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What to Do when Someone Dies Part I

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Funeral Directors

What are the Duties of a Funeral Home Director

While it is true that the profession of funeral director has been tainted by many “bad apples” who, over the years, have unscrupulously taken financial advantage of grieving families, it's also certainly true that not all funeral directors are deserving of this reputation. In fact, a quick study of the industry reveals that most funeral directors are probably deserving of far more than the $50,000 they earn, on average, each year. A funeral director's job requires many specialized skills that are not easily obtained, and those who manage to learn them during the rigors of mortuary science school, find themselves prepared to enter a field that is emotionally stressful and demanding in many other ways as well.

It's helpful to understand a little about just what funeral directors are required to do learn, what they do on the job and what to occupational risks they must contend with. The following is a brief rundown.

Funeral directors work daily with potentially harmful chemicals and their work often brings them into contact with dangerously contagious biological hazards. So graduates of mortuary school find themselves thoroughly grounded in the sciences of chemistry and biology. But that's just the start, the typical mortuary science school curriculum also involves a careful study of the social sciences, as funeral directors are often called to help their clients to cope with grief, stress, and complex family dynamics during their time of great need. Further, funeral director's skills of compassionate counseling are in often in great demand in the aftermath of a large scale disaster – such as an earthquake or hurricane – involving many casualties. A little study in the fields of psychology, sociology and social work come in to play in preparing for those situations. Mortuary science also involves a little art as well: all trained funeral directors are well schooled in the complex, intricate art of preparing a body for dignified public display in a memorial service. And, finally, mortuary science graduates must learn the ins and outs of the business world. They must understand the laws, ethics, and practical traditions at play in their complicated, heavily regulated, and emotionally complex field.

A typical day in the life of a funeral director can take many directions. So it's not so typical after all. This is why a mortuary science education is so diverse and complex. Funeral directors must be prepared for a huge variety of complex situations they will experience on the job. They must be ready to prepare the body of someone disfigured in a horrible accident, and they must know how to console the family members too. They must know how to advise families whose loved one has died penniless – and with no plan for a funeral. They must be able to expertly guide men and women who are planning their own memorial services and need help in communicating their wishes to family members. They must know how to respond to request for exhumation, burial in unorthodox places (such as a residence's front yard as has been the case in a highly publicized recent situation), and other complex matters that involve a study of law and ethics. In short, funeral directors must be constantly ready for just about everything. And, perhaps more than any other profession, they will always be expected to remain calm, compassionate and professional as they deal with these trying issues.

Schools of mortuary science are typically very open about the risk of becoming a funeral director. Professional funeral directors put themselves at great emotional risk by exposing themselves to a constant stream of stressful, intense situations on behalf of their clients. They also are at risk of being ostracized by the rest of society. In fact, mortuary science colleges that are part of universities offering other courses of study typically report that the mortuary students tend to keep to themselves. Mingling with students of other fields tends to be an awkward experience for all involved. It has been theorized that this is why most mortuary science school operate as their own entity rather than as a part of a bigger university. Funeral directors see their clients when they are at their most vulnerable and weakest, and, therefore, they are not allowed to let their own vulnerabilities and weaknesses slip through. If there is a profession in which error is unacceptable, it's that of a funeral director. And the stress of maintaining a perfect professional composure over the course of decades can work against a person's psyche in a dreadful way for which no amount of compensation can be sufficient.

So, while funeral directors have taken their brunt of criticism through the decades that their profession has been a prominent part of the American economy, it's clear that most funeral directors are well deserving of nothing but respect for their difficult, often thankless, service to their grief stricken clients. Everyone reading this would do well to find a funeral director to thank (or hug) today. A great funeral director will also point at some other alternatives for purchasing funeral products.

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