By Petra Lina Orloff

Our world is now changed. Some will say for better and some, for worse. However, no matter the case, your clients are just beginning to understand how to reframe the world in which they live, and they need a strong guide to change their perspective, attitude, and behavior as they negotiate memorialization in this changed world. Remote attendance and virtual memorialization is the power currently shaping the funeral industry. Before 2020, these things were a novelty, now, they are a necessity. Though you may be selling a completely different service than you offered before last March, your customer still wants the same impactful, emotionally-connected experience that you have always provided, only now, you must reassure your client that remote memorials can give them exactly what they need.

Concern: Your clients have a hard time understanding how meaning and emotion can transcend time and space. Where we once did our grieving in person, we now do it remotely.

Resolution: Begin to rework your conversations around the word sharing. Your clients share at a distance every single day. They share their work through e-mail, their ideas and opinions through virtual meetings, and their family experience through social media. They understand the word sharing. They are familiar with how an e-mail, a Facebook post, or a text message can generate an emotional response. The word sharing holds meaning and experience for them. The word sharing resonates. Teach your clients how memorialization functions at a distance by framing the discussion around the verb sharing, a word which already holds great significance for them. Using an experience with which they are accustomed can quickly change their mindset.

Concern: Your clients don’t understand the opportunities available to immediately memorialize their loved ones.

Resolution: Remind your clients that they already share on a daily basis. Tie in the products your home offers to something that your clients already understand. You know what works best in your home, so have a conversation which ties those products into those activities in which your client already participates. Everything that you are currently offering can be shared virtually and have lasting impact. Whether it’s casting the tribute remotely, repacking paper goods as a memorial packet to be mailed, sending a moving slideshow, capturing a lovely image of a thumbprint necklace, a photo of a beautifully arranged urn, virtual memorial cards, texting, e-mailing, or posting a life story, everything which you offer is still relevant as long as you speak about it in terms the client understands thoroughly.

Concern: Families want to wait to gather in person.

Resolution: Remind your clients that there is an immediate need to memorialize, no matter how it’s done. For you, waiting only invites a cancellation and postponement often becomes never. Remind your clients that streaming a memorial and remotely gathering is just another option to honor a life, one that existed before the pandemic. There has been a demand for virtual gathering for many years, and now necessity has forced that need to increase. Remind your client that they gather virtually for work, for school, and to meet with friends. Again, connect the concept of virtual sharing to those activities with which they are most familiar. If your client considers that one can honor a seminal birthday or welcome a new baby virtually, they will be able to see how the emotional impact of a death can also be experienced virtually.

Concern: Your clients don’t understand the impact of remote gathering.

Resolution: Share the stories and testimonials from past clients. There is nothing more powerful than a well-told story, so demonstrate how to share, by sharing. You should be able to point to a collection of letters, notes, thankful e-mails, social media posts, and so on, to express the impact of remote sharing. Now is the time to share your stories: a description of the memorial and then some details about how well it was received. If your client cannot imagine it, then you must physically show them. Social media is the perfect way to share what you are doing in your home and also, maintain a record of your most impressive moments. Just as you display your paper products, urns, and caskets, your client should be able to get a very good sense of how your home customizes a virtual celebration.

We cannot speak about new traditions by using old language. Yet, there isn’t a need for new conversations, only a need to re-contextualize those same conversations in a manner with which your client can identify. So, talk about sharing because it changes your client’s perspective on remote gatherings and also, because the word speaks to a behavior which they already practice. The changes which this pandemic has brought are not as radical as we imagine, they only call for reframing our own thinking, and all of this, of course, begins with the language we use. FBA


Petra Lina Orloff is the president and CEO of Beloved, which creates custom, creative, personalized obituaries and eulogies, and the founder of Death Talk, an ongoing series of public discussions on death and dying. She has been a professional writer for nearly 30 years and completed her doctoral studies in English at Wayne State University.To connect with her, you may email [email protected] or 248-894-7076 or visit her website at www.beloved-press.com.