Why do officiants need to remain professional? Or in other words, would you appreciate a crying, sobbing funeral director? Can an officiant show his or her emotions at a Celebration of Life?
First and foremost, families expect the persons they retain to plan and guide a memorial to care — a lot. But that’s not the same as showing one’s own raw emotions.
A few years ago, one of my friends and colleagues had to conducted the funeral for a 17-year old teenager. That’s a tough assignment for anybody and everybody involved.
At the event, my dear colleague stood in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people. So many showed up! Everybody wanted to demonstrate their support for the family of that young man.
Emotions ran high and it felt like all 1,000 people in attendance may be on the brink of a collective breakdown at any time, he told me later. The empathy for the teen’s distraught family was palpable.
I asked my colleague if he himself broke down at any point. I would certainly would have understood if so.
“No,” he said. He added, “Me breaking down would have been unkind. Everybody needed me to stay a little bit, even if just a little bit, in control.”
I agree. Kindness, respect, and even love for grieving families, asks professionals to stay professional. It’s our job to keep the focus on helping others to grieve. Not because we don’t care, but precisely because we do care.