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One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at The Order is, “What is it like to be a funeral director or mortician?”

In the aftermath of an ongoing pandemic, the introduction of new methods of disposition, like aquamation and human composting, and an increasing number of people seeking more meaningful and sustainable options, funerals and the role of the funeral director is changing.

We talked to a variety of licensed funeral directors about their work, the future of death care, and what they wish more people understood about their job. These death care professionals demonstrate there’s no one way to be a funeral director.

Headshot of light skinned woman with dark hair pulled back, wearing a black shirt with red accents

Morgan Yarborough


Morgan is making history as one of the first directors to create meaningful funerals for people choosing Natural Organic Reduction aka human composting. 

What motivated you to become a funeral director? How and why did you want to work at the funeral home you are currently with? 

I’ve been drawn to funeral service seemingly from the time I was able to understand that things die. When I was a child, I would hold funerals for my dearly departed goldfish, tenderly wrapping them in tissue paper and securing them in jewelry boxes, (much to my mother’s dismay), prior to burial. My family has a longstanding tradition of not talking about death, and I swam against that stream almost immediately.

While I went down an initial path of studying physics and tech, I ultimately ended up dissatisfied and switched to funeral service. Once I became aware of Recompose, Urban Death Project at the time, I knew that I had to be a part of it someday. I wanted to help build innovative and restorative deathcare practices. After several years in the field learning conventional funeral service practices, I saw an opening for Recompose Services Manager and knew it was a great fit.

Tell us about the community and people you serve.

Recompose primarily serves Seattle, WA and surrounding areas. However, because we offer a wholly unique and new service (Natural Organic Reduction, turning the body into soil after death), we receive clients from all over the United States. Our community is diverse, attracting groups such as ranchers, lawyers, off-the-grid homesteaders, activists, master gardeners, lifelong city-dwellers, organic farmers, scientists, and artists.

A common thread among all our clients is the desire to give themselves back to the earth as soil, be it through donation to a forest conservation or placement in their own gardens. Many are looking for a non-traditional funeral service that walks the balance between science and spirituality. As such, Recompose specializes in ceremonies that connect us to the natural cycles of the planet, our place in them, and how they allow us to continue on in new ways after death.

A dummy covered in plant material rests on a cradle in front of an open vessel.

Via Recompose

A dummy covered in plant material rests on a cradle in front of an open vessel.

Give us a “day in the life” overview of what a typical workday is like for you. 

Since opening our new location in downtown Seattle, the Recompose team can come together under one roof. While I work remotely 1-2 days a week, days spent on-site are collaborative, busy, and never dull.

Mornings are spent checking in with my team to see what the day’s needs are and how we can support each other. After checking in and handling basic managerial duties, you can often find me in our preparation room, where we ready the decedents whose ceremonies are scheduled that day. Preparation of the deceased includes cleaning, placement into our cradle (the vehicle that allows them to be placed into a composting vessel), applying essential oils and herbs, shrouding, and then bringing them to our Gathering Space.

From there, if I’m the ceremony guide, I wait for the family to arrive and then lead them through our laying-in ceremony. In addition to celebrant work, being a ceremony guide involves assisting friends and family in laying down plant materials over their person’s body and helping place their person into our threshold vessel. If I’m not the guide that day, I often run tech for the ceremony in the background, making sure music plays at the right time, video tributes play, and that the Zoom streaming is as seamless as can be expected.

Other activities in my day-to-day include working with our conservation forest partners to build a tour program, providing trainings for those new to death care, coordinating soil shipping with families, and working to improve our client spaces for the best Recompose experience possible. In general, there are a lot of Zoom meetings. I also take night shifts monitoring phones and responding to death calls.

What I have always loved about working in death care (beyond the profound human connection) is that the work is never boring, learning never stops, and everything that you do is part of a bigger picture.

Overall, what task do you spend the majority of your time on? 

