memorialization

DIY Funerals: How Funeral Directors Can Help

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lights-light-bulb-ideaLike 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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering the Work of Funeral Directors on 15th Anniversary of 9/11

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Close to fifteen years ago, millions of people watched the horror unfold on their television screens on the morning of September 11, 2001 when four airplanes were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists and subsequently crashed in DC, New York, and Pennsylvania. We were overcome with shock and dismay for the victims, the people in those areas, the families and loved ones of those who would perish that day, and for our country.

The events of that tragic day serve as a reminder of the dangers of the world but also highlight the goodness of hundreds of ordinary citizens who, along with first responders, took heroic actions to save innocent lives. All of them deserve to be remembered and admired for their work.

Funeral directors played an important role during this difficult time. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Things I’ve Learned from Working with Funeral Directors

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9-1 10 Things Funeral Service Smith
Here’s a typical conversation that I have when I’m out with friends, meeting new people.

“What do you do?” asks someone who doesn’t really care but feels obligated to engage me in conversation.

“I work for a trade association that works with independently owned funeral homes. I’m a meeting planner.” I respond to cut to the chase.

“Oh! So you plan funerals? Do you embalm bodies?” returns the individual who now has a stronger interest in hearing what I have to say and obviously wasn’t listening.

“No. But I know quite a few people who do. Why? Do you need a discount on an urn?”

The asker typically turns pale and isn’t sure where to go from there.

So goes many a conversation at cocktail parties and other events when I have the opportunity to interact with anyone who doesn’t work in funeral service. It’s made me stop and think about what funeral directors face when they share their story with others.

Since I joined OGR’s staff four years ago, I’ve learned quite a bit about funeral service professionals and have found that they have a pretty challenging job. They work long, irregular hours around strange smells, extreme emotions, and lots of paperwork. They respond to phone calls in the middle of the night, often miss holidays with their families, and care for dead bodies. They maintain composure and professionalism in the midst of family conflict, inclement weather, and national tragedies. A lot of what they do is behind the scenes, unseen and unheard.  Read the rest of this entry »

Grieving Online – No Apologies Needed

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Everyone has those Facebook friends who overshare every aspect of their lives – from what they had for breakfast that morning to their thoughts on last night’s political debate. It’s easy to grow weary of those who overshare.

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There’s an etiquette that’s slowly developed around being a good online friend (read more 14 Do’s and Don’ts; Essential Facebook Etiquette) and approaching online interactions with care, but the lines are still blurred when someone has experienced loss.  Read the rest of this entry »

Do Funerals Even Matter?

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1This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of OGR’s Independent magazine. Many thanks to Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. for sharing his insights into the why of funeral service.

If you are reading this article, you are probably aware of a significant truth:

Many people are questioning the value of and the need for funerals!

If there was ever a time to be reminded of WHY you do what you do related to creating meaningful funeral experiences for those you serve, it is RIGHT NOW!

Why are People Questioning the Need for Funerals? Read the rest of this entry »

How to Write Better Obituaries

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5-31 Stacey - How to Write a Better Obit

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Mortuary Management. Writer Kim Stacey will be hosting OGR’s June 16 webinar and takes the time to share how to write a better obituary.

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Late last year Jessica A. Smith of the Order of the Golden Rule (OGR) asked me to be a course leader for a 2016 OGR-sponsored webinar about writing obituaries. The webinar, titled “How to Write an Obituary Worth Reading,” is slated for mid-June, and “will look at the factors which make a good obituary” as well as “provide a forum where funeral professionals can share their obituary-writing experiences and learn from one another.”

The topic was prompted, in part, by the recent rise of the “viral” obituary, where the story (or the personal agenda of the writer) resonates so deeply with readers that the obituary is shared — using popular social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter — by millions of Internet users.

article-0-1BC0557D000005DC-592_634x403You know the ones I’m talking about. Think back to 2013 when the obituary of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick was published. This scathing “tribute,” written by her surviving adult children, included sentences like these: “Everyone she met, adult or child, was tortured by her cruelty and exposure to violence, criminal activity, vulgarity, and hatred of the gentle or kind human spirit,” and “We celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children.” It also featured a call for “a national movement and dedicated war against child abuse in the United States of America.” This lurid story, combined with the expression of vengeful desire and the direct “call-to-action,” made this obituary an overnight global sensation.  Read the rest of this entry »

Would You Hire a Photographer for Your Funeral?

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Introducing

Photographing a funeral might be considered unorthodox, but some families are opting to hire a photographer to capture their loved one’s funeral. While it may not seem culturally normative today, it should not be considered taboo. You might be surprised to learn that funeral photography is rooted deep in funeral tradition and has been around for a long time.   Read the rest of this entry »