Planning a funeral can be a baffling and painful experience, especially when a family is grieving the loss of a loved one. So, the funeral services students at Mt. Hood Community College are giving folks a chance to practice and ask questions at the college's annual mock funeral arrangements event in early March.
"Going through a funeral arrangement conference is a good experience for students to practice, and for the public, so they can see what options they have and to consider what they might even want for their own funeral," said Maleah Wraith, a second-year MHCC Funeral Services student, in an MHCC announcement.
The event is designed to prepare students and community members for the eventual experience of planning a funeral for a loved one, or even themselves.
The funeral services department generally has caskets, urns and other funeral-related products on display during the event.
The MHCC funeral services department started 50 years ago and is the only one in the state.
Wraith will finish her degree this year and finds the process of helping others through planning a funeral fulfilling. Prior to entering school to pursue a career in funeral services, she was a veterinary assistant who helped many grieving families say goodbye to their pets.
That process was one that many of her colleagues dreaded. They found steering emotional pet owners through end-of-life planning difficult. But Wraith found it rewarding.
"I found I could empathize with them and liked knowing I could walk them through everything in a compassionate manner. I liked knowing I was there to make this as easy as possible for them," she said.
Those experiences piqued her interest, so she left the veterinary field and started as a family services counselor at a cemetery.
This was an important step in determining if she wanted to pursue a career in funeral services and one she thinks every student should take before committing to the field. Even just shadowing a funeral director or working part-time at a funeral-related company can help students determine if they have a full understanding of the work involved and if its a good career choice for them.
Funeral work obviously involves taking care of the dead, but Wraith said potential students should also be prepared to work with the living as they make final plans for their loved ones or even themselves.
"You need to be able to work with people, be compassionate and have good customer serviceand communication skills. This is not the job to get into if you don't like people," Wraith said.
Students practice organizing and planning a funeral in class, but the mock funeral services event provides an opportunity to take that experience a step further.
"It can be very intimidating the first time and a real-life situation can be a lot. We take these events seriously, but they are also role playing, so a little bit of the pressure is lifted and you can see what works and what doesn't," Wraith said. "It's a chance to practice and get comfortable in that setting."
What: Free mock funeral arrangements
Where: Mt. Hood Community College, Town and Gown Room, AC 2057, 26000 S.E. Stark St.
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 3
calling or texting Rochelle Sadlier
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