The Unspoken Affliction: FD’s and PTSD

A while ago I wrote on the subject of funeral directors and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the belief that there was a lot out there. This is a sensitive subject that will benefit greatly from transparent vulnerable open discussion. But who wants to be first?

Finally, a young man has stepped up. He has given me permission to print here his comment to my article and I reprint it in the hopes it will encourage others to express themselves as well.

I’ll make this short. I agree 100% with you. I’m 25 and I live in Nevada. My oldest sister has said she thinks I have some form of PTSD but I’ve tried to deny that because I feel that can only be for soldier or first responders, heroes. I used to work at a very busy funeral home and I’ve seen just about every type of death out there. Things never bothered me, until I left the business. We would alway say we had a switch we would turn off when we would arrive on a scene to turn off feelings. For a while it felt as if my switch was stuck off but now it has snapped back on and I feel it all. There are things I’ve seen I havnt told anyone. I can’t look at orange extension cord without thinking of the people I’ve picked up hanging from the ceiling with it. My fiancé says I’ve sat up in my sleep on several occasions searching for a deceased baby. Or one time she said I sat up sobbing in my sleep trying to finger print a baby that had been strangled. As an “undertaker” we aren’t supposed to show emotions. I remember recently seeing a jar of red sauce break on the floor and I was instantly brought back to a scene my partner and I went to where a young girl had been shot by her brother and my partner and I were slipping around in blood trying to gently place her in a body bag while the parents are hysterically sobbing. I guess some thing you don’t forget. At times I’ve felt disconnected from others because of the things I’ve seen. I’d look around at people happy and laughing after I had just pulled a charred body out of a house or shell of a car and just think, they have no idea what just happened. I don’t know if you’d say I have PTSD or not but I do believe it’s something that needs to be addressed. Thank you.

Read the original article by clicking here 

Comments

  1. Hi Alan,
    Thank you for printing this and writing about PTSD in the funeral profession. I do a fair amount of blogging and writing and have some articles published in ‘The Director”. I approached the editor a couple of years ago about doing an article on PTSD and they did not want to touch it. I also wanted to bring into it, alcohol and other drug abuse in the profession. Not wanting to “cast a bad light” on things, my request was denied. I believe I have suffered from PTSD for a long time. I retired from a 25 year career in the funeral profession last year (44 years old) and now own and operate a pet cemetery and cremation service. I suffer from mild to moderate panic and anxiety disorder that has developed over the course of the last 4-5 years. I believe it has everything to do with my years in the funeral business. I love my work with the pet cremation profession now, but it also brings it’s own form of PTSD to the table. I am an animal lover and I see a lot of tragedy in this line of work as well. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. Thanks for writing about this and I hope more funeral directors can “come out of the closet” with this issue, so they can begin to heal.

    • David M. Farris says:

      I, too, thought PTSD applied to the military, police or rescue people. It was confined to these groups but now I’m not sure. I’ve had a long career in funeral service, 50 years, and have seen many traumatic issues in my work. About 10 years ago I started to see feelings change. I didn’t understand why so I accepted them as “stress” with my work. During the last year these feelings have leaped out in front of me. I’ve experienced anxiety attacks which cause my heart and chest to pulsate and spin like a mixer in a bowl of dough. Sometimes my dreams reveal me sliding down a huge cylinder, deeply imbedded in the ground with no bottom. I’m trying to hold on but my fingers keep slipping. Quite frankly I don’t understand enough about all these feelings to discuss them with a professional. Talking brings healing; but, does it really. Am I just crazy?

      • Alan Creedy says:

        david, thank you for being open and vulnerable. judging from the comments in my earlier blog and this one I believe more than ever that this topic has to come out of the closet. In my experience I can somehow entertain any number of thoughts, opinions and prejudices UNTIL they are verbalized. That seems to shed the “cold light of day” on them and they often dissipate. So, I think talking openly and, especially, realizing we are not alone in our feelings has power to help.

  2. Scott McKinney says:

    I’m very glad that this is being discussed. There would be less tragedy in this world if more people talked about the things that have hurt them or are hurting them. Wounds in the mind from the things we’ve seen or experienced are just as real as the wounds on our body. Time is not always enough to heal them. Thankfully there are good people in this world who will listen. It’s not weakness to talk about it.

  3. In reading this gentleman’s comments, it seems strange that he would be present in so many of these situations. Nearly all of his examples as he described them should have been attended to by a Medical Examiner or Coroner — never a funeral director. The fact that he mentioned working for a “very busy funeral home” in “Nevada” to me reinforces that aspect. I’m not doubting the veracity of this man’s comments, but the situations he has described are not those that I’m currently training an intern under.

    Am I just seeing this incorrectly, or do other funeral directors share a similar experience at 25 years old?

    • Whoah there, I’m not a director, I was a “initial call for care specialist” aka a removalist. Her in Reno the coroners do not transport any bodies, that is out job. I’ve gone to scenes where the coroners hadn’t moved him really at all and were still hanging or still in a car. We would take the bodies to the Me’s office and then pick the body back up another day after autopsies. Also on several occasions they had done autopsies at our funeral home. I havnt made up any of my experiences!

  4. J L Duckworth says:

    @Corey Gaffney:
    Please be advised that in many towns (mine included) the funeral director is called with the coroner or ME to assist in removal of the remains. Quite often the coroner or ME office does not have the manpower to perform removals…. As a funeral director and volunteer fireman I have seen different forms of trauma. They have affected me on different levels…..

  5. E Heiligenstein says:

    I, too have experienced removals for a ME’s office. I also worked at a large funeral home in St. Louis that had the livery contract for the City ME’s office. We did all of the removals and saw every kind of trauma imaginable. I was on staff as a removal team member, not a licensed funeral director and dealt with everything from routine deaths of elderly people to suicides, murders, accidents and so on. Some of those images I have forever imprinted in my memory. It was a very valuable learning experience.

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