Monday, June 13, 2016

Compassion Fatigue in Funeral Directors

“The funeral director operates in a market with a seemingly endless source of supply – death will always occur and this service will always be required” (Parsons, 2003, p. 70).

This "endless source of supply" gave me the idea of examining the possibility that some funeral directors in Ireland may be susceptible to compassion fatigue. Thus formed the main hypothesis around my undergraduate psychology dissertation.
"One of the primary caregivers to the newly bereaved is the funeral director (Parsons, 2003). In their work with the bereaved and through body handling, they are among a group of occupations that witness death on a regular basis (Harrawood, White, & Benshoff, 2008). It is estimated that there are 600 funeral service providers in Ireland (Irish Hospice Foundation, 2011), who are responsible for the burial or cremation of up to 30,000 people a year. Some undertaking for the funeral director may be simply about guiding a family through proceedings and ensuring everything runs smoothly (Holloway et al., 2013), however more difficult situations may also present. Individuals who are bereaved by homicide can experience overwhelming emotions and intense suffering beyond the imagination of some (Malone, 2007). In organising funeral arrangements for these mourners, what is presented to the funeral director is most certainly a negotiation with a traumatised population. As Ireland has one of the highest rates of homicide in Europe (O’Keefe, 2014), and with 83 recorded cases in 2013 alone (Central Statistics Office, 2014), it is reasonable to suggest that some funeral directors are operating in an environment at risk of secondary traumatic stress."
It managed to get published in the Student Psychology Journal of Ireland and additionally received the best submission award. So all a whirlwind and proud venture for me. Aside from the results of the study, I think what I learned most is the actual arduous process that goes into research work and I tip my hat to those who work in research positions on a daily basis. So with a Masters dissertation about to begin, all I can do is sweat the thoughts of it. But it'll be fun...right?
I attached the link to the complete manuscript below if this is your cup of tea / can't sleep etc.

Link to full manuscript here

''The very act of being compassionate and empathic extracts a cost under most circumstances. In our effort to view the world from the perspective of the suffering we suffer. The meaning of compassion is to bear suffering. Compassion fatigue, like any other kind of fatigue, reduces our capacity or our interest in bearing the suffering of others.''
                                                                         ~ Charles Figley, ''Compassion Fatigue: Psychotherapists’ Chronic Lack of Self-Care'' (2002)