniest people I ever met.

Kayak8's avatar

@augustlan One of my funeral director colleagues ordered new license plates for the hearse and limos online. When the plates arrived, he looked at them and realized he would have to order different plates as the ones he was assigned all started with DOA and he didn’t think that would be appropriate. We all got a good laugh about it though . . .

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