Centered around preparing students and community members alike for the eventual experience of planning a funeral for a loved one or even themselves, the event serves as an important learning opportunity for both parties involved.
“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.
Maleah will finish her degree this year and finds the process of helping others through planning a funeral fulfilling after experiencing loss early in life herself. Prior to entering school to pursue a career in funeral services, she was also a veterinary
assistant who helped many grieving families say goodbye to their pets.
The experience was one that many of her colleagues at the time dreaded – walking emotional pet owners through end-of-life planning was hard – but Maleah found the process to be incredibly 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 actually pursue her funeral services career and one she says
every student should take before fully investing in the field. Simply shadowing a funeral director or working part-time at a removal company can help determine if students have a full understanding of the work involved.
She also came across some incredible mentors – all of which were graduates of MHCC’s Funeral Services Education program, which was established in 1970 and in the only one of its kind in Oregon.
“I loved it and realized this was a good choice for me. All of the directors I worked with there had gone to school here and were excellent. I respected them a lot and realized that if this is the quality of people coming from MHCC, I could feel pretty
confident going into the program,” she said.
And, while the funeral services industry is obviously heavily involved with taking care of the dead, she 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 service and communication skills. This is not the job to get into if you don’t like people,” Maleah said.
That is one more reason why the annual Mock Funeral Arrangements event is so important. Students practice organizing and planning a funeral in class, but the event provides an opportunity to take that experience a step further without diving in head-first.
“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,” Maleah said.
“It’s a chance to practice and get comfortable in that setting.”