Train Up An Apprentice

**Forward from the Editor: Matthew Morian

“The focus of Millennial Directors has been to share Millennial viewpoints on the funeral profession. I feel that expanding that focus to allow other generations to share their viewpoints directly with Millennials is also incredibly beneficial to the growth of our profession. On that note, I introduce one of our Gen-X counterparts to share his perspective: Dylan Stopher.”

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You know what’s crazy? If I were to ask 100 funeral directors from different firms how to train a student or apprentice, they would give me 100 different answers. Those answers would vary greatly in scope and level of intensity. Some would be focused on arrangements and some focused on embalming; some looking into paperwork and some looking at professional demeanor.

The best part is that none of these are wrong. The worst part is that all of them are not given equal focus. So I’d like to propose a set of specific steps for standardized training within any facility for students, apprentices, or new funeral directors in your organization.

Please know, these are only suggestions.

Let’s begin with the obvious “Rule Number One” for all funeral professionals: the family is in charge. Continue reading

Yoga: A Funeral Director’s Coping Mechanism

For some of us in the funeral profession, we speak of our career choice as a sort of calling.

The first half of my career I just kind of muddled through. Let’s face it, mortuary school didn’t really prepare me for the situations and the families that would walk through the door. That kind of experience only comes with time.

There are some families that come to us with a sense of relief and peace, but there are those families that sit across from us that are broken and damaged. As a poised and strong funeral director, I carry them through the hardest days and weeks of their lives.

But as a human, I am broken with them.

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The Value of Education and Involvement

Funeral Professionals can never EVER get enough education or stop learning. Just like any other profession we must stay current and knowledgeable to properly take care of our families, our businesses, and our co-workers.

There are so many of us that think we’ve “got it” and we have all the tools on our belts already. This could not be further from the truth. Those who’ve “got it” are the ones who will never accept change and will continue to do the same thing each and every single day for the rest of their career.

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Comprehending Those We Serve

When asked what I think a funeral director’s most underappreciated duty is to a family, I answer: “To listen.”

At the arrangement table we create a solemn trust with those we serve in their time of need. To be the guiding force, the preparer of rites, the wisdom bearer, and the unburdening ear.

As funeral directors, we spend a lot of our time talking. We could learn so much about why we are called to this profession if we would retain experiences from our families as plentifully as we gave them in return.

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Close to Home

Over the years I have experienced loss within my family. Since joining the funeral industry in 2010 I have lost my three remaining grandparents and most recently an uncle.

Uncle Bill was somewhat reclusive. I never really had an opportunity to know my mom’s older brother. Honestly, I don’t ever remember meeting him. Towards the end of his life, major health complications such as diabetes all but immobilized him. With Bill’s body failing, my mother helped arrange for his care at a nursing facility near her farm.

I’m sure my uncle was appreciative to have his big sister so close in his time of need. She would visit him often and keep us updated as to his health and about his current mood.

It was several weeks ago when my mother called to tell me that her brother was entering hospice care and expected he would not have long to live.  Continue reading

We’re the Good Guys!

The funeral industry can be a tough profession for many obvious reasons.

People think we are just out to get their money and that we could care less about anything else.  Well, we are trying to get paid… we are a business after all, and that is how a business operates.

On the flip side, we are actually a great group of guys and gals that have made a commitment to do everything within our power to help guide a family through the toughest time of their life.  We provide all the necessary tools, and support to provide a meaningful and personalized service.

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Fountains of Experience

What do you say when a person calls your funeral home to ask that most probing of questions, “How much?” Do you quickly blurt out the answer to their inquiry or do you steel yourself with a deep breath and prepare for a long informative conversation about what they will potentially experience over the next several days?

If you answered the latter, then you will undoubtedly increase your firm’s chances of serving that family regardless of “how much.”

As funeral directors, we are often challenged as to what our value is to modern society. Are we simply disposers of the dead or are we caring and skilled professionals who are here to educate those we serve?

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Celebrity Deaths: We Hardly Knew You

Celebrity, as a phenomena, is defined as fame, renown, or public eminence; or being so well-known through assorted mediums as to be transfixed in the lives of the common man. We put celebrities under a microscope along with the spotlight so as to know the fantastic as well as the mundane regarding their daily lives.

Yet, nothing quite compares to those fateful dates when said celebrities vanish from the physical world with a swarm of high profile news flashes, tweets and Facebook “R.I.P.’s”.

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A Final Farewell

When a family chooses direct cremation, they often do so out of economic considerations or by request of the deceased (“Y’all don’t make a fuss over me”). Performing a meaningful service to mourn the loss of their loved one is no longer an opportunity for the funeral home. Or is it?

When working for a funeral home, you are expected to give your client families the utmost respect and care. Whether you are a funeral director, embalmer, assistant, or an administrative staffer, it is up to you to make sure your families have a fitting final impression of your facility and staff.

When the cremated remains are ready and the family is notified that their loved one is available for them to receive, you then have an occasion to serve them one last time before they leave your building. Here are a few ideas you can use to make your final moments with a family, memorable ones:

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The Millennial Director’s Perspective

Born in the year 1983, I was often told I was part of Generation-Y… the not as cool as “Gen-X” generation that propelled Vanilla Ice to stardom. Much to my relief, the term “Millennial” came along to make us stand out from our counterparts.

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My mullet and I circa 1987.

A millennial is defined by The Center for Generational Kinetics as a person born between the years 1977 and 1995. Continue reading