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Inside Of The Brazilian Funeral Industry

When researching about the Brazilian funeral industry on the internet, we can only find information about its prominence in the national economy, as it earns around 7 billion reais annually and directly employs more than 50 thousand citizens. But who are these people? What are they doing there? In this regard, we will focus on the inner workings of this industry, to understand its workers beyond the numbers.

Working daily in an ambient exposed to chemicals, bacterias, and in contact with dead bodies is not easy. Funerary workers need to maintain their focus, coolness, and ambition to help helpless families on having decent farewells from their loved ones. Professionals as drivers, attendants, salespeople, and mechanics are hired, such as specialists that work directly with the bodies, such as necro-make-up artists, who perform the makeup of corpses, and tanactopractors, who perform the Tanatopraxia process (a modern technique for body conservation).

To better understand how it works, we interviewed Bruno de Oliveira, from Santa Catarina, that is a lover of his job as an undertaker who uses his social media to talk about his profession, and that today has more than 200 thousand followers interested in the subject in his Tik Tok (@brunotanato).  

Bruno's Point Of View

What is your position inside the funerary? Tell us a little about what is done in this profession.

I'm an undertaker. In this profession, we have several functions, such as removing bodies, searching hospitals, residences, SVO (Serviço de Verificação de Óbito) and IML (Instituto Médico Legal); prepare and transport this body to the wake, dressing it, placing it and tidying it up in the coffin; Save the body for burial in the cemetery, among other functions, such as collection and driver - we ended up helping with everything.

What was your trajectory until you arrived at your current job?

[Bruno] Since I was a child I have been fascinated by the area. I have always liked to go to funerals - my mother tells me that when I was younger, I asked her to take me to strangers' funerals. When I turned 18, I started looking for a job in this area, but I had never found it until I became aware of the existence of a technical necropsy course in Joinville. So I moved there, and this time of study provided me with an internship at IML, where I stayed for six months until I joined the job I am in today.

What skills and qualities are needed to work inside a funerary? Do jobs related to it, especially those in contact with dead bodies, psychologically demanding?

I believe that to work in this business it is necessary to be cold-hearted, because, by dealing with corpses, we must understand that they are pieces of work and that we cannot have an emotional involvement. Of course, sometimes we get involved - I still get involved when it comes to children's bodies, so I don't like to prepare them (I prefer bodies for adults or the elderly). As for skills, I believe these are learned overtime at work. It is necessary to know how to use a scalpel, make sutures, load and dress bodies, in addition to knowing how to work as a team. On the psychological side, at least in my case, I was never moved - I never thought or dreamed about the dead, just as I never needed psychological treatment. I am aware that this is my job, and that it is necessary.

What do you think are the biggest difficulties in working in this industry?

I believe that in some places the wages of funeral home workers are not as fair as they should be. In addition, another difficulty is the need to have a flexible schedule. For example, sometimes our lunch is at noon, and sometimes it is at 4 pm. This is because we always prioritize service to the family, so we can delay our lunch or end up staying a little longer at work. Other than that, I believe that there are no other obstacles, not least because our teamwork always manages to solve possible problems.

During the pandemic, was there an increase in chores/hours worked, due to the growth of this industry?

During the pandemic, there was a drastic increase in chores and hours worked. The funeral homes were overwhelmed, leaving the situation hopeless. Coffins were missing, there were no hours available - We, who were working inside, attended to a family in one day and only had time to perform the burial on the other, for example. There was also a shortage of employees, and it was necessary to hire more people. It was real chaos for funeral homes.

Finally, the idea that “the funeral industry turns dead people into merchandise” is propagated. What do you think about this idea?

In my opinion, funeraries provide normal jobs, as honest as the others- in fact, the most beautiful jobs that could exist, because we, who are in the business, provide decent goodbyes for devastated families. Many do not know, but the deceased does not arrive from the beautiful hospital as he is in the coffin: sometimes he comes with a mouth and a leaking nose, with eyes and mouth open, with a purple body, among other things. For this reason, he needs to undergo the treatment provided by the funeral home, and I propose a reflection on how difficult it would be if his family had to do it. Therefore, I believe that we have a profession worthy of applause and that should be valued more - Actually, I created my pages on social networks to try to demystify the work inside the funeral homes, showing that those professionals are normal people, who also have life. I understand that the view of those who are outside is different and that payment for services can sometimes seem absurd - however, we treat the deceased with great respect and affection, trying to provide his family with the best possible farewell. It is a job like any other, and for that reason, it is paid, but we do not see bodies as merchandise.


The article above was edited by Thays Avila.

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Alyssa Bernardes

Casper Libero '24

são paulo, brazil’. loving communication since the day i was born❤️
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