What to call the industry?

    I have heard a few different names for the funeral industry.  The two most common being the "death-care" industry and the "grief" industry.  Unfortunately neither of these are accurate, and are in fact quite misleading.

    Here is why these two names are inaccurate and why I call it the "funeral industry".  After all, it's important to qualify and explain terms.

    Many call it a "death-care" industry, which I find to be rather inaccurate.  This term implies the undertakers care for death, as in death is the definition of their job and role.  However, this is not the case at all as they have little to do with it.

    This might seem counter intuitive for most, so let's flip this for a moment to better understand.  To look not at undertaker, but what many consider to be the polar-opposite, the medical professional.  For many the undertaker works with the dead in the mortuary.  On the other hand the doctor works with the living in the hospital.  To them the doctor is preserving life while the undertaker is working with death.  Yet this is not the case at all.  The doctor is the one who works with death, who's job and profession depends on it.  Doctors were created to save lives, to prevent death.  Which means their role and identity is actively bound up with death.  Doctors measure success by patients "saved" and failure by patients who died.  In other words doctors not only interact with death directly by preventing it, but they also define themselves and their achievements through it.  Doctors are built on their opposition to death and as such have a direct relationship to it.

    On the other hand the undertaker has little to no part in any of this.  The undertaker does not see the people dying, nor does the undertaker interact with death directly.  In fact the undertaker has so little part of death that their role and identity is less bound up in it than the doctor.  The undertaker was not created to deal with death, they were created to organise funerals.  Death was occurring long before the undertaker was around.  But the funeral was dealt with at home, domestically.  After the funeral preparation moved out of the home was when the undertakers grew.

    Undertakers were created to organise an event, one the public no longer wanted to organise themselves.  This is best explained by describing the work going on in a funeral home.  The mortuary side of things is only a small aspect.  Most funeral homes have considerably more administration and event staff than mortuary staff.  Take Lady Anne Funerals for example, they have one dedicated mortician but several people who go out on funerals and help in the office.  More staff and physical space are focused on the office and/or garage than on the mortuary at most funeral homes.  What this means is that more attention and time is spent on organising and running the funeral than on preparing the body.

    The undertaker might deal in dead bodies, and the funeral occurs because a death has occurred.  But this is very different for the undertaker dealing with death.  Death plays a part of the funeral, but the undertaker focuses on the funeral and not death.  A few undertakers describe themselves as "event planners" as they know florists, musicians, caterers, venues and so on.  An undertaker could plan a wedding, party or any other event without trouble.  They know the people and know how to do it as they do just that for a living.  Undertakers plan events, which happen to be funerals.  The only real difference is that the undertaker organises this in under a week.  So it is no surprise that companies like InvoCare throw an amazing Christmass party.

    As such I would call it a "funeral industry" as this is exactly what undertakers deal in and with.  It is the reason the undertaker exists, to organise and run funerals and it's what they focus on.  The undertaker role and identity is more bound up in funerals than in death.  For this reason I would also not call it a "grief-care" industry.  The undertaker is not focused on grief (although this is changing as mourning attitudes change).

    Undertakers deal with funerals, not grief.  Otherwise more funeral companies would have councillors and similar in house services.  The undertaker can help with grief, and many offer followup care.  But this is usually done by another party who specialises in it.

    So basically I call it the "funeral industry" as this is the reason it exists and what it focuses on.  It does not focus on death or grief as many might assume.


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