‘Wise’, ‘kind’ and ‘stoic’ are three words that best describe my good friend, Jane. If I could add a fourth, it would be ‘exhausted’, because she clearly was when we last met to walk our dogs.
She’s a funeral director, and 2020 has posed previously unimagined challenges for her and thousands like her who form part of an essential, but often overlooked, workforce.
Given how many professions and vocations involved in the human task of caring for others are waking up to the benefits of psychological support and supervision, I wanted to know who supports the funeral industry? Asking this question led me to Catherine Betley and Joanna Williams, who write this issue’s lead article, ‘Working with the dead’, and are pioneers in the field, supporting a predominantly male profession with something of ‘a stiff upper lip’ culture.
Highlighting how overlooked an industry it is, the authors make the point that, despite those responsible for the ‘management of the deceased’ being categorised as ‘key workers’ by the Government, it’s unlikely they were forefront in our minds when we clapped for the carers each week. Perhaps it’s indicative too that this is the first time BACP Workplace has focused on how we support those who take care of the dead and the bereaved. Maybe this blind spot is our unconscious fear of death and our desire to avoid it? Whatever it is, it’s clear that the task of carrying the dead and holding the family, demands both physical and emotional stamina – now more than ever.
Heading towards the dark months, the tone of rhetoric is grim: rising unemployment, infection rates and deaths. Our profession is warned of a spike in demand for our services while being cautioned of the dangers of burnout. I’m noticing how much exhaustion there is – often apparent through the cancelled appointments and dropout rates attributed to a relentless workload and a lack of time.
But as membership of BACP Workplace moves forward, I hope that if we can learn something from the pandemic, it’s that we will find new ways to draw together as a community and share our work. I urge you to read the words of Julie Hughes, Chair of BACP Workplace, when she asks whether we can connect more. Karen Carberry makes the case for this in ‘My workplace’ as she reflects on her work with EAPs to address issues of race, racism and blind spots in our profession. If, reading this issue, you find yourself wondering why your work hasn’t been represented in BACP Workplace before, I hope you’ll let me know.
Editor, BACP Workplace