The Hard Call of End-of-Life Work (& How We Find Our Purpose)

Who would ever work at a funeral home? The stereotypes are creepy, the work is depressing, the tv portrayals horrifying. So why do people choose to work at funeral homes and what is the actual reality of working in a place like O’Connor?

At a meeting recently, I heard our CEO, Joe Fitzgerald say, “We are living transformational lives in a transactional world.” Read it again, slowly. It’s wonderful. And, it’s true.

The bar set for funeral home experiences is incredibly low. People often walk in highly skeptical, assuming the worst, and fearful of being taken advantage of. There’s a reason for all of that – it’s happened and it’s happened at a tragic rate.

But that doesn’t happen here. In a place where so many people expect a transactional experience, we are working against that expectation to provide transformative moments that help to transition families into the healing that happens alongside grief.

Our hope with every family we serve is that there is a genuine experience of comfort, guidance, empathy, encouragement, and honesty. A funeral will not fix your grief or put a period at the end of the sentence. But the acts of the funeral, telling the story, gathering with others, remembering, and saying goodbye are all pivotal experiences that help our bodies, minds, and hearts to move through the loss and into the different life that lies ahead.

As one our resident grief expert, Dr. Bill Hoy reminds us, “The death of a loved person is not a contusion, it is an amputation. No amount of rehab allows me to restore the limb that was lost and instead, I am left to adapt to the loss, perhaps now doing with one arm or hand what I used to do with two.” In that sense, I think that the people involved in end-of-life care, from nurses to hospice volunteers, to funeral staff and support group facilitators – all of these people make up critical elements of the physical, mental and emotional therapy that people need to deal with life after a death.

We are proud to be a part of a team that brings about therapeutic and transformational events. And yes, seeing funerals and grieving people day-in and day-out is exhausting and undeniably sad. It is a heavy place to work and show up to every day. There’s just no way around that. But death is a universal reality – and it’s our privilege to stand solidly in that reality with every person who walks through our doors.

At O’Connor, we are striving to bring meaning, healing, and transformation to a profound life experience that is too often left and allowed to be transactional.

If you are interested in joining us on this journey, there are many ways to take part. 1) Learn more about funeral rituals and about modern bereavement theory – there is so much that has changed with the growth of psychology. Understanding the needs and experiences of grieving people helps all of us to create the right space and appreciation for what the experience of grief requires. 2) If you are interested in working in the funeral profession, look at our job page – you might just surprise yourself. 3) Self-examine. Look at how much we are drawn to “fixing” and “getting over” things. In our culture, and I think in much of human nature, there is a desire to just get back to “happy.” When we accept that the honest life has more to it than the strict pursuit of happiness, we can get into the true, the real, and the transformative wisdom of really living.


Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.

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