Ever wondered what a funeral director is really like?
Have you ever met a funeral director? Hopefully you haven’t needed their services but if you have, was your view different to how they turned out? We’ve had quite a few families say recently that the experience was nothing like they expected and that it wasn’t scary.
Since joining the funeral industry, I have become acutely aware that portrayals of funeral directors and the funeral industry are not always positive ones, particularly in movies. Perhaps this is where the scary image of organising a funeral comes from? Why are funeral directors usually portrayed as “weirdos”? Why do some films show death as strange or scary rather than a natural end?
We understand that this stereotyping of the funeral industry is not personal or malicious, but it can still portray the wrong image about people in the industry for the many that have not had cause to experience the reality. This blog looks at the characteristics we believe make up some of the best funeral directors, as it focuses on the side of a funeral director that you do not see. We look at some of the movies that have particularly made us question the role of a funeral director and why the characters are deemed odd or unusual. We hope to try to balance any negative stigma around the funeral profession.
You can read more about our team here.
What characteristics should your funeral director have?
- Compassion and Empathy
Most funeral directors, or people who work in the industry, are some of the most caring, friendly, compassionate people you will meet. We are not the vampire-like characters on TV; we are ‘normal’ people, with families and lives just like you. We go shopping, we attend our child’s sports day, we laugh at the same things you do. We’ve also lost loved ones and friends and so we can guide you through the funeral process.
We care. A lot. When you really miss your loved one and want them back, we share those emotions. We take enormous pride in doing a good job. Knowing we’ve done so is a big reason we do what we do. It makes it all worthwhile.
Part of our job is being available at all hours, as death does not have a schedule. Should you have the need, you can contact us here at any time. Funeral Directors, particularly those that work in smaller, independent family businesses will drop everything to take your call or answer that text about something that’s worrying you. This industry is not for anyone that is not willing to put others ahead of themselves every time.
- Professional and respectful
No two days are the same. We see and deal with often upsetting and emotional circumstances with the utmost professionalism and integrity.
- Great communicator
We are great at listening. Especially to any ideas you may have, about the life of the person who has passed away. We also need to be great at communicating. We need to be able to explain each step of the process in as little or as much detail as you want. We explain the logistics. We complete paperwork on your behalf and explain any details. We have to be organised and keep things in order. It takes a lot of planning and coordination to arrange a funeral and ensure everyone is where they should be at the right time.
Personally, I know that Tris and I rarely switch off, always thinking of ways to personalise the funeral or make improvements in our service. While a lot of our families have ideas about how they want the funeral to be, some don’t have a clue where to start. That’s our job to get to know your loved one and make suggestions to personalise the service. We’re creative. We think outside the box.
Perhaps you’d love to come in and paint your loved one’s nails? Or let them listen to their favourite singer while visiting our chapel of rest? Perhaps you’d like to help dress your loved one or let them stay at home until the funeral takes place? There are so many ways to make the funeral personal. Talk to us about your ideas!
The Funeral Profession on screen
In contrast to that, let’s take a look at the portrayals in TV and film of death and the funeral profession.
I recently watched the “After.Life” movie. The film centres around Liam Neeson working as a funeral director. Christina Ricci wakes, following a car accident, to find her body being prepared for a funeral. The movie aims to keep viewers guessing about what is really happening. Without giving too much away, Liam Neeson’s character does nothing to assist the view of how funeral directors are seen in real life and also, makes death scary. There are scenes that are realistic to our role within this film but overall it’s not an accurate portrayal.
I recall the first ever movie I watched, where I remember seeing death or funeral directors portrayed. It was The Burbs featuring Tom Hanks – a dark comedy. A family, the Klopeks, move into the suburb. Who are the Klopeks and why do their neighbours suspect all isn’t as it seems? They are never seen in daylight and at night their basement windows flash and crackle with charges of electricity. They can also be seen out in their backyard, digging holes. They look like they were born under rocks and have never seen the light of day. It turns out they were powering a huge furnace below their home for bodies but again this does nothing to dissuade viewers that we funeral industry workers are not strange!
The Addams Family
Another favourite from most people’s childhood was The Addams Family. Centred around a family with macabre interests, incredibly sallow skin and an unhealthy obsession with wearing black! They resided at 0001 Cemetery Lane, the mother of the family was called Morticia (a play on the word mortician) and they had a detached hand that played a servant. All very lighthearted fun, with the family being incredibly welcoming of guests to their home and they could never understand societies treatment of them. This film is certainly less offensive to the profession!
Six Feet Under
Never fear, it’s not all bad press for us Funeral Directors! Six Feet Under, a TV show based around a funeral home in America is a great homage to our profession. It’s regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time with a string of awards under its belt. It is a conventional family drama that deals with interpersonal relationships, dysfunction, infidelity, personal growth, and religion. At the same time, the topic of death is what distinguishes it from its counterparts. Each episode begins with a death which then sets the tone for the episode. The characters reflect on their current circumstances in a way that is illuminated by the death and its aftermath.
The beauty of this tv show was the writing. You could never guess where the script would take you. There are no stereotypical characters.