This is an interview series with funeral directors in Singapore. Read about how they help you through a time of bereavement and get tips for choosing one when the need arises.
Obits.sg learns more about the work of a funeral director from Ang Zisheng of Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors.
Why did you become a funeral director?
I was curious about the funeral profession and the rich history of my family’s business in funeral directing. I started out at the age of 15 being a part-time funeral associate in 2002 while studying in secondary school.
In the work we do, we help many grieving families. There were several occasions when I was overwhelmed by the level of appreciation and respect families have for us and the work we did.
What qualifications do you need to become one?
There are currently no formal requirements of qualifications for any individuals aspiring to be a funeral director in Singapore. In my view, what it takes to be a funeral director is to have the qualities of good listening skills, compassion and the right attitude to serve the community.
How long have you been in your role? Why did you choose to be in this profession?
I have been serving in the funeral profession for the past 17 years. It is a commitment I made to myself to assist families by creating a meaningful funeral to help them grieve better.
Describe a typical day on the job for yourself and your team.
Our profession requires us to be available for clients 24 hours, seven days a week. We receive the beloved from the hospital or residence to our care. After understanding the needs of the grieving family and the wishes of the beloved, We plan and manage all aspect of funeral arrangements for our client from wake setup, religious needs, guide bereaved families through the funeral ceremonies, transportation, food & beverages, to the final internment of the beloved etc.
Which part of your job do you find most satisfying?
Being able to help families have a better closure in their grief journey as their loved one is accorded with care, compassion and dignity.
Which part of your job do you find most challenging?
On top of the 24/7 demands of our profession, it is challenging to manage different opinions within the bereaved family on how the funeral should be conducted when there is no prior conversation about death between family members.
In some instances, it is sad to see that families break up after the funeral over differences.
This, in my opinion, can be avoided by having an end of life conversation with our loved ones when they are still sound and able-bodied. Ang Chin Moh Foundation has been working on advocating having end-of-life conversation to have meaningful conversations with our loved ones.
If you could change something about what you do, what would that be? Why?
Death is not a taboo and it should not be. Death is an end to physical life but it is not an end to our relationships with our loved ones. Through education, I hope that taboo can be eradicated and with meaningful end of life conversations, it can help Singaporeans cope with grief better.
Tell us something about yourself that makes you well-suited for your role as a funeral director.
My passion to serve our community helps me overcome days when I am mentally and physically drained due to the nature of the profession.
Which services are most requested for by clients?
Singaporeans are very globalised and they work in all parts of the world. We receive many enquiries about the Algordanza memorial diamond to help transform their beloved’s remains into a memorial diamond so that they can have it close to them and pass it to the next generation as an heirloom.
Is there something about funeral directors that you would like clients to better understand?
Pre-planning for a funeral helps families to be mentally and financially prepared when the eventuality happens.
Who is someone that inspires you? Why?
My father. He is the Chairman of the group and also the third-generation family business owner.
He dedicates his whole life improving the standards of the funeral profession in Singapore. His relentless pursuits of excellence and compassion are what inspires me most.
Can you give a tip or two for someone who has just lost a close family member – how should they go about shortlisting a funeral director?
1) It is important for families to meet with the funeral director in person or visit their office to discuss the options to the funeral arrangement.
This will provide much clarity on the services a funeral company provide and gives confidence for families to engage the right funeral director.
Price comparison through phone enquiry does not justify the value of service a funeral company may offer.
Families will not be able to visualise the set-up, type of caskets, environment of embalming facility or experience the level of service they offer.
After all, the funeral service is not a one-size-fits-all.
2) Families may seek the service of established companies with a depth of experience to manage the funeral.
3) The best way to choose a funeral director is to do so prior to the demise so that the family members have more time to determine which funeral director meets their needs.