When it comes to holidays, perhaps none comes with as much pomp and circumstance as Independence Day.
From the fireworks to the flags to the parades, the Fourth of July can have much to teach us in the funeral industry. Quite simply—in one word—CELEBRATE!
While Independence Day is obviously the celebration of the birth of the United States, we mustn’t forget that funerals, too, should be celebrations of life. Too often, those we serve are so focused (and understandably so) on their grief, that they may overlook the ways to celebrate and commemorate a life. Helping them prepare a thoughtful, appropriate and respectful celebration is one of the most caring tools we can provide.
Realistically, families want to get more “bang” for their buck—and funeral service costs are no exception. Here are some simple tips—particularly valuable for those experiencing a death on or near a holiday—that funeral directors can offer their clientele.
• Point out the obvious. When a family is grieving, they may need help seeing what is right in front of them. Christmas, birthdays and other holidays foster intensely emotional reactions—and those feelings are only amplified after a death. But instead of ignoring the holiday entirely and choosing not to celebrate, why not offer ideas on how the family can still celebrate and honor the deceased? Light a sparkler in someone’s name and gaze at the sky. Say a special prayer around the table on Thanksgiving. Craft a touching ornament on Christmas. Light an extra candle at Hanukkah.
• Extend the celebration. After a death, life often stops for the grieving. Offer patrons memorial options that have meaning to them, such as funeral candles, keepsake urns or thoughtful cards of remembrance. Consider offering beautiful blank journals, where friends and families can record memories and feelings and save photos, cards and other trinkets.
• Remain engaged. Following up with families after a death can be one of the most economical and easy (yet impactful) things a funeral director can do. A few months after my mother died, her hospice contacted our family to participate in a celebration honoring those who died that year; we shared refreshments, photos and a craft project. I felt even more touched later that summer, when the hospice participated in the local Memorial Day parade with a float adorned with the craft I had made honoring my mother. It was an unexpected, touching memory—one that lasted positively, without being an obvious “pitch” for their services.
The best celebrations are those that keep the loved one close at heart. And whether that’s fireworks at midnight or a reverent playing of “Taps,” it’s up to us in the industry to keep those celebrations alive, vital and part of our service to families.
Freelance writer/editor Sharon Verbeten has written about the funeral industry—in trade journals and online—for more than 20 years. She lives in Green Bay, Wis.