By Leader Contributor Carol Heffernan

When it comes to your life, see if you can relate to any of the following:

  • You regularly help people in distress.
  • Your work schedule is unpredictable and includes nights, weekends, and holidays.
  • You’re frequently torn between responsibilities at home and at work.
  • You find yourself drained and thinking you have nothing left to give.
  • You don’t do much to take care of yourself and don’t feel as good as you used to.

Do any of these points resonate? All are indicators of compassion fatigue – a form of burnout that has long been dubbed as “funeral director’s fatigue.”

Think about it: As a funeral director, you are mired in grief. You listen to other people’s stories day after day and may unwittingly take on that pain and suffering. Depending on the setup at your funeral home, you may get called out at a moment’s notice, sometimes in the middle of the night. It’s no surprise that the grueling schedule and emotional demands can wear down even the most stoic and seasoned professional.

There is good news, though. In spite of the prevalence of compassion fatigue among funeral care workers, there are practical ways to avoid and treat it. Here are three changes to make at work and at home that you can start implementing today.

  • Are you on call 24/7 while receiving a relentless flow of calls and texts? Have family and friends complained that you work too much and are distracted when you’re home? You would be amazed how quickly a dedicated funeral director can evolve into a workaholic. This is why could be worthwhile for your firm to invest in an answering service, removal service, or additional staff. Yes, this means spending money, but it’s worth it when the alternative is a compromised or destroyed quality of life.
  • Making time for yourself sounds cliché. However, funeral directors are constantly giving, giving, giving – and unless you intentionally carve out opportunities for yourself, it’s not going to happen. Think about the activities that bring you so much joy that you lose track of time when you’re involved in them. Is it fishing, running, woodworking, or just taking a drive? Rediscover what brings a smile to your face and provides relief from life’s pressures – and strive to make this a regular part of your week.
  • Contact a professional counselor. Every day, funeral directors enter into the pain of other people and take action on their behalf. All too often, they wind up neglecting their own needs in the process. Sitting down with a qualified counselor presents a confidential outlet. Family, friends, and co-workers can be a source of support, but sharing vulnerable information with a non-judgmental professional may prove to be surprisingly valuable.

Have you have dealt with compassion fatigue and are willing to share your story? Or have you learned to manage the stress of your job and want to share how you did it? Email us at

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