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A Mortician's Mindset

Burnout of being a funeral director in Baltimore
Posted at 6:25 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 23:24:47-05

BALTIMORE — They open their doors and let the pain of others wash over their walls every day.

Being a funeral director in the Baltimore area isn't easy. At Bailey’s Funeral Home, Funeral Director and Mortician Mark Bailey greets people grappling with goodbye.

It’s not an easy job that takes a heavy toll.

You would never notice talking with Bailey, he has a calming demeanor and a great sense of humor.

“You never leave it, it’s right there with you,” said Bailey. “Each one of the families that you serve you find they become a part of you.”

He got into the funeral services industry at 17.

He quickly felt burnt out by the amount of young people he was seeing come through the doors.

“A very young kid who had died, he reminded me so much of my brother when I looked at him,” he said. “It sped up the burnout process for me. To the point that I needed to do something else.”

He decided to serve his country in the United States Trooper and transitioned into a career as a Maryland State trooper.

Service he is proud of--- that kept the pain of loss at the forefront of his mind.

Years after working in a funeral home as a teenager he opened his own.

He earned his Doctorate with a thesis on burnout among funeral directors.

His studies found a trend of trauma and burnout among funeral directors who prepared services for young people.

“We know that what’s left behind is that mother that’s grieving, that brother that, that sister. Try to help them understand how we can make their lives better. If we know that we can create and influence change, maybe it’s with them, maybe they won’t end up doing the same things.”

Sheria Jennings, with Vaugne Greene Funeral Services, grew up in Baltimore.

Jennings drive to become a funeral director started at her grandfather's funeral when she was a child.

“When he passed, just realizing that death is final at such a young age. It was just realizing that I would never be able to talk to him again.”

She feels the pain that ripples from the crime scenes in her community to the tears that slide down mother’s faces as she talks to them.

“It’s final, they can’t go back and get their loved one. It’s no more walking through the door. No more coming to dinner. No hugs, no kisses, no affection.”

Rebecca Edmiston has worked at a funeral home for years and will always remember her first day.

“It was really brutal, I was 18, so I really had never seen anything like that. “

She says there are different layers of difficulty handling the weight of it all.

She recently decided to train to become a mortician.

The heaviest thing for her is seeing people her age die from overdoses and homicides.

“It starts to weigh on you a little bit because you start to think what were they thinking? What could have been done differently and things like that.”

For Bailey, Jennings, and Edmiston the calling to help people heal in one of the deadliest parts of the United States outweighs the toll it takes.

“Young students from high schools come and they are wearing their t shirts, or they have bracelets it affects you,” said Bailey. “It affects you because we don’t want to see that. We want to see people live. We want to see them enjoy life, and then at the very end that’s where we come in.”

A view of a pain from unnatural death through the empathetic eyes of the people who help with goodbye.