This article originally appeared in the 2017 spring issue of OGR’s Independent magazine.
I am always encouraged when I see funeral homes providing their families and communities with high-quality information about grief and loss. I believe that providing grief information is a critical way for funeral homes to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Unfortunately, some funeral professionals only think of grief information as a part of aftercare. Instead, I would encourage you to view providing grief information as a way to market your expertise, build relationships, and engender trust even before a pre-need or at-need situation. I have outlined several ways that grief information can help set you apart as a funeral home that provides exceptional care to bereaved families.
Grief Information Demonstrates Your Expertise
Funeral professionals are often quick to tell me, “We don’t pretend to be grief counselors.” That’s a good thing. No one (regardless of their profession) should overstep their education, training, and experience. However, sometimes their definition of “grief counseling” is too broad, and they are missing opportunities to share helpful information.
For example, I have encountered funeral homes that do not provide any grief information because they don’t want to be viewed as operating outside their expertise. While I am not an attorney and this should not be viewed as legal advice, I have never heard of a funeral home being sued or held responsible for simply sharing grief resources. Please provide your community with high-quality and updated information about grief (booklets, pamphlets, a lending library, resources on your website, speakers, etc.). Providing the information is not counseling or therapy. In fact, most people will not make an appointment with a counselor or therapist, so the information you provide may be the only information they receive.
Grief Information Has a Long “Shelf Life”
One of the most useful things about providing good grief information is that it has a long shelf life.” After experiencing a significant loss, most people continue to need information and support long after the death. For example, it has been widely reported that George Allen would take flowers to his wife’s cemetery location each month. After losing his wife to a freak head injury in a skiing accident more than five years ago, Liam Neeson has said there are times when her death does not seem real.
These are two examples of how widowers show that they are continuing to deal with the loss of their wives many months and years after their loss. The bereaved are always looking for information that will inform them. They continue to look and listen for examples of other people who have experienced the same loss. They want to see if they share common experiences or if there is advice they can use. In other words, if you provide good information about what it is like to lose a father, mother, best friend, spouse, pet, child, or some other significant loved one, people will take notice – even if the loss was a long time ago.
Sharing Grief Information Builds Trust
Most bereaved individuals simply want to know if their grief reactions are normal and how they can honor and remember their loved ones. Providing this information is a wonderful way to connect with individuals in your community – even if they didn’t use your funeral home. Providing information reinforces that you take grief seriously and you recognize the whole person. Being a source of grief information reminds these individuals that your role is broader than providing funeral products; it is also about providing personal care from pre-need through aftercare.
Grief Topics are Endless
In some ways grief is very simple: we are separated from a loved one. And yet grief is also endlessly complex and personal. This provides countless grief-related topics about which you can share information.
Furthermore, grief is a rare combination of a topic that many people do not discuss and yet has been experienced by most people. This means that you have a large potential audience and most people still have lots of questions.
Here is just a sample of grief-related topics that might be of interest to the families in your community:
- How does a bereaved child deal with grief throughout childhood and adulthood?
- How do I grieve a family member that I hated?
- How do I deal with the loss of an ex-spouse?
- What rituals do I use if I don’t consider myself to be religious?
- I’m worried about my widowed parent. Are they experiencing normal grief?
- My grief after the loss of my dog is as strong as after the loss of my grandparents – is that normal?
- How am I going to get through Mother’s Day after my mom has died?
Watch out for next week’s post, which will give funeral homes ideas on how to best share grief information with the families in their community.
By Dr. Jason Troyer
Dr. Troyer is the Founder of Mt Hope Grief Services and a psychology professor at Maryville College in Maryville, TN. Dr. Troyer is a published author, former grief counselor, and provides presentations, grief publications, pre-need products, training seminars, and consulting services. Learn more at http://www.mthopegrief.com or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.