Death, Grief and a Funeral Director

Death and grief can be traumatic and life altering.  Death of a loved one and how we cope with it is important.  The grief process can only start with viewing and being able to face the reality that a person we loved is not coming back to us.  Every single person handles grief in a different way.  I strive for a individual or a family to a have a chance to see a loved one and start the process of moving forward after a death by saying “goodbye” and facing the reality that the death has happened.   As a funeral director, I believe my three main goals are: to use as much time as it takes to make a viewing of their deceased loved one the best it can be; to make the service as personalized in rememberance of the deceased and for the family; and  to get a family or an individual moving forward in the grieving process.

The 5 stages of the  grieveing process are: Denial and Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

The way we handle death starts at a early age.  Some of us may have lost a mother, father or someone very dear to us at very early age.  Many parents shelter their children from death, dying, the grieving process and funerals in general.  I have talked with many children over the years.   Some parents aren’t sure how to go about talking with children about death.  The one thing I don’t do is make up stories or sugar coat anything when talking about death and dealing with death to a child.  Kids understand more then we think.

For example, there was  a four year old boy who was at the funeral home to view his 2 month old sister that had died.  His mother was worried about this little boy because of a previous death and funeral recently.  I suggested that the family introduce him to me when they came to funeral home.  I met this little dark haired boy wh had a smile that just warmed your heart.  We talked about what happened to his sister and talked about why we were at the funeral home.  He understood a lot of what was going on and I gave him a coloring book that described what was going to happen over the next several days.  I told the family to read the book to him and I believe they did.  On the day of his sister’s service, I was keeping a eye on him because I told him if he had any questions to ask.  I was looking around for him and could not find him.  I went to the private room at the church where the family could be with the baby, and when I walked in the minister was standing in the room and there was a smiling 4 year old boy with his hand on his sister’s chest just patting her.  After he was done he went back to the dining hall of the church where the majority of the family was gathering.  

The next day the family came in to funeral home to get some items from the service.  There came this smiling little dark haired boy with chocolate all over his face.  I asked him to go ask my co-worker to help him wipe his face.  Off he went and my co-worker informed me after the boy had left with his family, this little boy asked, “Do you miss my sister?”, my co-worker replied, “I did not get to meet your sister.”  This little boy just looked up with his dark brown eyes and replied, “I miss my sister.”  This was very emotional, but yet rewarding, that this child grasped and learned about death and what a funeral was all about. 

With adults, grief can take control of our lives and lead us in downward spiral if we have not learned how to handle it.  As adults, we use different alternatives to mask the grief, even alcohol and drugs.  Believe me, I was one of them when my mother died.  It is so important that if you have trouble with grief that you go talk to a someone that can help, perhaps a therapist or grief counselor.  As a funeral director, sometimes trying to help an adult does more damage then good.  A lot of the time, adults are in the anger stage of the grief process and hang on to the anger and don’t move to the next stage until after a funeral and sometimes not at all.

Everyone handles grief differently. As funeral directors we just hope we have provided the family the best personalized service for their loved one.  Having a personalized service and being able to view our loved one is a great step to moving forward and not backwards.  

If you need help with grief, please call someone to talk to about it or ask your local funeral director of someone or somewhere to call.



Why did I become a funeral director by Jamie

Questions I get a lot are “How did you become a funeral director?” Or “I just don’t know how you do what you do?”

Let’s start with how I became a funeral director.  Most of the time family is the reason for becoming funeral director but not me.  It started my sophomore year in high school in a small town of Ness City and my first job.  The gentleman the hired me, Joel, owned many businesses, well, one of course was a funeral home.  I kept the yard mowed and cars cleaned and polished.  I worked at all of Joel’s businesses and worked with the public a lot.  I would help with moving caskets and just slowly worked my way up in the funeral home by doing every little thing I could do.

Before I knew it, I was graduating high school and had no clue what I wanted to do.  Joel had taken out a certain amount of money out of every pay check to save for college.  Heck, I never thought about going to college.  But, with Joel’s help he got me to Fort Hays State University, it was a awesome experience.  I figure I would take art class.  I like to draw with pencils and other “artsy fartsy” things.  But, after a year, I did not like art because the classes would make you draw things I was not interested in drawing.  I could draw anything but I need to have interest in what I was doing.  My grades to began to fail plus playing to much basketball, which I really wanted to be my major.

Summer break started from college and I went back to work for Joel.  I became more involved in the funeral home and doing more with funeral directors.  One day, Joel asked me, “Jamie, would you be interested in going to mortuary school. I think you would be good at it”.  I said, “Sure”, so then I was signed up for the mortuary program Kansas City Kansas Community College.

As soon as classes started I knew this was I wanted to do.  I loved to help people and it also had a art side.  Restorative art was a very hard class but I liked it.  The art side of me had to get creative and interested.

Over the years, art is very important when it comes to embalming and restoration of a individual.  When completed and family comes to view their loved one and says, “They look wonderful, Thank you”, that bring me joy to help a family move forward in the grieving process.  When it comes to restoration of a individual, there is nothing I won’t do to get a family to be able to say their, goodbyes.  I strive for the best results, but, there is only so much we can do.

Now, over 20 years later, I have done many things in funeral service.  Many of them, have worked out for the best possible results for the family.    Some people, just don’t even know how many hours we have spent to making their loved one look the best we possibly can and to organize a personalized service.  That is part of service that no one sees.

Now to the directing part of being a funeral director, this is where you learn to listen and take in all the information you get from the family.  In usually 3 days time, provide a personalized, one of a kind service for the family.  Over the years, I have done many personalized things for the family and public during a service.  It is when you doing something that is not the norm that makes a service for a loved one, memorable.  Sometimes, the public don’t like it but it is what the family wants and to get them moving forward with dealing with the loss.  Trying to personalize a service with all the stories and information a family gives you, is challenging but when the service is over and they family say, “Dad, would have liked that”.

With all aspects of a funeral director, I grieve also with family.  It is human nature to care and help, when it comes to a death.  Of course over the years, the emotions of this career is never easy and it takes a toll on you.  But, still to this day if a family calls and asks for help with death, I still care and do all I can for them like it was my first day out of mortuary school.