Some deaths are totally unexpected and tear at the family’s very core. Automobile accidents, sudden illness, heart attack, and other causes of quick death leave family members with a big gaping hole in their lives. They are stunned and aren’t sure where to turn. As their funeral director and grief counselor, your job is to be supportive on numerous levels and to give them practical tools for handling the funeral and for starting the healing process.
Depending on how you go about it, your efforts to help them plan out the funeral and burial will either bless them or leave them feeling taken advantage of. To ensure that you are really meeting their needs, take time to get to know them before you have them decide on the big ticket items. Especially when the death is a complete shock, the survivors may range from being hesitant to being belligerent. As you well know, people handle bereavement in different ways, so you have to be prepared to deal with their moods as well as their grief. The better you understand their perspectives on life, death and their relationship to the deceased, the more smoothly the funeral arranging will go.
Here are a few practical ways that you can be supportive of your grieving family:
- Encourage them to talk about their loved one. In the process, you will get ideas as to how to make this funeral a memorial they will cherish.
- Give them funeral arrangement options in bullet format. The best way is to have several cards preprinted, one each for obituary options, the casket or urn styles, the headstone options, and other funeral prep necessities. You may be able to print these off your website. Keep the wording on these cards concise and not too detailed. Direct them to your website for more details and prices.
- Introduce them to your website during their visit. Walk them through it, then give them a brochure or business card with your website and Facebook URLs. Encourage them to browse the options on the website and to check out your Facebook page.
- Sign them up for your Twitter account so that you can send encouraging thoughts, quotes, and ideas to them over the next couple of weeks.
- Give them your email address and phone number: Let them feel comfortable about contacting you with questions or just to talk.
- Call your clients at least once a week for a month, during funeral prep and as follow-up to see how they are doing.
- Refer them to grief counselors, support groups, and area churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. for emotional and spiritual support. Have a list ready to give them. Also have this information available on your website.
- Offer to pray with them, if you and they are both comfortable with it, there in your office and, if it seems appropriate, before or after the funeral or gathering.
What you say and do while your clients are in their most vulnerable state will stay with them for the rest of their life. Every time they think of their loved one, they will also remember how they felt they were treated by you and your funeral home. Your caring support will help to make that linked memory a positive one.