Like the electrician who corrected the problems I caused with my home’s wiring, funeral professionals have opportunities to help families avoid problems with whatever options they take upon themselves to memorialize loved ones. Not everyone will be comfortable with these options, but consider how you might offer your expertise (for a fee) to DIY-minded funeral families.
- Handle the legalities—Regardless of how families wish to memorialize a loved one, all must adhere to regulations involving burial, cremation or DIY memorials. Offer to handle these details to protect families from legal missteps. Just as you can sell your own home, few people have the time to learn the legal requirements. While you should never offer legal advice, your professional expertise as a funeral professional is of great value to families.
- Provide a permanent space for memorialization—When someone’s cremated remains are scattered at sea, shot into space or kept with one family member, people may lack a peaceful place they can go to remember their loved ones. Some families are beginning to understand the importance of location. Residents of a community in Maryland are petitioning to add a scattering garden to their public park to provide a place for solace. Consider turning a section of your funeral home property into a scattering or meditation garden that is open to anyone in your community. Work with a local landscaper to create plans for residential scattering gardens.
- Wash and prepare the body—NXT Generation Mortuary Support offers “desairology”, a combination of embalming, cosmetology and reconstruction, to funeral homes. Why not offer a similar service to families who wish to arrange their own funeral services but are uncomfortable preparing their loved ones’ bodies?
- Coordinate scattering—Funeral professionals can advise families on appropriate scattering locations and techniques. The top of a mountain sounds like a great place to scatter grandpa’s remains, but how do a hundred mourners make the journey? Someone who wants their loved one’s cremated remains scattered on Wrigley Field may not know they could be subject to arrest for destruction of property. Funeral directors can take on the role of contacting property owners, providing scattering urns and coordinating onsite services to help families have positive experiences.
- Destination memorials—Destination funerals have often been treated as the punchline of a joke, but it’s time to get serious about helping families make their loved ones’ final dreams come true with a trip to a meaningful location. Assisting the families with burial arrangements or the motherlode of scattering can add an entirely new dimension to funeral professionals’ repertoires.
In the larger picture, communicating the value of funerals and what funeral professionals provide is essential to the future of funeral service. The Have the Talk of a Lifetime consumer outreach campaign provides tools funeral homes can use for this purpose within their communities. In the short-term, funeral professionals must stretch beyond their traditional roles to serve families who want to take on aspects of the memorialization process.
Like amateur electricians, people may think they know more about dealing with the loss of loved ones than they actually do. Without the help of a funeral professional to shed light on arranging funerals, memorials and ceremonies, they may find themselves completely in the dark.
By Mark Allen
OGR Executive Director & CEO
International Order of the Golden Rule