Most of my time is spent talking to people, albeit over the phone or computer. Funeral directing is so much more than working with the dead. Primarily, it’s a unique service job that involves constant human interaction and care of the living.

What do you wish more people understood about your work? 

This work requires devotion. While I’m now fortunate to work for a company that encourages time off and work-life balance, it’s difficult to act on those ideals. Death doesn’t stick to a 9-5 schedule, and this is reflected in the life of a funeral director.

At my first employing funeral home I was expected to meet with families, answer phones, file their paperwork, perform cremations and burials, embalm, conduct funerals, and retrieve folks from their places of death day and night. This is common, but it leads to a 60+ hour workweek plus nights on call.

Funeral directing is structured differently at Recompose, so we don’t perform cremations or go out in the night to retrieve the dead ourselves. However, the tradeoff is building a new kind of funeral home while still providing funeral services. You can expect to work more than 8 hours a day and still answer phones at night.

What changes do you think we will see in funeral service over the next 5 years, both within the funeral industry, and among consumers? 

I believe (and hope) that we will begin to see an increasing number of funeral workers demand better from their employers. Unfortunately, compensation for this important work is often low, especially if you’re an apprentice or newly licensed. Those starting out typically do not make a living wage and struggle to take time off, as it is also common for funeral homes to be understaffed. I hope to see more workers ask for their worth and take care of their mental/physical needs. This is a tough (and beautiful) job.

I also believe that we will continue to see diverse and creative kinds of funeral homes open as new generations of death care workers expand the market to meet the needs of their peers.

Consumer profiles are changing as Generation X steps up to plan funerals for Baby Boomers, and in turn, Millennials for Generation X. These generations may be keener to choose disposition options that are better for the environment, feel forthright, and align with their individuality versus choosing services informed by religious backgrounds or family tradition.

Finally, I believe the trend of direct cremation (or aquamation, terramation, etc.) will continue as communities opt to take planning celebrations or memorials into their own hands, without the use of a funeral home.

A Black woman wearing a bright yellow blazer smiles while sitting at a desk.

Tamara Bullock

Bullock Funeral Services, LLC.
New York

As a funeral director Tamara wanted to create a unique funeral service model that works like a concierge service, allowing for highly personalized care for each family. 

What motivated you to become a funeral director? How and why did you want to work at the funeral home you are currently with? 

My Father and my maternal grandmother transitioned while I was in high school. That was a weird time in my life. I didn’t know anything about funeral service, but I became intrigued with the possibility of making someone look better in their passing and in the component of somehow helping someone in a way that would help them to come to a peace with the loss.

I always wanted to own my own funeral home, but I didn’t have a clue how to make that a reality and I often feel I still don’t, (Ha Ha). Growth is waking up every day and being able to walk towards what you don’t know. When I left my full time job as a funeral director I knew I could not grow as a professional in that space. Ownership challenges me daily, it allowed me to self express our care and concern through fashion – my previous employers always thought I was a little too over the top – and it also allowed me to give more. Now, I can determine how much to help based on needs in my community. I wasn’t always able to help as much as I can now.

Tell us about the community and people you serve.

We are in NYC, we have clients all over the city. We work like a concierge service and are very hands on with our small client base. We intend to continue service as a boutique firm, as it works better for relationship building. We are able to personally assist where needed because of this. Clothing ready, we pick it up. Help with sorting an obituary, we assist. Whatever the family needs is expedited of that principal.

Give us a “day in the life” overview of what a typical workday is like for you. 

A day in the life of Bullock Funeral Services varies, I’d dare to say there is no such thing. There are days that start at 7 am, because we will have to be in a church for a service that starts at 9 am. There are other days spent in preparation of remains, there are days we are returning cremated remains to the homes of our families who entrusted their loved ones. I can proudly say we don’t have anyone’s cremated remains in the funeral home, most funeral homes have run into this problem.

What do you wish more people understood about your work? 

