“I Would Think Your Job Would be Very Depressing”

“I Would Think Your Job Would be Very Depressing”

I recently sat with a lady who is trying desperately to reconcile the unexpected death of her husband. She nervously fidgeted and took notes on each of the points we discussed on who she should contact now that she was being given his death certificates. I asked her questions about her husband and their life. I wanted to know how long they had been married, how many children and grandchildren they have, what their favorite vacation spots were and what the last thirty-three years has looked like for them.  She lit up as she told stories of their wonderful life together.

As we began transitioning back to the other purpose of our time together, preparing her for tackling the business end of the process, her mood and posture noticeably changed. I realized that the reality of her husband’s death was hitting her once again. With tears starting to fall from her beautiful, blue eyes, she looked up at me and said, “I would think your job would be very depressing”.

I handed her a tissue, placed my hand on hers and told her, “I love what I do because I get to meet people like you.” She tried to smile the best she could, but her heart is still so broken. I walked to her car with her and assured her she could call anytime with any questions, even if she just needed to talk.

The timing of this comment was far from coincidental. I was just emerging from one of the worst bouts of seasonal depression I had experienced in a very long time. While depression has been no stranger over my lifetime, this was the worst it has been in years.

Of course, there is sadness associated with working in a mortuary. One would not be wired well for this atmosphere if they did not feel empathy and compassion for the profound losses.  It is how we are shaped to comfort others.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Luso

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Luso


The dark cloud that hovered over me this holiday season was due to personal feelings of loss. The realization that my “family” Christmas will never be like the sappy, Christmas movies due to family conflict.  The longing for holidays gone by that included loved ones who have been gone for years.  The mourning of what I thought my life would have looked like by now.

Life is not perfect. We live in a broken place that is full of heartache and disappointment. If you haven’t already experienced it, your time is coming.  Sadly, it is inevitable.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Noedelhap

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Noedelhap

It is how you go through and emerge from these trials that helps to define you. It is the comfort you receive from others that will prepare you to be the one who comforts when called upon.  When experienced effectively, pain can result in tremendous growth.

You know what keeps my job from being depressing?  Being able to show the families we serve the same compassion that has been shown to me when I have needed it. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. In fact, it can be as simple as any of the examples below.

Be PresentThis can be face to face or via email. Sometimes an email that states, “I’m thinking of you.” or  “I’m praying for you.” can make a huge difference to someone who is hurting.

Encourage Them To Talk About ItThis should be on their terms and when they are ready, but let them know you want them to share stories of their loved one or their grief journey.

TouchHold their hand or hug them. This should be within your comfort level and theirs so it does not feel forced or awkward.

Don’t Try To Fix ThemThis is not something they can “shake off,” “get over” or “move on” from.  Allow them to grieve for as long as needed.

Leave the Door OpenDo not put a time limit or expiration date on your support of them. Let them know they can contact you on an ongoing basis as needed.

. . . what about you?

Have you experienced trials that helped you to grow?


Who was your source of strength and support?


Do you find you now use their example to help others?



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.


  1. Lori says:

    Thank you for offering your support and I know you would be there for me in an instant. As you mentioned, “engaging with families …is a great distraction”. Nobody would have realized I was depressed at work because here I am focused on caring for others. It is in the quiet moments that the sad and desperate thoughts can overtake my mind as it did at the holidays. As I mentioned, fortunately the cloud does not hover for as long of periods as it used to….
    Thank you for responding, sharing and caring….
    XOXO Lori

  2. Chuck Ricciardi says:

    Thank you for sharing with us both an intimate moment with a grieving person and your own trials in your personal life. No, life is not perfect, as I believe John Lennon said,
    “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans.”
    We all have ideas and plans of how are life will be or turn out and we are jolted when the control we thought we had becomes an illusion. The powerful, sacred moments we are blessed to share with people in pain remind us what is real and what is important. No matter my path, many glorious ones and some that can take me to my knees I try and take them on with gratitude. Hard to do and failure is part of it, but eventually I realize that it is all part of this glorious walk as a human. Without darkness, the glorious light would mean nothing. Lori, You are exactly where you need to be right now. Thank you for all you do to brighten our grieving families darkness.


