Funeral Directors: Understanding Compassion Fatigue



Death causes a tremendous amount of grief. Funeral directors are exposed to this on a regular basis and it’s not uncommon for the feelings of anguish from the families of the deceased to cause a direct effect and lead to compassion fatigue. As a funeral director, you are among those that are highly susceptible to experiencing compassion fatigue because of the nature of the work that funeral homes handle. The best way to cope with or avoid entering this state of being is to understand it.

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Compassion fatigue is defined as a state of apathy, fatigue or emotional distress that results from the demands of caring for others; an indifference to the suffering of others as a result of the overwhelming needs of individuals. It is labeled as a secondary traumatic stress disorder and can happen over time because of the constant exposure to death and the circumstances of death or it can occur from one situation that completely overwhelms you.

A few of the symptoms you should look for are:

  • Mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion/impairment

  • Isolation

  • Depersonalization

  • Lost sense of accomplishment/meaning

There are also other signs, including anger towards those that cause you to feel this way, loss of hope and self-worth, and inability to sleep. Your views on everything from the world to spirituality can be impacted. Over time, you feel less and less sympathetic to the pain of others, especially those that are not on the same magnitude as death.

How Can It Be Combated/Avoided?

There are a few ways you can avoid or combat compassion fatigue.

  • Awareness – find out what triggers stress and be conscious of the symptoms.

  • Balance – you should have work-life balance and take time to enjoy things outside of the funeral home.

  • Support – whether you talk with family, a friend or a professional, you need an outlet for your emotions and feelings of stress.

Compassion fatigue is a real disorder that you need to pay attention to because it affects many areas of your well-being. Working in funeral homes, you have a very high chance of suffering from this disorder. You deal with death on a daily basis and are expected to handle the grief and stress of others with unwavering sympathy. Now that you understand compassion fatigue, you can work to avoid it or get the help you need if you are suffering.