Today, it seems that fewer and fewer families are informed about the value of the funeral, and in some cases, they are choosing to skip it altogether. You and I know that funerals are an important rite of passage and an essential step in the grieving process, but it is getting much harder to talk to families at the time of loss about a funeral service because oftentimes, their minds may already be made up.
It has become clear that we in the funeral profession need to do a better job of educating families about the value of a funeral long before they ever step into the arrangement conference.
The Problem? A Lack of Good Information
A few years ago, our CEO asked me if I had ever Googled the words “How to plan a funeral.” I told him that I hadn’t, and he challenged me to go and see what I could find. After looking into it, I found that there really wasn’t a lot of good information out there on the subject, and what was available, wasn’t positive or especially helpful. I reported my findings to him, and he said, “That’s my point. I think there needs to be better resources out there, and I want us to do something about it.”
Confusing Efficiency with Effectiveness
As I said, our profession hasn’t done a very good job of communicating why we do what we do. For a long time, we really didn’t have to explain why it was important to have a funeral. Families just knew.
But today, people are living longer, and there seems to be less of an understanding of what to do when a loved one dies. People know they don’t want what their grandparents did, but they don’t know what to do instead. So, they are often choosing options that seem to be the most expedient to them. Essentially, as grief counselor and author, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, often says, “they are confusing efficiency with effectiveness.”
We know that when essential elements of the funeral are missed, families often have a harder road ahead of them. As funeral professionals, it’s now part of our job description to educate families about how a funeral can help them process through their emotions of loss, activate their support network, and find comfort in remembering and honoring the life of a loved one through music, symbols, eulogies, and actions.
So, How Can We Educate Families Before the Time of Loss?
After our little exercise with Google, it became clear that we needed to take some big steps in creating quality content and training that would benefit the entire funeral profession. To this end, we partnered with Dr. Wolfelt to create a training program that would equip funeral professionals to explain the “WHY” behind a funeral. We wanted to help funeral professionals dive into the importance of a funeral and give them practical tips for sharing with families why it’s so important to create a healing and meaningful funeral experience. In tandem with these training materials, we also launched a consumer-oriented website, www.funeralbasics.org, in October of 2016 that would educate families about the value of planning a healing funeral.
Three Years Later…Is It Working?
Over the last three years, Funeral Basics has been developed into a resource for both families and funeral professionals, covering topics related to planning a healing and meaningful funeral, the benefits of planning ahead, various methods of disposition, coping with grief and loss, as well as tips for living well now and leaving a legacy. It’s a purely informational website; the WebMD of the funeral profession, if you will. Three years later, the site has approximately 40,000 visitors per month, nearly 200 published articles, and over 1 million article views, and the topics covered are relevant, current, and helpful.
Not only does Funeral Basics offer helpful planning tools for families and break down the WHY of the funeral, it also includes many grief and aftercare articles that you can use to supplement your own programs. We provide this site as a service to funeral homes and encourage every funeral home to link to it online and refer to it as a resource for families.
Currently, we have articles about coping with grief, whether that is suicide loss, survivor’s guilt, helping a friend who is grieving, or how to use your own creativity to help you deal with loss. We have seasonal articles, like 10 remembrance activities for the holiday season or 12 tips for loving the grieving during the Christmas season. There are also practical articles, like how to write an obituary, how to talk to a child about death, and simple tips for writing a condolence letter. From pet loss to funeral etiquette and planning options, the website covers a wide range of topics, with more added weekly.
I invite you to take advantage of this incredible resource – a website that fits hand in glove with your preneed, at-need, and aftercare programs. And if you ever have any questions or would like to see a topic considered, just let me know. We’re all in this together, serving one family at a time with kindness and compassion. FBA
Jeff Stewart is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Funeral Directors Life (FDLIC). Jeff oversees all aspects of FDLIC’s full-service marketing department and takes great pride in helping clients create and implement successful marketing programs. Jeff has served in the Marketing Department of FDLIC for over 18 years. Prior to joining the company, he was active in the advertising agency and telecommunications fields. All totaled, he has accumulated over 30 years of sales and marketing experience. Jeff received a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications and Marketing from Hardin-Simmons University. To connect with Jeff, email him at [email protected]