That it is more about the living and the family. The deceased is a major part of the family but we know about their life from the living family members. I wish they would also see that they help me to live – I really am able to live out my heart’s desire in helping others because I feel like I helped to give a space where closure could be facilitated.

What changes do you think we will see in funeral service over the next 5 years, both within the funeral industry, and among consumers? 

I operate my business like an uber service, wherever our client is located we can create a homegoing. This is a new concept for most. We work by appointment only. I will not be stuck in an office for 8 hours. My cellphone is my office. I can set up an office while on vacation. I am not like the owners I learned under and this works for me. The people who work with me are contracted based on service needs. I will continue to be present for my children and their major milestones. Bullock Funeral Services will create a legacy with love and support of the families in our care in a new way.

Headshot of woman smiling, wearing black sleeveless top

Laura Sussman

Kraft-Sussman Funeral and Cremation Services

This Las Vegas funeral director was instrumental in making alkaline hydrolysis, also known as aquamation, a legal option for Nevada residents

What motivated you to become a funeral director? How and why did you want to work at the funeral home you are currently with?

I used to volunteer for the Chevra Kadisha, the Jewish Burial Society. We would help prepare Jews for a traditional burial. I felt honored to provide this care and at the same time, had an opportunity to visit the back rooms of many local funeral homes. I didn’t see the type of care provided in our community which I wanted for my family. Wendy Kraft and I decided to open Kraft-Sussman Funeral Services to provide that higher level of care and dignity.

Tell us about the community and people you serve.

We serve the Southern Nevada community, which includes Las Vegas. Our current population is about 2.2 Million. When we opened, we thought we would primarily serve the Jewish and LGBTQ populations, but we were wrong.  We serve a very diverse group in terms of cultural and religious affiliation.

A man and two women holding small dogs stand outside the door of a funeral home

Give us a “day in the life” overview of what a typical workday is like for you. 

I recently retired, but a few months ago, I would arrive at the office about 8 AM, check the aquamation machine from the night before, meet with families for preneed and at-need arrangements, make sure there were sufficient supplies, and that the facility is clean and nothing needs to be repaired. I would usually leave around 5 PM. Our staff would rotate nights to be on call, as we always wanted a full-time staff member to be available, 24/7.

What do you wish more people understood about your work?

What an honor it is to care for the individuals and families we serve, and that not all funeral homes are in business to make a lot of money. Some are here to help.

What changes do you think we will see in funeral service over the next 5 years both within the funeral industry, and among consumers?   

We see more and more people comfortable with digital arrangements, as well as virtual services. I think these will continue to increase in the coming years. I’d like to see more funeral homes offer alkaline hydrolysis cremation, as it is very eco-friendly.

A woman with dark hair and bangs, sits on a couch wearing a green dress

Lauren Carroll

The Natural Funeral

Lauren’s career as a funeral director has come full circle, from working at a large corporate owned home, to working as contracted funeral director at an independent funeral home that’s focused on providing eco-friendly options, and teaching others how to care for their dead.

What motivated you to become a funeral director? How and why did you want to work at the funeral home you are currently with? 

For me it all started when I was 19 working at a funeral home in Southern California typing out death certificates and disposition permits. One day I was asked to do a removal at a hospital for stillborn full-term baby. I felt so unprepared and scared as I had never done this before. I picked up the baby bringing only a blanket. The nurse wrapped him up and I quickly brought him to my car, buckled him into the front seat, and took a deep breath. In that moment I could feel all the love surrounding him, and what an honor it was for me to be holding this little baby. I don’t think I realized before then how sacred I was to work with the dead and the grieving. Before, I was a goth kid who thought death was scary, and now I knew death was so much more and wanted to support families through that final stage in life-this was my calling.

When I moved to Colorado, I began working as a funeral director for a corporately owned funeral home, I would be rotated among the four locations on the weekends I was on call. I struggled, it was impersonal, I worked funerals for families I had never met, and I was selling cookie cutter funeral packages and putting families into debt.