    • Lori says:

      You are an example of somebody who definitely takes whatever comes your way with a grateful heart. Since I have known you, you’ve gone through trials, some personal, some shared with your work family. What impresses me about you is even in the midst of a major trial last year, you always had a smile and encouraging words for those around you.
      It’s amazing to me how that building transforms us. We can’t curl up in a ball or hide out as we would like because we are wired to be concerned with the needs of the families we serve and set our personal stuff aside.
      Thank you for saying I am where I need to be. I traveled an uncertain road, at times, to reach this glorious mountaintop. Thank YOU for trusting me with these special families and for letting me talk to people for a living…a dream come true for me!!
      Love and Gratitude,

  3. Lori,
    I was just telling someone that one of the things I love so much about my job is the fact that we get to just call something sad when it is sad. There’s no pushing it away, covering it up – it’s a depressing job and you know what, it always will be.
    The other side that you bring to this though, the grace extended/received, the compassion you hold & the purposeful interjection of yourself into people’s lives when they are most sad are incredible gifts that few hearts can really give. I’m so proud of you, of your honesty with your own journey in and out of sadness, and the compassion you have let it show you.

    All of this, beautifully done & clearly, from a beautiful heart.

    Love, Molly

    • Lori says:

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comments. This is where I think the job is more of a calling than a career. I don’t come to work thinking, “I’m going to say something to make this person feel better today”. They are moments that just happen and often I don’t even know what I am going to say until the words present themselves as needed. No matter what your faith, I know for me, it is a God thing that I am provided with the right thing to say at the right moment. (an awkward moment or two may find it’s way in occasionally too) Sometimes I hear myself saying things that I know were given to me in His perfect timing.
      I feel a bit selfish because I truly think I often benefit more from the connections that are made from Family Care/Marker appointments than the family does. How many people can say they walk away from appointments with a full heart? I am grateful daily for where the path at O’Connor has led me.
      I look forward to our years here together. I am thankful for you and your support of me……
      Much Love,

  4. Anne says:

    Depression has a mind and life of its own. Often the participant is an unwilling member of the team and only time and developing desire can shake you free of its grasp once more. We are such complex creatures. Often these sad parts of us make us all the more gentle and understanding with others we are trying to help through their stuff. You were recently called one of our treasures. And you are.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Lori says:

      Yes, depression definitely shows up uninvited and renders us useless during it’s visit. Fortunately, it does not linger for me as long as it used to. I believe the gift in it is that I can FEEL with the families we serve as they are going through their grief.
      Thank you for thinking I am a treasure. Funny, because that is exactly what I would call you in my life. I LOVE your “tell it like it is” approach with me. You challenge me when necessary and I love that about you. I also love that we have our faith in common and the wonderful discussions we have. I look forward to more of these interactions in 2014.
      Love you back!!

  5. Becky Finch Lomaka says:

    Thank you for a great blog, Lori. I think my favorite words you wrote are “It is how you go through and emerge from these trials that helps define you.” You play such an important role in helping the families we serve do just that! I agree that some of the simplest gestures make the biggest impact and help the most. I am proud to be your friend and I thank you for the comfort and compassion you give to our families.


    • Lori says:

      Hey Twin,
      I am glad you enjoyed reading my post. I have to say that getting older (cough, cough) and my faith have helped me to mature when going through trials. I used to freak out and be useless. Now, even though I may freak out initially, I look for the learning experience in the pain.
      Thank you for your sweet comments about comforting the families we serve. I truly think it is what I am called to do.
      I am so happy to call you friend! I look forward to the trouble that I am certain we can get into in 2014!

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