Last November, my family gathered together for a memorial service celebrating the life of my grandmother. After a long and well-fought battle against cancer, she had passed away in our local hospice house, surrounded by all of us who loved her most and best. For the first time, our once jovial extended family faced a long stretch of winter holidays weighed down by the raw and acute pain of grief.
Many of your client families are also facing the first holiday season absent a loved one. These families need the ongoing support of you and your staff as they begin to create new traditions while still trying to honor the person they’re missing. Hosting a holiday memorial service at your funeral home offers a meaningful way to reconnect with these families and provide the emotional space necessary to remember their loved ones. Here are a few memorial service ideas to help make your event successful:
Invite the community.
Your holiday memorial service is a great opportunity for community outreach. It’s always a good idea to start by inviting the client families you have served in the past as part of your ongoing aftercare efforts, but don’t assume that they are the only ones who will benefit from attending.
Use some resources to promote your event, and make sure your community members know that everyone is welcome to attend. By extending the invitation to include your whole community, you’ll be fostering goodwill and also ensuring that everyone who has been touched by grief has a comfortable, safe place to acknowledge their loss.
Set aside a time for grieving.
Those who grieve during the holidays often feel pressured to put on a smile and overlook their sadness. Many times, these individuals don’t want to make others around them uncomfortable or sad, so they pretend to feel happy. Your memorial service can offer them the freedom to grieve without guilt – after all, everyone in attendance is struggling with feelings of loss.
Start by tackling the big elephant in the room. Ask everyone in attendance to share something about their lost loved one – a favorite holiday tradition or particularly meaningful memory. Then, observe a few moments of silence, and remind them that sadness – even during the holidays – is a healthy, normal part of grief.
Promote an atmosphere of service.
Focusing on people in need could be a useful tool in alleviating the feelings of helplessness and lack of purpose which may characterize your client families’ grief. Try incorporating some sort of service activity into your memorial service – frost some holiday cookies and deliver them to the local nursing home, write notes to send to American troops overseas or invite attendees to bring toys to donate to the local children’s hospital. These are all small, enjoyable ways to celebrate the spirit of generosity that fuels the holiday season while simultaneously ensuring that your funeral home is valued by your community.
Share some ways they can honor their loved one at home.
As they approach this holiday season, many of your client families may be feeling a desire to memorialize their loved ones at home. Set aside some time during your memorial service to help them think of some meaningful ways to acknowledge their loss.
Begin by sharing a few creative memorial suggestions: perhaps they can set a vase of their loved one’s favorite flowers in front of an empty chair or share a memory of their loved one and observe a moment of silence before enjoying their holiday meal. Once you’ve offered a few ideas, ask memorial service attendees to share their own. You’ll be surprised by how creative your client families can be.
Send them home with a small gift.
Presenting a gift to those who attend your memorial service offers an opportunity to further care for these families while simultaneously demonstrating that you are here to support them in their grief.
Put some thought into what kind of gift will be most meaningful. It doesn’t need to be big or expensive – a tray of cookies made from a recipe perfected by your late mother is far more heartwarming than a restaurant gift card – but it should be relevant. Wrap the gifts and hand them out at the end of the service so attendees have something to look forward to opening when they get home.