Funeral service students prepare for emotional work

Still from video by Cory Wiese.

Still from video by Cory Wiese.

To prepare students for the inevitable, Mt. Hood offers a program for students that facilitates families’ and individuals’ emotional task when a loved one passes.

And each school year, the Funeral Service Education program holds annual mock funeral arrangements on campus, with the most recent happening on Tuesday.

The mock exercises are held to help prepare students to get “real life experience on interacting with families who are coming in to make arrangements for their loved ones,” said Grant Bollman, second-year student in the program.

The FSE curriculum is a limited-entry program, and requires an application in order to be accepted. It’s a two-year program, but qualified student can skip the first year of prerequisite courses, said Bollman.

Students join the MHCC program for various reasons.

“Some are interested in, kind of just, death, or different avenues to get different jobs like the M.E. (Medical Examiner’s) office,” said Bollman. “Some people like more of the interaction with the families on the funeral director’s side, some are more interested in the embalming – the preservation of the bodies.”

All aspects of funeral planning, as well as embalming and preserving bodies, are covered at Mt. Hood. The students work with corpses of unclaimed individuals when it comes to embalming. Those deceased provided are “people that no families come forward (to claim) and the state’s paying for the services – we’ll get the embalming to do, so we get hands-on experience,” said Bollman.

His own family has been in the funeral business for three generations, he said. “I’ll be the fourth, and so it’s something I’ve always grown up with and the older I got, I started helping out more and more and really enjoyed the interaction between the families.”

Living in a small town, the work for Bollman can be quite personal.

“A lot of the families we serve are friends, so it’s just kind of always been a part of my life,” he said. “It’s just always really fulfilling being able to help those people that have helped you through your childhood and growing up, and kind of helped shape you into the person you are.”

Clayton Hoffman, second year student got involved after working for the Portland Cremation Center. A co-worker helped him get into the FSE program. After a challenging first term, he got used to the course load and has gained some insight, he said.

“I really started looking at things a little bit more closely; I used to be taking things kind if at face value,” Hoffman said. Keeping track of a large volume of information without having to repeatedly review it is another skill he has gained.

“I think it’s a great industry,” Hoffman said. “Not all of us are out for blood, I guess. It is competitive, but we’re all family. Even if you don’t know somebody from a funeral home, we’re all very open and willing to accept each other.”

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