When a loved one passes away, people left behind have to say goodbye. You might have to organise a burial or a cremation and if the deceased was religious, a funeral might have to be organised per his or her religious beliefs. What’s more, certain legal aspects need to be seen to and various people need to be liaised with. The responsibility for all this is usually that of a funeral planner.

A funeral planner’s duties

The funeral planner is responsible for a variety of tasks after an individual has passed, but in a way, they are a specialised events planner.

They have to meet with the family of the deceased to discuss the funeral arrangements and wishes of the deceased and family. They explain the costs and payment involved in the funeral arrangements. They need to order the casket, flowers, and other necessities for the funeral while also making arrangements with the people participating in the funeral. It might be that the family has a church where the funeral will take place that will take over some of the duties, like organising food for the funeral. The funeral planner can also assist the family in choosing a gravestone (if they choose to bury their loved one) or put them in touch with the cemetery personnel. A mortician oversees the preparation and/or embalming of the deceased before the funeral. The funeral director ensure the set-up of the memorial service, wake, and funeral adheres to the family’s wishes and oversee the transportation of the casket to the church and cemetery. The personnel accept and process payment for all the services and maintain positive relationships with vendors, church officials, cemetery directors, etc. This is above and beyond the duties that go with running a business, like hiring staff, managing a budget, overseeing schedules, etc.

This is just a list of duties and does not include the knowledge and interpersonal skills funeral home staff must have.

The knowledge and soft skills required

The funeral industry  is often dealing with people at some of the worst moments of their lives. To do this well and also stay mentally and emotionally healthy is not always an easy task.

When a funeral home takes responsibility for a body, they must keep meticulous records and account for all the items that came with the body. They are responsible for obtaining all clearances and adhering to the applicable regulations associated with the event. They need to have knowledge of the procedures and laws governing their field and stay up to date on them.

They also need to have good knowledge of different religions’ practices concerning the dead and respect cultural and religious norms that might be very different from their own.

Lastly, they need impeccable interpersonal skills. Talking to a bereaved individual about how they want to say the final goodbye to a loved one takes immense empathy mixed with an iron determination to not be distressed by the grief of others. They need to be exceptional listeners and communicators with an understanding attitude and care for the people they see and talk to.

Can you learn to become a funeral director?

Like many professions, funeral directors can also study to become better at their jobs, though it can be argued that funeral directors are born, not made. When you enrol with Sonja Smith Funeral Group as an employee, you will be properly trained on the various aspects of being a funeral director, like Taking Care of the Deceased, Ethics, Religious Customs, Products and Services, and more. A reputable funeral home will also be part of an association like the NFDA (National Funeral Directors’ Association) that attempts to ensure the quality of funeral services in South Africa and resolves disputes between undertakers/funeral directors.

There are fly-by-night funeral homes and people that are only in it for the money. They will operate without a license and without adhering to the industry’s rules. Be sure to work with a reputable funeral director that will handle your wishes and arrangements with the care, respect, and professionalism it deserves.