5 Things Funeral Professionals Wish the Public Knew About Them

Funeral professionals do much of their work in the background. Consequently, the public often has misconceptions about who they are and what they do. As someone who has worked closely with funeral professionals for almost 10 years, I feel compelled to share the real story of funeral professionals. So, on their behalf, here are five things that funeral professionals wish the public knew about them.

1. I may have started my workday at 2 a.m.

Funeral professionals often wear many hats in the workplace; this may include going out in the middle of the night to take a deceased individual out of a home and into the care of the funeral home. Once this happens, they will often go to work immediately. But they also must still work the services they already had scheduled for later that day. It’s not uncommon for funeral professionals to work marathon sessions or back-to-back shifts for days on end.


2. I probably don't earn as much as you think I do.

People often like to quote the average cost of a funeral (which according to the National Funeral Directors Association is $7,848 and has increased more slowly than inflation for the past five years). For some reason, the general public often thinks that funeral directors get close to 100% of this as profit.

The reality is that funeral home owners need to pay for the casket and other merchandise purchased by the family and for licensed and unlicensed professionals who must be available 24/7/365 – all while providing a clean and welcoming facility, plus much, much more. The profit margin in funeral service is actually quite low, and many funeral directors start their careers at a salary level similar to a public school teacher.


3. I can't take sides.

Unfortunately, families argue and disagree about funeral arrangements. These disagreements may be about small things (e.g., the color of the flowers) or big things (e.g., burial or cremation). Families often don’t realize that funeral professionals don’t get to pick and choose who they listen to during an arrangement conference. Most states have laws regarding next-of-kin and who gets the final say on these matters. Funeral professionals must follow the guidance the state provides them, no matter how strong your argument may be.


4. Planning makes a big difference.

Because so many families may disagree, it can be helpful to have a written plan in place ahead of time. Every funeral professional has seen how a pre-written plan can reduce family conflict. If you want your survivors to get along and be more likely to support one another in their grief, then make sure you have a written plan on file with the funeral home of your choice. You may even consider working with your funeral provider to pay for the services in advance, relieving your loved ones of a potential financial burden when the time comes.


5. I never completely get used to loss.

The general public is most likely to see funeral professionals working at a funeral or memorial service. This time is their busiest, and their efficiency and focus may make it seem like they are unaffected by the circumstances, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The losses in their communities do affect funeral professionals, especially the untimely. It’s just that when the public typically sees them, they are fulfilling their duties to the family. Funeral professionals grieve each loss in their community.

As I mentioned, I am not a licensed funeral director. However, I have worked with enough funeral professionals to know that these are five common misconceptions about the profession. Funeral professionals aren’t the unfeeling or morbid caricatures you see in TV shows and movies. They are just regular people providing an extraordinary service to the families in their community.

To learn more about the role of a funeral professional, check out this post next: What I Wish Everyone Knew About Funeral Professionals.


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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