More than I would have ever imagined. After two years of writing about the funeral profession almost daily, here are the most important things I’ve learned so far.
The Importance of a Funeral
When I started blogging about the funeral profession, I’ll be the first to admit, death wasn’t on my mind much. It seemed like such a long way off. Sure, I had been to a few funerals, but for me personally, I still had the sense of invincibility that accompanies youth. Death was just something I didn’t think about.
If I’m being completely honest, I was one of those “just cremate me” or “throw me in a box” people. I thought it didn’t really matter to me.
But after all that I’ve learned, I realized that that is not only not true, it’s also not fair. It’s not fair to the people I love. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is just how important a funeral is.
In my research and writing, I’ve learned funerals are such an important aspect of life. They help us celebrate and remember a life. They help us find meaning and perspective, and they show us the purpose our loved one had during their time with us. Funerals also are part of a healthy healing process. They bring us closer together with friends and family and give us an outlet to publicly express our grief in an open and comforting environment.
Ultimately, they help us with the transition of a death and the acceptance of a loss. And while I still think I’m leaning toward cremation — here’s another thing I’ve learned. I was one of the many (almost 50% according to the NFDA) people who were unaware that you could have a final viewing prior to cremation.
I’m amazed more people don’t do so. Having a final viewing gives those we love one more chance to say goodbye. It’s a healthy way to face the new reality of life without a loved one and is the first step in establishing our new relationship with the deceased. Why would I deny my loved ones that? So while I still lean toward cremation, I’ll no doubt want to provide them with that final chance to say goodbye with a viewing.
The Importance of Talking About Death
As you can see, writing about funerals has made me a lot more comfortable with the topic. Which is another important lesson I learned. I think many of us avoid discussing death because it’s uncomfortable. I know I did. But since writing about the funeral profession, I’ve learned we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by avoiding discussions about death.
But being open about death, dying, and end-of-life has been a breath of fresh air. I’ll never forget the time I brought home a deck of the Have the Talk of a Lifetime cards I received at an NFDA Convention. My family and I spent our post-Thanksgiving meal reading through the cards. And we learned so much about each other.
It’s a small example. But it highlights something I’ve learned. It’s incredibly important to be open about topics of death and dying. We stand to gain so much. We learn important things about those we love. We learn their stories, their life lessons, their true passions in life. We also learn about the ways they want to be remembered, and what rituals they want when the time comes. All of these are important in the memorialization process. It builds a more meaningful, more powerful funeral experience for everyone involved.
What a Funeral Director Actually Does
I’m not going to lie. My initial views of a funeral director were, well, limited. My initial perception was pretty much the extent I think most folks have — the black suits, old Victorian parlor homes, and people spending their whole day around bodies. It’s the stuff we see in the media and pop culture portrayals of funeral directors. And it couldn’t be more wrong.
Since writing about the funeral profession and getting to know funeral directors personally, I’ve learned that they are some of nicest people you’ll ever meet. They are hardworking, compassionate, and dedicated. At the end of the day, they are big-hearted people who felt called to serve others during their darkest hours.
As I continue to write about the funeral profession, one of my goals is to spread stories about all the good things funeral directors across the country are doing. And believe me, there are a lot of ways in which funeral directors give back to their community. That’s why each week we post about them in our Funeral Home Happenings blog and highlight the positive impact funeral professionals have in the everyday lives of those around them.
Funerals are Changing, but the Reasons We Have Them Aren’t
Another one of my goals here at Frazer Consultants is to research the latest trends and news in the funeral profession and to help keep funeral professionals up-to-date with the changing profession. From my two years writing almost daily about funerals, I’ve seen an immense amount of change firsthand. So it’s not unbelievable to think this change will continue — and at a faster pace.
But that’s not to say everything about the profession is changing. While certain funeral rituals might change, the reasons we have them won’t.
Look at it this way. Victorian England had memorial jewelry. Ancient Romans had elaborate processions with mimes, musicians, and professional mourners. Even early cavemen had funeral rituals. Funeral rituals and the ways we memorialize our loved ones changes. But the reasons we have funerals won’t ever change. We have funerals because they let us celebrate, remember, and heal — bringing us together to honor and reflect on a life that we’ll cherish forever.
And as long as we continue to have funerals, we’ll need someone there to organize them. To help us plan the rituals of remembrance and provide insight, comfort, and compassion to those who need it. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned after these two years is just how important funeral directors are to our society.