At the age of 28, funeral home owner and director Shaun Reid has been in the funeral industry for over a decade. He has spent much of his life with the dead.
“It’s not something the average person wakes up in the morning saying, ‘Oh, I want to be in the funeral world,’” Reid said. “No, it doesn’t operate like that. You got to have a love for it and have a craft for it.”
The funeral process is a waiting game, Reid said, especially with homicides.
“What normally happens, when dealing with homicides, you have to wait to be contacted by the detectives after they’ve completed their investigation,” Reid said. “The detectives then let the families know they need to contact a funeral home.”
Homicide funerals must be handled delicately, Reid said: “I think it’s all about your communication. Embrace them and show them that you do care.”
His goal is to build trust. Whether the first conversation is in person or over the phone, that begins that bond or relationship.
“They begin to trust you,” he said. “You have to have a great level head.”
In his experience, the funeral owner said, death comes in seasons.
“During the spring and summer months, you’ll see a rapid increase of younger people who happen to be your client,” Reid said. “During the fall and winter, you’ll see the elderly.”
Reid keeps in contact with families after the memorial or home-going service, not just to follow up, but to give them an understanding that death will occur, whether they are prepared for it or not, he said.
“A lot of families in the district don’t have life insurance, so that is a major thing that is going on right now in D.C.,” Reid said. “Needless to say, it’s very high numbers in the African American community that don’t have life insurance, and that’s a big part of why we try to get the families to come back or go to them to get prepared.”
Once the families return, the goal is to provide them with resources that would financially prepare them for deaths in the future.
“We have partnerships with insurance companies that can help families prepare and we offer pre-planning options,” Reid said. “During pre-planning, clients can come in and select their caskets, merchandise, and make any special requests in regards to the funeral service.”
The funeral owner said directors can’t be too attached and must learn how to self-manage their feelings when it comes to funerals that are related to homicides, no matter the circumstances.
“You have to be able to set your emotions to the side, but still within reach when that mother or father is hurting from a loss of a child.”