As you interact with families each day, you experience many different perceptions and attitudes about death. You’ve likely encountered people who know very little about end-of-life issues or how funeral planning works – simply because they’ve never taken the time to think about these issues or discuss them with others.
It’s natural to avoid thoughts and conversations about funeral planning – it can be emotionally difficult to consider and uncomfortable to talk about with loved ones. But every person will need funeral services at some point, and it’s important to ensure family members are aware of their loved ones’ preferences to avoid stress (and conflict) when the time comes.
Funeral professionals have an increasing number of resources available to help families begin conversations about memorialization. When you facilitate these important discussions among family members, you’ll establish your firm as a resource that families can turn to when they need your services.
STARTING THE CONVERSATION
How can a person bring up funeral planning with his or her loved ones? This is often the hardest step, which is why the topic so often remains untouched among family members. A person may want to discuss his or her own funeral preferences or broach the subject of a loved ones’ wishes in order to ensure they are carried out. Either way, the person could be met with resistance when they try to take the conversation further.
You can help families have this conversation by providing prompts to make the concept more approachable. For example, your funeral home could host a community event that invites family members to share their memories with one another through scrapbooking and journaling exercises. This can help naturally guide discussions about a person’s most meaningful memories and why they’re so important to remember.
FAMIC’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime™ program also provides many materials that facilitate conversations about memorialization. To get more ideas for how to use this program, click here.
WHAT FAMILIES NEED TO CONSIDER
Because many people don’t research funeral planning (unless circumstances force them to do so), they may not realize how many decisions will need to be made. Your funeral home can educate families about how funeral planning works through marketing materials and public relations events. Ensure families in your community know that you’re available as a resource to talk through the many considerations that are part of the funeral planning process.
It’s important to strike a balance here: sharing all of the decisions that will need to be made might overwhelm a person and cause them to think funeral planning will be a negative experience. Reassure your client families that, although there are many things to consider throughout the process of funeral planning, your funeral home’s staff will help guide them through the process.
When educating families about the many decisions that are required when planning a funeral, reinforce how much easier it will be if the plans are made in advance. Your own experiences as a funeral professional are valuable to share with families. Tell them about why families who preplan experience peace of mind and are able to avoid the stress of making decisions during emotionally difficult times.
You can help families understand the next steps once they’ve discussed funeral planning with their loved ones. Explain your advance funeral planning services and what you can do to help families put their wishes in writing.
Understand that families may not be ready to make plans immediately. In a recent policy owner study, 25% of respondents indicated that more than two years passed between when they first thought about prearranging and when they filled out the paperwork. Follow up with families who have attended one of your events to remind them of the benefits of advance funeral planning.