Questions to Ask to Help Customize Funeral Services

As funeral professionals, you strive for kindness and respect toward your client families to help them feel as comfortable as possible when sharing details about their loved one. While respect has always been paramount, best practices in respect have evolved as we learn more about language and empathy. The questions you ask families can become the foundation of curiosity and understanding them or their loved one. Questions can also lead to details about a loved one that you can incorporate into a meaningful and customized funeral service. We’ve gathered some helpful questions from Homesteaders employees who have firsthand experience working in funeral homes. We hope these questions will provide inspiration and ideas that you can incorporate into your questions list when meeting with clients and client families.

Ask about details

For Homesteaders Senior Account Executive Brandon Full, open ended questions can reveal things about a loved one that can allow for personalization in an obituary and service.

  • Tell me about your parent.
  • How did your parents meet?
  • Describe something that your parent enjoyed doing.
  • What was your parent’s feelings toward their celebration of life or funeral service?
  • What will you remember most about your parent?
  • Tell me how your parent felt about being a grandparent.

“My biggest piece of advice is to take your time with the arrangements,” Brandon shared. “Although this may be routine to us, it’s not to the families we are serving. Taking time will certainly help strengthen the value in our service and in our profession as a whole.”

Ask without making assumptions

Instead of asking if a loved one was married, ask “Who was your loved one close to?” or “Who was important in your loved one’s life?” Not everyone chooses to be married, but most people have meaningful friends, family and/or partnerships, and this small tweak in these questions can reveal details about a person that might not have come out in a more presumptuous question. If you are asking about a spouse, you can say “spouse” or “partner” so as not to assume someone’s sexual orientation or their partner’s gender identity.

Similarly, instead of asking where someone worked or what their career was, you can ask “What was your loved one passionate about?” The answer to this question can reach the heart of a person and may include their paid job, but more importantly, it can reveal how they enjoyed spending their time and what they deeply cared about. Bringing empathy, instead of sympathy, to the table can go a long way toward learning about a loved one and building a positive relationship with the client family.

Ask outside the box

Brianne Niedermyer, Homesteaders Senior Account Executive, has a list of creative and fun questions she has asked that can tell you a lot about a client’s personality and life experiences:

  • What was your favorite trip?
  • What is something that you loved when you were growing up that kids today wouldn’t understand?
  • If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
  • Tell me how you and your spouse met?
  • What music was your favorite when you were a young adult?
  • What are the things in your life that have brought you the most joy?

Ask about stories

Jamie Dravecky, Homesteaders Account Executive, shared some ideas to get conversation flowing. “What I would do is put my pen down when we first sit down at the table and simply say, ‘I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing your mother/father/loved one. Do one of you have a favorite story you’d like to share?’” Once the client family starts sharing, the conversation can unfold from there. A few follow-up questions could be:

  • How would you describe your loved one’s personality?
  • If your loved one could be remembered for one thing, other than kindness, what would it be?
  • If there was one thing about your loved one you would want others to know, what would that be?
  • Ask about their loved one’s hobbies and interests.

Terri Bordenkircher, Homesteaders Regional Sales Director, added, “It is within the stories that you can then interject comments or questions that help you paint a picture around how both you and the family can personalize the service.”

Terri gave an example, “A daughter shared that her mother taught music all her life and loved classical music.” A question that could come after a story like those could be, “You said that your mom taught music all of her life and loved classical music. I would like to design her services around her unique talents. For a start, would playing classical music during the visitation be something that you would find comforting? What other ways could we personalize your mom’s services?”

“Oftentimes, families are hoping that the funeral director will direct them on some unique ways in which they could add personalization,” Terri noted. “Being prepared with some suggestions is always important. Avoid talking about someone else’s service where you used this type of personalization. This should be all about their loved one.” If you’d like more ideas about how to build relationships with client families, you can read our blog post on this topic.

What questions have been helpful in your meetings with clients and client families? What questions have spurred unique stories or details about a person’s life?

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