All names and personal details have either been removed or changed to protect confidentiality. This article was sent to the participant for input and reflection before publishing.
How long have you been in the funeral industry?
About 5 years now.
So why did you join the industry?
I wanted to play with dead people. No, don't write that! I was impressed by how casual and professional the mortuary assistants were on a few documentaries I’d seen, and thought hey, I can do that too!. They worked with dead bodies but for them it was an everyday thing. I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to be like that.
What do you think of the funeral industry?
That's too broad a question, there's so much I could talk about!
Ok, so why does the funeral industry exist?
Closure for who; the dead or the mourners?
The mourners, definitely. The dead don't know what happens at their funerals, sure they might have requests but in the end it's the family who makes those decisions. For example they might get grans favourite flowers to go on top of the coffin. They chose it because it was her favourite however it gives THEM the satisfaction of forfilling her wishes. The dead won’t ever know if their wishes were followed or not. So it's really more for the family than the dead.
What about public perceptions, like is our little funeral group morbid or odd?
Our funeral community isn't "freaky" or "creepy" or whatever. It is to 'outside people' but it isn't really. It's seen as morbid to others, which needs to change! Its an unhealthy attitude that I want to change!
Is it really 'unhealthy' though? If no harm is done then can, or should we really be calling this view unhealthy?
It does cause some harm, when people are too anxious about going to funerals or cemeteries. No I'm not 'goth’, I don't think we should all be off to cemeteries because they're cemeteries (that's silly). But we should be able to appreciate the beauty in cemeteries and not be anxious about going to them or to funerals.
The funeral industry is not as sad as everyone thinks it is.
Maybe you're just desensitised to it?
I am, but I wasn’t always. I remember going into a funeral home for the first time and seeing the baby coffins on the top shelf in the trim shop. It was such a surprise and a bit confronting; I'd never considered that babies need coffins before, [Baby funerals are] almost a line people don't cross. Admittedly these days I can walk straight past a baby coffin and not think twice about it.
What's the worst part of the job?
Washing cars. It's ####ing tedious washing cars every morning. You get wet, your shoes get wet, and it's cold, it sucks! The 'worst' part is not the stuff people think of, like dead bodies and sad people, it's washing cars.
Whats the best part then?
The mortuary, I really love the before and after as it takes a lot of work. I find [the work] soothing, pretty easy, yeah, I enjoy it. You can see the process and the difference of what you did. I find it satisfying, like cleaning a dirty bathroom and looking over what you did afterwards. You wash them, plug them, fix them up, it's really peaceful and rewarding.
Wait, don't write that I compared dead people to a dirty bathroom! It might sound bad.
But it's what you said, and how you said it. Weren't we just talking about being more honest and up front when talking about the industry?
Yes, but not like that, I don't want to sound bad or insensitive. The funeral industry isn't all soft voices and music, there is more to it. But I don't want to be crude.
This was a semi-structured interview where I only took notes on paper. For the most part the method worked well enough, It was simple and easy to use. But it lacks the richness of recording which gives more information and even atmosphere. From now on I might be recoding the interviews as that should get a better result.
Also, the transcript of this interview was sent to the participant for comment and input before publishing. This is something I like and will aim to continue as it allows to get their retrospective opinion as well.