After a hard day I turned on PBS and found the film A Family Undertaking. This was the second “Aha!” moment in my death care career that led me down the path I am on now. The film introduced me to the concept of family-led funerals and home funerals. It was these stories that inspired me to shift gears. I left SCI and spent five years strictly educating my community about home funerals and family involvement, and to be honest I have never stopped educating.

In 2018 a Green Funeral Home opened in Colorado Springs that offered no embalming and green burials and more family involvement, including home funerals. When I was hired as a funeral director I was truly inspired by the fact that we can create change within the “traditional” modern funeral home model, and the community agreed and embraced the green aspects fully! I had a wonderful two years there before moving onto the Natural Funeral where I am a contracted funeral director and I couldn’t be happier. It felt full circle in my life. I took my first home funeral educational course from Karen Van Vurren twelve years prior, who is one of the founders of this amazing funeral home. This spring they laid out the very first Natural Organic Reduction of a client’s compost in the state at the Colorado Burial Preserve.

Tell us about the community and people you serve.

Living in Colorado is pretty amazing because it does have “traditional” funeral homes, but more and more progressive funeral homes and death workers are showing up. Water cremation is growing in popularity and Natural Organic Reduction was legalized last year. Most of the families I serve are focused on the environment or the sacredness of death and having a more hands on approach, which includes bathing and blessing their dead loved ones and holding home vigils.

Currently, I would say the people I serve daily are in communities all over the US, and the world, through my business Deathwives. My business partner, Erin Merelli and I founded Deathwives in Denver, CO almost 3 years ago. We know the only way to have real change in death care comes from the people. It’s a passion project that has turned into a full time job, educating families and communities all over the Zoomland about death doulas, end-of-life care, eco- friendly options, funeral planning, communal grief, death rituals, and much more.

Two women sit in chairs with a small table between them. The table has books and a human skull prop on it.

Give us a “day in the life” overview of what a typical workday is like for you. 

Since Deathwives is my full time job I will walk you through that. Daily you will find me returning emails, reaching out to other end-of-life educators – community is key to this work – and posting fun death facts or grief quotes on social media. Each week we teach 2-3 classes through Zoom, and Erin and I are always creating new content and classes, as more and more people look for end-of-life education. Covid devastated our country, and it also opened the door to hard conversations about death. The outpouring of people wanting to share their stories or who are inspired to change how death and dying is handled in their communities is humbling, and continues to affirm how important this work really is.

What do you wish more people understood about your work? 

Death work isn’t scary, it isn’t weird, it is a natural part of our lives that should be honored and respected. Some days it breaks your heart wide open, other days It inspires me to live fully and with joy – this is the truth about death. You have to be comfortable living within all the spaces of death and grief and that takes community and healthy outlets.

What changes do you think we will see in funeral service over the next 5 years, both within the funeral industry, and among consumers? 

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I think the funeral homes of the past, you know the ones with the stuffy halls and chapels and casket display rooms….they are dying out, (pun intended). I want to see the corporate funeral homes fail and hybrid family and community owned funeral homes rise again. Cremation rates continue to rise and that does worry me as I truly believe spending time with a body and creating ceremonies is crucial in our grieving process. Fire cremation is also horrible for the environment, so I expect we will see more and more water crematories (Alkaline Hydrolysis) available in America as folks become more educated.

I see the Baby Boomers embracing green burial and water cremation and forcing funeral homes to move in a more green direction. I’ve seen more women called to this work than I ever have and that too will bring immense change. Leaning away from business suits and pre-packaged funeral plans to more family involvement, while holding the space of death with grace and understanding.

Looking For More Interviews

We are looking to add more funeral director interviews to this piece. If you are a licensed FD in the U.S. and work in 1) A funeral home in a rural area, 2) A large, corporate owned home, or 3) A funeral home that specializes in providing specific religious or cultural services please email us at info (at)

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