Dealing with the Dead: Life as a Third Generation Independent Funeral Director

Jenna Ward, Robert McMurray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This ‘On the Front Line’ article explores the necessary and yet undesirable work undertaken by a third generation, independent funeral director. Peter’s narrative account of the realities of funeral directing and his journey into the family business offers a poignant insight into the dirty work of death work. Reflecting on his own exposure, experiences and practices Peter offers us an opportunity to see behind the scenes, to hear how he has learnt to cope with death work undertaken by his family. Consequently, we reflect on how performances of emotional neutrality afford funeral directors the capacity to offer comfort to the bereaved in the face of such extreme dirty work. Yet, as Peter shares, this neutrality, masks the dirt and hides the pain of ‘dealing with the dead’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Jul 2018

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  • Death work
  • emotional capital
  • emotional neutrality
  • dirty work
  • funeral directors

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