It’s been 3 weeks since my last post! One of the many unique problems with working in a funeral home is that you’ll never be able to predict when you’ll be busy. One day you’re searching for things to clean and the next you’re working a 12 hour day just to try to catch up from the night before when everybody and their sister decided to kick the bucket at once.
Well that’s what happened to me. The past three weeks have been an almost non-stop parade of visitations, funerals, and arrangement meetings. In this post, I’d like to address something that is not necessarily unique to funeral service but can have some pretty serious consequences in our realm: burnout.
Everyone has shitty days at work. It’s not a new revelation. But I never talk about it. If I’ve had a bad day, it’s very rare that anyone will know about it. I don’t like to complain because I feel like I have no right to. When someone snaps at me, I rationalize it. “They’re grieving. I need to be understanding with them right now. I have no right to feel angry with them.
“I’d feel like that, too, if my mom died.
…..if I couldn’t afford a funeral for my dad.
…..if my brother died and no one knew about it until 5 days afterward.
…..if my child died in a car accident and was disfigured to the point of it requiring a closed casket.”
You see what I’m getting at? It’s hard to allow yourself to feel angry with these people. It feels wrong and selfish.
So it doesn’t matter that I spent my entire day cleaning the funeral home and 1 hour after the visitation, it’s trashed. It doesn’t matter that I spent 3 hours combing out someone’s waist-length hair that was turned into a pile of knots after the coroner did a cranial autopsy, and the friends complain about the way it was styled. It doesn’t matter that I’m told to go fuck myself twice in one day over trivial things that I can’t even control. It doesn’t matter that, on a daily basis, I have to do the work of two people because of an apathetic co-worker and hardly get recognized for it. It doesn’t matter that the insults and complaints come a lot easier than the thank yous. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. I just keep telling myself that, over and over again. Pushing all of my anger, hurt, and sadness into the pit of my stomach hoping it’ll just disappear so I can get on with my day, week, life.. whatever.
Actually, though, it does matter. It matters a lot because it hurts a lot. It hurts a lot that people have literally no idea how much I can care for them. I’ve never admitted this but sometimes, I want to cry at a stranger’s funeral. I want to hug the girl sitting on the stairs, crying her eyes out. I just want to make everything better! It hurts that I can’t!
It’s here that I need to make another confession.
Right now, I’m sitting inside at a coffee shop on a beautiful, sunny Saturday where I’m usually spending this coveted time off with my boyfriend. Today, we decided to spend a few hours apart because he’s still hurt about the fight we had last night in which I blamed him for some silly, trivial things and then stormed out to go take a walk by myself. What was really going on and what I’m too scared to admit is that I’m getting burned right the fuck out with my job and I don’t have an outlet. So it seemed easier, at the time, to subconsciously invent completely unrelated problems and then misdirect my anger at someone who loves me.
Needless to say, that doesn’t work.
And the view from the doghouse is subpar.
The misguided truth is that I feel like being angry at grieving people is like being angry at an animal: you can’t really blame them for what they did because they just don’t know any better. But we’re all doing the same thing, really. We’re all misdirecting our anger at people that don’t deserve it because we can’t actually zero-in on our target. For me, I can’t blow up at the people I’m trying to help. And for them, well.. you can’t tell someone who’s dead that you’re angry with them. Turns out they don’t care.
So here we all are. Stuck in this weird cycle where we treat each other like shit, trying to make ourselves feel better but, really, we just end up feeling worse. Nobody would choose to contribute to this cycle willingly (unless they’re a dick) but we’ve all done it at some point. I wish I could offer more insight to this but I’m just at the beginning myself, which may be why this post sounds kind of meandering. The first step is being cognizant of the problem and unfortunately, sometimes, you just have to fuck up in order to see what’s really happening.
So, even thought it’s later than I’d like, now I know.
….I’m not even going to finish.