When talking about funeral service, one sometimes wonders if the public and members of the funeral profession are from the same planet. Never before have opinions varied so much regarding what families want from memorialization and what funeral professionals think they should experience. To demonstrate the often-wide gap between these two groups’ perspectives, we constructed imaginary conversations between a fictional Johnny Q. Public and an equally fictional Mr. Funeral Director based on articles, research studies, interviews and personal experiences. The first of three blogs examines attitudes about funerals and visitations.
Members of the public and funeral directors often have very different perceptions about the value of funerals and visitations (also called wakes or viewings). Funeral directors have provided services that have helped families deal with the loss of loved ones for years, so why stop? On the other hand, people today want to (and will) avoid the parts of funeral service that in the past made them feel awkward or unsure of what to do.
Consider the following discussion:
Funeral Director: Funerals and visitations give families a wonderful opportunity to surround themselves with the full support of their family and friends.
Public: Wonderful? We lined up for hours during my grandma’s visitation while people we barely knew struggled to think of something to say to us. You could tell they couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Funeral Director: Okay, but it gave everyone a chance to express their condolences during those few hours. Isn’t that better than having the same awkward conversation every time you run into someone you know at the grocery store?
Public: All I know is my grandmother’s funeral was awkward for everyone. No one knew how to act or what to do. We didn’t feel like we could be ourselves.
Funeral Director: Funerals don’t have to be like that! We can help you celebrate your life any way that’s meaningful to you. Have a ceremony in a park. Invite your old scout troop to participate. Hold a dog or cat adoption at your visitation.
Public: That would be cool, but it seems we could have had a gathering that wasn’t so uncomfortable. Maybe we could throw a party in a couple of months.
Funeral Director: People don’t usually express sadness about losing a loved when they’re at parties.
Public: Yes, but at least we could play good music.
What’s your perception of visitations? Do you feel more like Mr. Funeral Director or Johnny Q. Public? Comment below.
Next week’s blog will explore the “just burn me up!” attitude so many people have when discussing cremation options.
By Mark Allen
OGR Executive Director & CEO
Have you had a similar conversation?
Email Mark and tell him all about it or comment below.