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  • Kari Peters

Managing Life Learning from a Busy Funeral Home



It's Autumn and the death rate begins to increase at this time of year, which means funeral homes get busy. For funeral directors with kids and community involvement, life can become overwhelming. The dog needs walking, our house needs cleaning and we have 9 services this week. There are 4 embalming cases and suddenly we get a walk in. People who have never worked in funeral service don’t realize the pressure we face from deadlines. Many funeral homes are short staffed and when it gets busy, it gets stressful.


Most of us have a chart set up in the office which shows the details of upcoming services. Who it is for; and when, where and what type of service it is. It ensures that we don’t miss a service or forget that we have arrangements and double book ourselves. When we are in charge of multiple funerals or a big complex service out of town, most of us will make lists of what to pack and set up for the service. These provide structure and ensure that the funeral goes smoothly. We might be amazing funeral directors but some of us really struggle to manage our personal lives when work gets busy.


We are willing to take the time to plan a service for others but many of us don’t take the time to plan our personal lives. We fit in friends and family around work and our personal relationships suffer. I have recently began charting and planning my time away from work in the same format as I do with funeral service. Work is no longer more important than the people in my life. It’s just one big schedule. I work a part time job, run my steady business, write for a magazine, film a YouTube channel, curate a blog and still have time to cook, clean, spend time with friends and family and take the dog for 1-2 hour walks every day. I still have time left over.


I never used to schedule my personal life. My personal relationships suffered because grieving families always came first. I used to work at one funeral home, and I had trouble following through with personal commitments and keeping my house clean. I was disorganised and overwhelmed. Cleaning, gardening, cooking healthy meals, and regular tasks would take forever. Now they are done in about an hour because they have to match my schedule. 


I used to occasionally go out with friends but the time I spent with them was wrapped up in work because it was all I was accomplishing. I was stressed and worrying about the service the next day. I was tired and distracted. I would often cancel plans. I missed my brother’s graduation and my other brother's wedding. 2 major life events which I should have attended, but I just couldn’t get organised. 


There are a lot of funeral directors who have strained marital relationships because work comes first. The reason why work is the priority, is because this is the only aspect of our lives which is planned. I have heard directors say that their partner just doesn’t understand the commitment we have towards families we serve. What would our relationships be like if we scheduled time with our partner the way we do making arrangements? I don’t think that our partners need to understand, but we need to make sure that we schedule them in because they are just as important as the work we do. 


I chart and plan every half hour of my day, which would have sounded regimented and crazy to me a year ago, but I have so much more free time now. I am able to honor my commitments and avoid missing personal events because those events are preplanned and with a schedule I am able to complete things faster, because I have to. They’re written down. I can check it off and know that it is done. I have peace of mind because I know that at 6:30 my dog and I are going to the park. I can talk about things other than work because I have a life now, work is important but it’s not my only priority. I am able to listen, without tomorrows service lurking in the back of my mind. Writing it down makes me focus on the task at hand because I have scheduled my time.


Get a white board for your fridge and start scheduling time with your kids, dates with your partner, walks with your dog, doctor’s appointments, house cleaning, and cooking. You will be amazed at how much time you have when you do this. I never realized that the reason it took me an hour to wash the floors when it should have taken me 10 minutes, was because most of the time I was pacing and drinking coffee. I’m no longer agitated when I have to spend time with family because I know I have time to do the things I planned and I have a clear head, everything is written down. Deliberate conscious planning and scheduling has empowered me as a person and as a funeral director. I work more now than I did at my corporate job and I have more quality time and more time in general than I did then. 


Deliberate planning outside of the funeral home will change your life and the relationships you have with everyone around you. Doing this all the time, not just when the funeral home is busy gives time and space for you to have a life and prioritise. Grieving families are important, but so are you and your family so make sure you pencil them in. 



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