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What does a Funeral Director do?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Often referred to as an undertaker, the funeral director is a professional that provides competent and sympathetic support during the arrangement of funeral rites and the respectful disposition of the body of a loved one. He or she also ensures that the body is ready for the funeral and makes practical arrangements for the funeral itself.

One of the main functions of a funeral director has to do with preparing the body for disposition. In larger funeral homes, he or she may oversee the activities of several morticians and undertakers. While the actual definition of the mortician, undertaker, and funeral director are all different, the reality is that in family owned funeral homes it is not unusual for one person to provide all three services. This means director will often arrange to pick up the body from the home or morgue, oversee the embalming process according to local regulations, and work with loved ones to make the proper final preparations.

The actual preparations with loved ones can depend on the individual preferences associated with the final arrangements. In some cases, persons choose to make their own arrangements ahead of time, which greatly simplifies the process. At other times, the funeral director will discreetly work with loved ones to ascertain their wishes. This may include drafting the obituary for the local newspapers, arranging space at the funeral home or house of worship for a funeral or memorial service, and also making arrangements for the cremation or digging of the grave and sinking of the vault.

Funerals often take place at funeral homes and then proceed to a burial ground for the final interment. Generally, a funeral director will make arrangements for what is referred to as a viewing or visitation. This often takes place the day before the actual funeral service, and provides family and friends the chance to gather together at the funeral home to pay respects to the deceased and also offer comfort to one another. During the visitation, the director remains discreetly in the background, ready to offer assistance if needed. One the day of the funeral, the director will also make arrangements to transport the body and casket to the final resting place, as well as oversee the proper sealing of the grave.

The funeral director is often a great comfort during a time when loved ones often find that grief makes handling all the details associated with death a difficult task. With quiet dignity and a firm understanding of how to assist persons in grief, he or she gently guides loved ones through a rough period, allowing them to honor the deceased in a way that is proper and respectful.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including Practical Adult Insights, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon160125 — On Mar 14, 2011

Interesting thoughts about their forming a tolerance to empathy-- I think some may but perhaps their empathy towards others is strong and maintained because they are passionate about helping others and that is what makes a funeral director good at what he does.

By LivHappyr — On Aug 19, 2010

I didn't know the funeral director had such responsibility. I thought they just handled the services at the home or church. I was under the impression that the families had to meet with more than one person to make arrangements.

It must be very hard to watch so many people cry for losing their loved ones. I wonder if they form a tolerance for empathy to others.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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