Public Opinion Concludes Funeral Service Has Dropped The Ball!

Success in the funeral service business depends on the public’s trust and good feelings about those who work in this industry. However, the public’s perception of the funeral service industry–and of funerals in general–is changing dramatically, as indicated by an extensive 2012 public opinion study by Olson Zaltman Associates (OZA) at the request of the Funeral Services Foundation. Below is an outline of the studies findings. Cremation Solutions will follow up this post with how the funeral industry has responded along with some conclusions on changes the public would like to see.

The Methodology

FoundationFuneral Foundation Study, which took place in the summer of 2012, interviewed more than a dozen individuals in Georgia and Kansas, with ages that range between 50 and 70, including those with a range of religious beliefs, of different races and ethnic backgrounds, and an equal number of men and women. They talked to each person between one and one-and-a-half hours.

The Findings

OZAThe OZA study, which sought to determine and elaborate on the public’s perception of funeral homes and end of life services, learned the following insights from their interviews:

Scarry Funeral Home1. The public views funeral homes as dark, confining and sometimes scary places. In the OZA study, respondents said things like funeral homes “are real formal and not really inviting, like art museums and galleries” and “they are sterile, cool and out of date.”

2. The mood of a traditional funeral is opaque. Those interviewed said things like a traditional funeral is “dark and difficult to see” and “it’s just about death, not the life of the person.” They are open to a moving and spiritual ceremony, just not one that focuses on the gloom doom of death.

Funeral Chapel3. People have negative feelings at a funeral home. At a typical funeral, those people interviewed felt “alone” (this was especially true of males in the study), “isolated,” “uneasy” and “like I’m being controlled.” They would avoid funeral homes because of the way they make them feel.

4. There is no transformation at a typical funeral. Most of the respondents felt that the typical funeral left the attendees feeling sad and depressed rather than feeling happy to have known the person who died. They yearn to connect with the life that was lived and want to share in keeping the memories alive.

The End5. The message of the traditional funeral is “This is the end.” Those interviewed in the study said things like “a traditional funeral forces me to accept that this person’s life is over.” They also mentioned that at the end of the funeral, mourners felt that they couldn’t talk about the deceased, that the person’s “chapter” was closed. This is the complete opposite of people desire to re-visit and continue the message of the deceased!

6. People want to be more in control of their end of life service. Those interviewed want their own funeral to be their “crowning performance.” They want to be the writer, the producer, the director, the star. They don’t want their funeral to be just like everyone else’s. After all, their life isn’t just like everyone else’s. The majority of respondents wanted to decide things like the setting, the “props,” the mood and the soundtrack/music of their end of life service. They want their life message to be heard. “I Lived, I mattered. This is what is important to me, continue my work and make a difference.

Good Funerals

Here’ To You!

7. People want to put the “fun” back in funeral. The ideal end of life service for most of the people interviewed in the service was one that celebrated the life of the person who died. Respondents said things like they wanted people to wear bright colors rather than traditional black clothing; that they wanted the music to be up-beat rather than solemn, even including rock or other contemporary music; and that they wanted the setting for the service to be somewhere that had been meaningful to them, such as a park or a beach.

8. People want funerals to be informal with room for improvising. Rather than follow a strict, formal script, many of the respondents wanted their end of life service to be a casual, free-flowing affair, where guests would feel comfortable standing up and sharing anecdotes and memories about them.

Life9. People see their funerals as a final way to share what was important to them. Those in the survey shared examples where the minister or service leader didn’t really know the deceased and thus had difficulty sharing what was special to them during their life. One respondent talked about her father’s funeral, where the minister “got it wrong” by lauding him as a war hero even though he was a pacifist and only served in a support capacity during World War II. Others indicated that they would like to have their service highlight their religious beliefs, even including printing literature about their church for mourners to take with them after the service.

10. People feel that a good service is transformative. Many of those interviewed indicated that, to them, a good end of life service would be transformative, leaving those attending feeling good about themselves and about the person who has died. Most saw dancing, singing and laughing as an integral part of an ideal service.

11. Many were concerned about the high cost of a funeral. Virtually all respondents were concerned about their families’ spending too much on a funeral, so much that it would leave them financially strapped. They have a hard time seeing the value in traditional funeral services. It’s no surprise more and more are opting for an event put together by friends and family and using the funeral home as a disposal service.

This is How it's Done!

This is How it’s Done!

12. Consumers see funeral directors differently than they see themselves. Another OZA study, in 2011, interviewed funeral directors and found that the majority view themselves as “caring creators,” people who help families design their ideal service, heal wounds and build foundations for the future. However, the 2012 consumer study concluded that consumers don’t see funeral directors as creators, but rather as “rulers,” or even “bullies,” telling them what they can and cannot do with their–and their loved ones’–end of life service.

The general perception of funeral directors, as gleaned from the study, was that directors are cold and impersonal, inflexible and “remote and robotic.” One interviewee said that they felt funeral service professionals were more interested in “getting the job done” than in helping the family in a difficult time.

