Interview: How Finding Resilience Can Help Funeral Professionals

Dr. Jason TroyerHomesteaders recently announced the launch of Finding Resilience, a program designed in partnership with Dr. Jason Troyer, PhD CT to help funeral service and allied professionals prevent burnout and support a reduction in career fatigue.

The program consists of a suite of resources to support these professionals in the often stressful, but highly rewarding work they do to serve grieving families.

Watch the video introduction to the program, and then read the interview with Dr. Troyer below to learn more about what you can expect in the coming months.



How did you first become aware of and interested in the topic of burnout in the funeral profession?

Even before I began speaking at conventions and providing aftercare and preneed materials, I was spending time at a local funeral home and talking with funeral directors about their profession. As someone who didn't grow up in the business, I was fascinated by both the rewards and challenges of funeral service. When I find funeral professionals who not only stick with it, but seem to thrive, I'm always curious about their approach to the profession. What allows them to thrive while others may choose to leave the field? I hoped that my background in counseling and grief support could help in some way, but it's only now that I have gotten to know many, many funeral professionals that I feel I understand the day-to-day pressures well enough to offer this program.

Why is it so important to address this issue in the profession?

The most important reason is because many funeral professionals are hurting. The challenges of the field may cause funeral professionals to experience personal, interpersonal, psychological, emotional and physical problems. It's that simple: Funeral professionals are hurting and I believe I have information that can help. A secondary reason is that when funeral professionals are at the top of their game, they are able to provide comfort and support to the grieving people in their community. Therefore, by helping funeral professionals we can help them support their entire community. There are certainly other reasons, but those pale in comparison to simply helping funeral professionals who may be struggling.

What are some of the factors that contribute to burnout in the funeral profession?

The challenges for funeral professionals include irregular hours and lack of work-life balance, wearing many different professional "hats," working daily with grieving families, the high stakes and expectations inherent in funeral service and the fact that their family members, friends and community members may not fully understand the challenges of the profession. Some funeral professionals may also be a poor fit with their current role, experience workplace challenges or have unrealistically high expectations of themselves.

How does this program help address some of those potential burnout factors?

There are three attributes that make this program especially helpful:

  1. The program has been specifically designed for funeral professionals. There are many resources that discuss the general topic of burnout; but they do not address the unique challenges inherent to funeral service. From the beginning, I created this program with funeral professionals in mind. All the examples and strategies are discussed within the day-to-day context and realities of funeral service.
  1. The program is multi-faceted and offers help through several different formats and over extended periods of time. For example, some people like to listen to a presentation while others like to read about the topic. That is why I created a variety of resources including an informational booklet, a journal, ongoing blog posts, presentations and workshops. Funeral professionals can also sign up to receive ongoing emails to provide weekly support and ideas over the course of a year.
  1. The program often focuses on building resilience. Reducing burnout is important, but it is also critical to foster resilience so funeral professionals are able to bounce back after especially difficult challenges that are bound to arise.

What are some of the potential symptoms of burnout?

Funeral professionals may be experiencing mild symptoms of workplace stress or they may be ready to leave the profession. Some symptoms of burnout and workplace stress include physical, emotional/psychological and funeral service-related symptoms. Physical symptoms include: chronic exhaustion, sleep problems, chronic and worsening health problems. Emotional and psychological symptoms include irritability and anger, depressed mood, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness and worsening of mental health concerns. Service-related symptoms include an inability to empathize with bereaved families, avoidance of work duties, questioning one's fit for funeral service and lack of satisfaction or pride in one's work.

What can funeral professionals do if they experience those symptoms?

Simply acknowledging that one is feeling some of these symptoms is a critical first step. Nothing will change without a recognition that one's situation needs to improve. A consistent theme throughout the program is that burnout is not a simple problem; therefore, there likely isn't an easy solution. I discuss a wide variety of topics including gratitude, exercise, changing one's mindset, ongoing education, nutrition, efficiency and many other topics. I also emphasize strategies that funeral professionals can use immediately and strategies that are part of a bigger plan that will take more time to implement.

What other opportunities do funeral professionals have to learn about burnout prevention?

Funeral professionals can learn more about this program’s resources and sign up to receive ongoing emails by visiting the Finding Resilience website page.

Finding Resilience: Learn more about the burnout prevention program designed for funeral professionals

The information provided through this program is not intended to replace information from a mental health or medical professional. The reader should consult an appropriate professional in matters related to his or her physical and emotional health.

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