The funeral story is about life, family, and friends.
Written by Candace Franco
A prearranged funeral has a common thread – a story line – that is composed by funeral professionals on both the advance planning side and at-need side of funeral service. It is more than a set of directions and paperwork. Writing neatly and including detailed information may be important, but it is not what brings the story to life. In the end, the funeral “story” is about life, family, and friends. All funeral professionals need to bring those elements into the conversation.
It is easy, in this day and age, to forget why we do what we do – why we have funerals. Why we need to tell our loved one’s life tale. Everyone seems to be so focused on price and shopping that it is easy to get swept up and lose sight of how a funeral helps a family who has lost someone they love.
A year from now, or maybe 20 years from now, a funeral director will open the pre-need file you put together this morning. He will be in the presence of those left behind, the family. How will they feel? Most likely there will be relief, coupled with sadness. The family will be relieved that there will be money to cover the cost, relief in knowing what to do. Relief is good, but as we all know, it will not diminish the loss or the sadness. The funeral will begin to do that.
The funeral will gather friends and family. For a time, the conversation will be about what happened. The details of the illness and the medical treatment that was given will be discussed. If an accident occurred, the circumstances and speculation about the cause will most likely be talked about. But then, at some point, the conversation will turn. Someone who worked with the deceased will share a story with a family member. Suddenly, a daughter who knew her father only in his father role will see a different side. Knowing that her father’s co-worker laughed with her Dad, was mentored by her Dad, or learned a valuable skill from her Dad will comfort her.
The focus will change from what happened to her father to who her father was. The long healing process will begin.
As funeral professionals, we need to get it right. On the pre-need side, we need to be certain we consider the survivors when we put together a funeral plan. We need to ask: “Who is closest to you?” “Who do we need to think about as we put together your funeral plan?” “How can we help your family?” We need to try to change the focus from hurry, hurry, and cost to family and friends. That is not always easy.
Sometimes we don’t know how to ask, so we don’t. Some of us are so comfortable with “the way we do pre-need” that we fail to update our process to meet the changing market. Too often, we just let the customer “drive” with cost. We need to make an attempt. Most people will tell you about their family, friends, and those close to them, if you ask.
When death occurs, the at-need team picks up the thread or story line and completes or updates the tale. “Let’s talk about your family today. Who else was close to your father?
How do you feel about this plan? Does it meet your family’s needs and interests today?
How would you like to remember your father?”
When we let the consumer drive the arrangement conference or pre-arrangement conference, a consumer who often does not know all that much about funeral service or its impact on the grieving process, we place funeral value at risk.
We need to embrace the role of confident advisor and paint a word picture. We need to illustrate clearly the kind of service we know will provide an effective funeral experience.
We need to ask, “What if we did this … how would this work for your family?” We need to help find the service options that will be of value to the person we are prearranging and those that will strike just the right chord with his family, friends, and community. Funerals are important. If you have lost someone close to you, then you know that unexpected triggers make that service pop into your head when you least expect it. The memory of the funeral had better be a good one for all who attend. This is how we will preserve the true
value of funeral service.