real life

We asked: What does a funeral director actually have to do everyday?

Meagan and Deb are on call 24/7. 

"I'm always glued to my phone. If one of us is going out, then the other one is always available," Meagan, 54, told Mamamia

The pair own and operate Carlyle Family Funerals in Melbourne and need to be ready to help a grieving family at a moment's notice. 

"People will pass at two or three in the morning in a nursing home, or they might have been in palliative care at home. And they need to be looked after, and they need to be taken into care."

From the moment they receive that 'first call', the arrangements begin.

"The call is the first point of contact the family makes with us. We take a few details and then we organise a transfer into care from where their loved ones passed way."

"Once the transfer is organised, I arrange to meet with the family. And that's when we sit down and really talk about what they want with regards to a funeral, burial or cremation."

From there, Meagan and Deb arrange everything from the candles to the flowers, to dressing the body. A squeamish job for some, but for Meagan and Deb, it's a great privilege. 

"It's honesty an honour to look after people because families are trusting you with their most precious loved ones... They're someone's mum, someone's grandma, someone's dad and you need to take care of them."

"You don't see them as dead people. You see them very much for who they are."

The pair make sure the person is washed, dried and dressed properly. A cloth is also used to cover the torso so the person's "dignity is kept in check".

"We still talk to them [during the process] we say to them 'we're just want to take your arm'. Physically it is quite hard too because there's no muscle tone left and people feel heavier than what they actually are. 

"One thing a lot of families ask is, 'Do we put underwear in there?' Yep, we do. 'What about shoes?' If you want shoes, we'll pop the shoes on or the slippers, whichever they want."

Maegan (left) and Deb (right). Image: Supplied. 

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After the body is prepared and other arrangements have been made, the day of the funeral arrives - usually four or five days after the first call. 

"If we've got an 11 o'clock funeral, we will leave home around 8:30am and go down to the office. We check through the paperwork a second and third time to make sure everything is correct. We also wash and polish the hearse... and make sure we have things like tablecloths, candles, the DVD and the printings we need. 

"Everything is packed into the hearse and then we've actually got to go and pick up the coffin from our care facility, which is just down the road from our office."

"Usually we arrive about half an hour early to the funeral, so that we can place the coffin where it needs to be, get everything set up, and be ready to welcome the family and mourners that are arriving."

It's here when Meagan and Deb get to hear family member's share stories and learn more about the deceased person they have been caring for.

"We only meet someone in death so it's really nice for us to watch the slideshows when you've heard the stories and see that smiling face up on the screen."

For Meagan, it's her favourite part of the job. 

"People out there have have lived some of the most interesting lives, especially the elderly. You hear about people who were prisoners of war over in Germany, and then they've come over here and created this amazing life. Or you hear about those who came over with one pound in their pockets from England. I just think wow we're in our 50s and we haven't had half the experience that some of these people have. It's amazing."

After the service, the coffin will be moved to the hearse and transported to the cemetery, if that's what the family have opted for. 

After the burial, Meagan and Deb take the family back for refreshments and make sure they're all settled before leaving. They finish up by hosing down the hearse before putting it away.

Listen to Mamamia's No Filter podcast where Mia Freedman talks to Emma Jane about working as a mortician and an adult dancer. Post continues below. 

Having been a funeral director for 12 years, Meagan knows the job can take an emotional toll. 

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"We carry a lot of emotion and you're around grieving people with heightened emotions... You could be fine for weeks and weeks and weeks and then all of a sudden it'll just build up and it'll break you.

"When that happens you do need to walk away, because you can't let the mourners see you that way."

While she turns to mediation to help her unwind from work, the pair also lean on eachother when they need support.  

"We just cry and we just support one another. If you need to cry, you need to cry."

Despite the emotional toll, they both couldn't see themselves doing any other job. 

"It's a very rewarding job, building a rapport with people and letting them know they can trust us with someone so precious to them. It can be emotionally tough and we have tears and you get a bit tired, but just being able to help people through is a really nice feeling."

For those considering a job in the funeral industry, Meagan says to remember, "It's not just about standing at the memorial table smiling and handing a pamphlet out. There's so much more behind the scenes. You commit to a lifestyle of being available to people when they need you".

But one thing they want everyone to know about funeral directors is that, "we're all human".

"Gone are the old dark days of funeral directors being old men who don't have a sense of humour. We're all human. We all have a sense of humour. We all love fun and love life. And there's a lot of good people in the industry. So next time you see a funeral director, give them a hug."

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia. 

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