Funeral Professionals are some of the hardest working and most empathetic people out there. Day in and day out we put our time and our emotions out there to every family we serve and our communities. With this, many of us miss out on all the normal life activities like kid’s birthdays, kid’s sporting events, date nights with your spouse, working out, and even cutting the grass is hard to find time for and the list goes on and on.
We take on everyone’s emotional burden and a majority of the time have to put our work life and the families we serve in front of our own. This demand takes a tremendous toll on many funeral directors and their families as most grieving families cannot understand all the details involved in our profession.
One of the things I urge everyone to do is try and find that proper work/life balance. I know this seems like a difficult task and for the small town funeral director almost impossible, but it’s there! I have talked to many small town funeral directors who now just explain to families that if a death occurs on Sunday, just wait until Monday to see that family and most seem to be very accepting of this or to keep a schedule of when you see families during the day and at set times, similar to a Doctor’s office. Now, will this work with every funeral home? The simple answer to that question is: NO…. no it will not, but there is still an opportunity to find that proper work/life balance.
I myself have had to learn this the hard way, unfortunately taking on too many responsibilities and putting everything in front of my obligations as a parent and a husband. I now have learned to take a step back from some things and reduce my night calls and understand that it’s okay not to be involved in every single thing. Burnout is a real thing and affects many funeral professionals and I certainly did not want to get to that point where work was just work and not enjoyable. I was getting to that point, my family and my kids were getting to that point. I urge managers and owners to let their employees leave early on days where it’s slow or give an opportunity for a 4 day weekend once a month or every two months. These simple changes can truly affect the attitude and type of work your employees produce. I am lucky to work for a company who understands the importance of family and time away from work. It’s also important for you job-seekers to ask those types of questions when looking for employment. Benefits such as health insurance and retirement are wonderful, but true time with your family is the BEST, and you cannot get this back.
Even for those of you who are single and are yet to have kids having a proper work/life balance is key. You still need time for yourself and your hobbies and time to just relax. Even though this profession becomes a norm, we still deal with a ton of emotions and see and hear many things that the general public will never have knowledge of. This can seriously affect you more than you know and certainly more if you never take a break to just relax and focus on life and yourself!
I am not saying you have to give up everything you are involved in, but just know it’s okay to miss a meeting here and there or a chamber after hours from time to time. The Lions Club will not take away your yellow vest because you aren’t there every Tuesday…. the chamber will not revoke your membership because you are not attending a business after hours. Keep a good calendar and keep yourself organized and prioritize what is important each week and make sure you keep your family in the loop on this. Communication is the key to success with this and this is another area I failed in which I encourage everyone to do better at. If you discuss your week ahead of time with your family, there will be no surprises and everyone can plan accordingly. This is extremely important to those of you like myself with children.
So again, if you are struggling a bit you need to talk to your employer and see what can be done. It’s not fair to your employer or yourself to overload and overwork yourself. In the long run this only affects you, your family, your employer, and ultimately the families you serve. Do not be scared or nervous to say no at times, I have always been a “Yes” man, but I have learned it’s okay to say No here and there or, “I just don’t have the ability to serve in that capacity at the moment”. So I urge you to find that proper work/life balance so you can take care of yourself, your family, and this profession!
Written by: Zach Carnley, CFSP
Zach is a licensed funeral director & embalmer in the State of Texas and is a founding member of Millennial Directors. He is also a contributor to NOMIS Funeral Home & Cemetery News and The Dead Beat.