Serving Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Conversation with Lacy Robinson

Before the coronavirus pandemic placed restrictions on public gatherings, funeral professionals had a wide array of tools available to create meaningful, personalized funerals and memorials for their client families. While social distancing recommendations have limited the size of many end-of-life gatherings, they do not have to lessen the significance of those events for those who have lost a loved one.

Lacy RobinsonWe sat down with Lacy Robinson, independent funeral consultant, speaker and trainer, to get her thoughts on the most meaningful ways to honor life during this global health crisis.

What are some things funeral professionals should consider when personalizing services right now?

Ideas for personalization during this time of physical distancing need to be budget friendly and able to include virtual attendees. Additionally, funeral providers should consider special memorial products that are multipurpose. If a personalized product can be used for the private farewell, a future tribute and serve as a nice keepsake, families may feel motivated to incorporate it.

We’ve heard from a number of funeral providers who are working with families to plan a second tribute once physical distancing restrictions have been lifted. What are your thoughts about funeral homes planning and hosting a future event?

Some families will want to do two events, and others may wish to wait and only have one memorial when everyone is able to attend. Either way, families should have the opportunity for valuable behind-the-scenes participation and space to explore all the different ideas for planning a tribute that’s a true reflection of their loved one’s life. They will also appreciate the extra time to work on their budget, collect more inspiration and be more hands-on as they prepare. I envision parents using this extra time to involve their children, whether it’s going through pictures and adding captions or working on customized keepsake favors for guests.

You’ve frequently encouraged funeral providers to appoint someone on their staff to be their COVID-19 Funeral Specialist. What is your vision for this role?

A COVID-19 Funeral Specialist would be responsible for keeping employees and their community updated with new guidelines and recommendations from local/state government officials as well as state and national funeral associations. They should also be the point person for responding to all COVID-19 funeral inquiries from the public. Additionally, this person would collaborate with management for website updates and social media content.

There is also a need to for this employee to identify community outreach opportunities. It would be beneficial for the COVID-19 Funeral Specialist to maintain a list of all questions and concerns that have been ask by the community and client families via email, phone, social media and in the arrangement conference. Keeping track of these questions and crafting the right responses will help to better prepare all employees. If COVID-19 returns in the fall, it will be beneficial to all funeral homes to have already had this specific role in place.

You mentioned
community outreach, which is something many funeral providers are struggling with due to social distancing limitations. What’s one thing a funeral home could do right now that would help them connect with and serve their community?

Reaching out to local hospice providers to share how the funeral home is adapting to new operational changes is very helpful as those providers work to realistically manage expectations for families. In addition to that, I recommend offering to help their efforts in caring for patients and families. Open the conversation with, “We know these are challenging times for your clinicians and referral team. I welcome a conversation to understand in detail those areas where our funeral home can help.”

You’re a well-respected proponent for highly personalized funeral services. Can you share some of your favorite ideas for personalization during the coronavirus pandemic?

Funeral providers need to include recorded memories from family and friends into their video tributes that normally only contain pictures. It’s a great way to get others involved and will certainly take a video tribute to the next level.

Woven tribute blankets are great because they are reasonably priced, can be used for multiple memorial events and is a special keepsake for the family.

A memory tree with “I Want to Remember” tags is nice addition to a tribute and serves as special keepsake. Family and friends can submit their memories to the funeral home which are then added to the memory tree. It creates the opportunity for at home participation and the memories shared can give depth to the private memorial whether or not it is livestreamed.

I really like Flying Wish Paper, which is a very affordable way to involve immediate family members.  They can write messages to their loved one, step outside the funeral home to light their paper with a match and watch it fly. This is a great form of participation for an evening tribute and would be a special moment for those watching a livestream.

Hugs from Home, Flowers of Love and Rose in Place are three programs funeral homes are adopting as way to include individuals touched by the loved one's life. People are encouraged to submit their memories and supportive messages through the funeral home's website. Those messages are then printed on a nice card and attached to a white balloon, a vase of flowers or a single white rose and placed in the gathering space waiting for the family when they arrive for their private farewell.

We’re thankful for Lacy’s input and hope her thoughts will inspire even more creativity as you serve families during this challenging time. For additional resources to help you connect with your community, contact your Homesteaders account executive.

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