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Guest Blog Post: Self-Care Moments for the Funeral Profession

Guest Blog Post: Self-Care Moments for the Funeral Profession

Sep 10, 2015

Guest Blogger: Jill Johnson-Young

ASD is pleased to share this month's guest blog post in our new blog series from Jill Johnson-Young. The blog series is focused on aftercare, self care, and helping families with grief recovery. Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW, is a clinical therapist in private practice in Riverside, California. She is the co-owner of Central Counseling Services, where she specializes in grief and loss for adults and children, as well as individual and family therapy. Jill is certified as a Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute and has more than a decade of experience as a medical social worker in hospice both in California and Florida. She holds a Master's degree in Social Work from the University of South Florida and is licensed in California. Jill is a member of the Orange Belt Funeral Director's Association. Her passion is seeing people work through the losses they experience and finding a new path where they can thrive in a life they choose.

Self-care moments for the funeral industry:

As I was contemplating what to say to people who spend their careers caring for other people before they take care of themselves, I thought about the examples I’ve watched in the last few weeks:

► After a first call, a pair of transport folks took a much-beloved mom and grandma out of her home for the last time. When they arrived at the mortuary, they talked quietly about what more they could have done to ease the transition out of the house for the survivors. The family expected that death. They were gathered together as the two young men in suits arrived and left. I have no doubt the young men were perfectly appropriate, but they spent a few moments reviewing the time with the family when they returned, looking for what they could do better.

► The mortician who embalmed and dressed and cosmetized several people in one day without any example photos. She made each one look peaceful. Their faces were made to look just like they were sleeping- not too much, not too little. Their hands were folded. One held a teddy bear the family sent. Despite decades of experience, she worried that the family might not be happy with her work because she didn’t know the hair style or cosmetic preferences. It wasn’t about her- it was about the family being able to have that final look and having it be what they expected and had envisioned.

► The funeral director who runs a lovely mortuary she designed herself that feels like grandma’s house when you walk past the rose covered gates. She spends part of every day trying to figure out what more she can offer her families. What else should be available? What should she have said to the couple planning their little girl’s funeral and selecting her casket, rather than her dress for the first day of kindergarten? What more could she have said to the husband who is both grieving and relieved following the death of his wife from an early onset dementia? How else could she warn the family of a traffic accident victim that what they see might not be enough because of the level of trauma?

Self-care is paramount for the people who are in the funeral industry. Being aware of the signs of not practicing self-care is even more important. The statistics say that a tremendous percentage of those entering this career path will leave within ten years. A major reason for that exodus is the stress created by being too critical of themselves as providers. Here’s what I want you to hear:

  • You chose this profession because it’s a part of who you are.
  • Most of you refer to it as a calling, not a job.
  • You do enough
  • You are enough
  • Your families will sometimes not appreciate you, but not because of what you did or didn’t do. Sometimes you simply can’t make some people happy and they are in one of the worst times in their lives. You are an easy target.
  • Reviewing what went right or wrong is always a good idea, but not to be critical. Do it to learn from it and commend yourself and your staff for doing the right things right, and for learning from mistakes or situations that arise. You can’t always control that DVD player or memory stick. You really can’t. And traffic?
  • When you find yourself not wanting to face a day at work several days in a row, it’s time for some self-care. That can be a walk, a coffee run and a few moments of peace and quiet, or even an early bedtime with some quiet at the end of the day. Make it something that will feed back a little energy to you.
  • Remind yourself you are in a tough business for the right reasons, and our families are lucky to have you there, whether you are the first call staff, the embalmer, the funeral director, the one answering those calls at night, or the one helping the family graveside. They need you.

Here’s a final thought, from Audre Lorde:

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.”

Check back next month for the next guest blog post from Jill Johnson-Young.

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About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD's company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at

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