Course Adjustments: Making Changes to Avoid Funeral Director Burnout


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Professionals in a wide variety of fields consider it a badge of honor to wear many hats in their business. However, I don’t know of any professionals who wear more hats than funeral directors.

Within a single week, you might be expected to demonstrate knowledge of:

  • Event Planning
  • Funding Options
  • Accounting
  • Workplace Regulations
  • Grief Support
  • Transportation Logistics
  • Religious Traditions
  • Cosmetology/Hair Dressing

…and countless other tasks. Not only are all of these duties happening under significant time pressure, but often under the direct scrutiny of bereaved families. It’s no wonder that funeral directors often report feeling compassion fatigue or burnout.

Some funeral directors try to make changes to reduce feelings of burnout including hiring additional staff, delegating responsibilities to others or finding a colleague to cover during much-needed time off. Others experiencing profound burnout, anxiety or depression may seek professional help from their physician or a therapist. Before things become unmanageable, you might just need small “course adjustments” to keep you on a productive, lower-stress path. Here are some suggestions:

Say “no” to a few non-essential tasks.

Some funeral professionals manage stress by postponing or eliminating select items on their “to-do” lists that don’t impact their business operations or service to families.

Make time to exercise.

Individuals who take care of their own health, including getting regular exercise and practicing good eating habits, may find they’re better able to meet the needs of others.

Write in a journal.

Recording thoughts and experiences – especially about things that inspire gratitude – can be helpful for people who routinely experience stressful workplace situations.

Start a hobby.

Focusing attention on an enjoyable activity can help people separate their personal and professional lives and provide something to look forward to during particularly challenging workdays.

Use mindfulness/meditation exercises.

Engaging in activities that encourage relaxation, such as meditation, can be helpful for some individuals.

Spend time with a friend or colleague.

It can be comforting to catch up and socialize with trusted friends, family members or colleagues over a long lunch or coffee break.

Listen to music.

Identifying and removing potential stressors can be beneficial – for example, listening to music instead of the news when you’re driving

Take a few short breaks.

Pausing for 10-minute breaks throughout the day can provide relief for people who work in high-stress environments.

Just as small course adjustments can lead a ship to an entirely new destination, so too can small changes take you off the path to burnout and put you back on the path to career satisfaction.

I Need Your Help!

Have you experienced career burnout in the past? Are you experiencing it now? Are you making any adjustments that seem to be helping you cope? Please send me an email at drjasontroyer@gmail.com to share your experience and any adjustments you have made. It can be three sentences or three paragraphs; I promise to read every word, maintain strict confidentiality and to personally respond to every email.


Dr. Jason Troyer is a psychology professor, former counselor, grief researcher and consultant for businesses that want to better serve grieving families. He has written numerous aftercare materials, including the Finding Hope booklet series, and is a frequent presenter at funeral service professional events.

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The information in this article is not intended to replace the services of a qualified health care professional. Please contact your health care provider if you are in crisis or have concerns about your wellbeing.