The facilitator of the Grieving.com grief support forum recently asked family members to talk about what made their experience with local funeral directors a good one, and what made it an experience they remember with distaste. Here, she shares some of the responses. We hope this helps you to better tailor your services and remarks so that you’re remembered gratefully for your support during a most difficult time.
When Renee lost her little girl, the director of the funeral home she chose for the services came to her house and brought books about loss his wife had picked specifically for Renee and her children. He was kind and caring, and he shared with her the care and compassion being shown by those from her church and school.
In the months that followed Renee’s tragedy, the funeral director personally called to check on Renee and her family. She ran into him over a year later at a school sporting event, and he took the time to ask how she and her children (which he called by their names) were doing.
While Renee’s experience was very positive, not everyone felt that they received kind, compassionate service. When Therese’s son died, she was met at the funeral home door by an efficient, but cold man, whose first words to her were, “And what was your son’s name?” After she managed to choke out her response, she was led directly to the caskets in the back of the funeral home where she was instructed to pick one out. What was missing? It was warmth, knowing the deceased’s name, and easing them into the emotionally rougher aspects of funeral planning.
These opposite experiences highlight the crucial role funeral directors play in how the deceased’s family handles and remembers the funeral planning experience. While raw pain and overwhelming grief cannot be magically erased, compassionate care and empathy can make bad situations at least bearable.
Pat, a woman who lost her son, said that, although her service at the funeral home was excellent, a comment by the funeral director still haunts her today and sours her perception of the funeral home. Her son died on a Friday, but the funeral home couldn’t get his body until Monday. The funeral director, trying to offer relief, said, “Oh, don’t worry. They are keeping him in a fridge ‘til we get there.” While this comment may be true, and the funeral director’s intentions were good, this was definitely not the right response in the situation. Pay says, “It makes me sick to think of it to this day.”
When Mary’s mother died, the funeral home she first went to helped her plan a lavish affair, complete with everything she thought her mother deserved. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after she had gone through the ordeal of making the arrangements that she was informed that she’d have to pay all of the money up front. Because she needed to make a financial agreement, she was forced to start over at another funeral home. The second funeral home helped her with financial arrangements and helped her plan a sensible, yet beautiful funeral. Guess which place Mary would recommend and which she would steer friends away from?
Many family members on the forum remembered funeral directors whose warm and friendly service helped them get through the nightmare of their ordeal. Even in a time of loss, they were grateful for their kindness.
Sarah, who lost her father, recounted how one funeral professional led her into the chapel to see her father and even cried with her. “I didn’t think it was the least bit unprofessional,” said Sarah. “Her empathy touched me deeply then, and it still does.”
Overall, it was empathy, genuine care and those personal little touches of humanity from funeral directors that truly marked what people thought were the best services.