By Petra Lina Orloff

The ramifications of COVID-19 are far-reaching. This pandemic has every industry reframing their conversations with customers. So, for an industry that has remained unchanged for decades, there is a sudden and acute need for a difference, particularly in the language you use with your clientele.

Since 2004, social media has been reworking our definition and our understanding of sharing. For the last 16 years we have been taught, on a daily basis, that sharing is no longer a face-to-face activity, but one which is done at a distance, and often, with strangers. We share what we eat, how we feel, what we buy, where we are, what we think, and so on. Because so much of our connecting has been done virtually, in every client, you have someone who is perfectly primed to think about memorializing differently than what was done before the quarantine.

While you ask your clients to reframe their memorial experience and you reframe the services you offer, you should also reframe your discussion with those clients. Right now, when it seems as though opportunities to celebrate are dwindling, you have a remarkable opportunity to speak with families about one singular activity which can reframe their entire conception of memorialization: sharing.

Your clients may be thinking that you have very little to offer them in terms of ceremony and memorialization because they simply cannot conceive of how ceremony and memorialization can work outside of the standard to which they are accustomed. Sharing, however is key because it can be done intimately, in person, or at a distance, with the same results. You know your products better than I. You know what works best in your home. You know what your clients want. What I’m offering is a better way in which to describe your services. Your initial discussion has always been about educating your clients and creating an experience which connects people emotionally. Right now, your clients don’t understand how that experience can transcend space and time, but you do, and it’s through sharing.

They already share in many of the same ways you may ask them to share a life celebration. They are live streaming on Instagram and Facebook, video conferencing for work, listening to and watching podcasts and videos on their phones, communicating with friends and loved ones through apps and in social media. This is what sharing means to us. While memorialization once meant a service, a gathering, and a meal, sharing means something else entirely. So, using this word, discussing sharing, reworking your conversations around a verb which makes sense during this pandemic will have a great effect on helping your clients conceive and create a memorial which makes sense for them and also, which benefits you.

Ask them to share the celebration of life they are planning. Ask them to share the memorial. Ask them to share their loved one’s life with others. And then, show them how you can do that meaningfully and thoughtfully with dignity and respect. Asking your client how they want to memorialize their loved one will most likely be met with: “how can I memorialize my loved one right now?” Instead, ask how they want to share their loved one with friends and family. This is an entirely different mindset. Your clients understand the benefits of livestreaming and Zoom now more than they have in the past. Of course, they aren’t just limited to sharing in that manner. Videos can still be shared. Life stories can be shared. Photographs can be shared. Memories and tributes can be gathered in one place and shared. You know your products: most anything that would have accompanied a traditional funeral or memorial can be shared online. In some instances, these mementos can also be physically made and put in the post. Instead of investing in the space in your home, clients are now invested in sharing as much as they can as quickly and efficiently as they can.

Right now, more people are using social media than ever before, as a gathering space to celebrate life and confront death, and with the advent of this pandemic, social media has become an essential space. Here, we have already shifted to thinking beyond boundaries and borders. We have already transcended time and space. Here, we know that sharing has no limit.

We have been searching for a way to discuss this pandemic. We have been searching for a way to describe the kind of memorialization that we are now performing, and that word is sharing. Talk about sharing. Use the word share. Leveraging this verb in the conversations you have with your clients gets your clients thinking about memorialization in the manner in which you want and need them to be thinking. Although, right now, we cannot gather for funerals and memorials, the changes in memorialization are much less radical than your clients expect. After all, they already practice sharing at a distance. 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.