When we hear the term “key workers” most of us automatically think of those workers from the NHS, Emergency Services, Carers, Shop Keepers, Refuse Collectors, Farmers and Supermarket workers.
Seldom do we hear any talk of those involved in funeral services – the people who care for the dead – given a mention. To the contrary, we hear phrases like “The Funeral Directors must be wringing their hands with glee.” Or “At least it must be good business for the Church/Cemetery – they’re never going to be out of work, are they?”
Maybe it is because we as a nation do not talk about death that we have not got a clue what those in the funeral workforce are facing – daily. It is not spoken about. We expect them to simply get on with it and say nothing because well that is what they are paid to do isn’t it?
But what of the mental toll this is taking on those involved in this essential service? Can you imagine how distressing it is to them to have to tell a family that they cannot attend the crematorium and have a simple service for their loved one? Many of them are crying inside but cannot show it to their clients because they know that their situation is already unbearable and well, they can’t be exposed to the pain of the Funeral Director too, can they?
So, they carry on. They face criticism from some because the funeral costs a lot, but they have the same disbursements to payout. The crematorium, Church, Celebrant, all charge the same fee but in the case of Ministers of Religion, for example, some are harder to find since many are self-isolating. Many have second services to arrange once lockdown is over for celebrations of life and memorial services, yet their years of training and experience tells them that this will indeed be causing upset to the families they are dealing with since there is no closure.
The stark reality for funeral directors and those involved in funeral services now is that the highly personalised service that they are used to giving has changed. The comforting aspect which they bring to the table is at least very difficult.
The reality of the Coronavirus is not only having the workload and stresses of those involved in funeral services increased exponentially but they are also working in conditions where they and potentially their families are “at-risk”. It is not only the health services which is experiencing the shortage of PPE.
The bottom line is we need to care for all carers. Both the National Society for Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) and National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD) is offering both emotional and well-being support to their society members during the pandemic with telephone and email support networks connecting them to organisations such as Professional Help Ltd and their trained counsellors.
So, when you are clapping for the key workers on a Thursday night please don’t forget those hidden key workers who also need your support.