The Conclusions

The analysts on this study drew several conclusions from their interviews:

  • While most funerals are still traditional funerals, non-traditional end of life services are becoming more and more popular.
  • The so-called “Boomer” generation is less traditional and more individualistic than previous generations. The sponsors of the study extrapolated that future generations may be even less traditional.
  • The “green” movement is becoming increasingly attractive to consumers who purchase services from the funeral services industry.
  • Consumers attitudes are changing about the meaning of life and death.
  • Most consumers equate traditional funeral services with death, whereas many would prefer an end of life service to focus on life. A ceremony that reflects on the life while building a foundation for mourners to feel good about their relationship with the deceased as they carry those believes into the future.
  • These feelings about death and end of life services transcend race, geography, sex and religious affiliation.

Final thoughts

Based on this study, it’s clear that the funeral services industry has a lot of work to do to adapt and change to best suit what the public is looking for in end of life services. Simply doing what we’ve always done is, increasingly, not enough to meet the expectations of this less traditional and more individualistic new funeral services consumer. How we, as an industry, meet this challenge is affecting the very existence of funeral homes as we know them today. Record numbers of funeral homes are now closing their doors as those who adapt thrive. As discounters and cremation societies rapidly grow their businesses the opportunity to show the public the value in funeral service continues to diminish. Remember just like one poorly embraced cookie cutter funeral can take away the chance of your funeral home doing a dozen future funerals, One memorable celebration of life that moves people to say WOW! that’s the kind of funeral I want, can and will set the stage for future funeral plans.

The possibilities are exciting. Our funeral providers have an opportunity to shape the way end of life services continue in the 21st century. We have the chance to be the stage managers behind individually-choreographed funeral services where Celebrants and green funeral options will get people thinking and talking about creating meaningful and memorable funeral service. Just because that’s not the way we’ve always done it doesn’t mean that’s not the way of the future.

We invite you to share your thoughts about this study and how you see the funeral services industry evolving in the next decade. Please leave a comment and join the discussion.

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What Are Some of The Most Extreme Funerals You Have Been Involved With?

Clown Funneral Planning

We Die How We Lived

As we know, each and every funeral we do is unique, depending on families wants and needs for their departed loved ones. Some may want certain pictures in certain areas, or have something special in the casket with their loved one, or perhaps they’ve requested you to say something special in your eulogy. While each funeral is unique, they are pretty typical. We expect these minor deliverance’s for families. But then again…

Have you ever had the request to decorate the casket as a reindeer sleigh, with the deceased dressed as Santa? Or perhaps you needed to serve ribs to those attending the funeral, with the barbeque sauce cascading down as a water fountain? Over the top? Absolutely not! These are in fact actual funerals that have been held. They are definitely unique, and they are definitely extreme.

Scattering In Ocean

Surfer Funeral

Having directed some very unique funerals myself has made me to wonder what your most extreme funerals have been. Were they funny or maybe even scary? We’ve all had them, whether we work in a large city or a very small town. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Unique Funerals

Buried On His Bike!

A gentleman that had passed away owned a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Next to his family, this was the most beloved thing in his life. For his funeral, he was placed on his Harley in a glass casket that his children had built for him. The services were held around the glass casket, which was in an outside setting.

That’s pretty extreme. What was your most extreme funeral? How did you go about making the funeral special and unique for those in attendance? Another very interesting aspect of these extreme funerals is how those in attendance reacted to the service. Were they happy, angry, or downright appalled?

At the time of year when we’re made out to be morbid, ghoulish people, I’d love to hear of some very different types of funerals and how you handled them. Let’s all brighten the stigma surrounding funeral directors and share some of the uniqueness of our profession! I look forward to reading your interesting story soon!

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In Your Dying Dreams You May Find Peace….

Death DreamsJust before dying, people have reported experiencing remarkably vivid yet meaningful visions and dreams that bring great personal comfort to them in a moment that, by all accounts, should be terrifying. However, these visions are not considered near death experiences (NDEs) because the people reporting them do not “come back to life”. Instead, they complete the cycle of birth, growth, life and death by passing into what scientists call the “clinical” or biological stage of death, where nervous and respiratory system functioning stops. Although thousands of studies have been conducted investigating the phenomenon of NDEs, little research results exists regarding the dreams and visions of a dying individual.

What the Research Says

A study published in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care is considered the first study to accept a dying patient’s perspective on these dreams instead of a medical point of view, which insists that dreams, visions or hallucinatory events occurring to such patients can be attributed to dramatic changes in brain chemistry stemming medication side effects and a decreasing lack of oxygen and blood flow to the brain. According to the study, patients nearing their end of life found these dreams gave them great personal comfort and peace, helping them change their fearful perspective about death and accepting death without fear or anxiety. Authors of the study also suggest that physicians should not dismiss these experiences but recognize them as a positive aspect of the dying process.

In another study conducted at Hospice Buffalo, patients reported having at least one vision or dream that was much more vivid and memorable than normal REM dreams. These dreams exhibited emotionally insightful messages that predominantly involved loved ones who had already passed and were patiently waiting for them in some peaceful, otherworldly environment. In addition, researchers found that the closer a patient was to dying, the more they dreamed about dead relatives and friends, which patients described as pleasantly comforting to them.

Categories of Dying Dreams and Visions

Dreams 3A review of the existing data concerning dying dreams found that patients approaching death frequently have vividly realistic dreams involving:

  • The comforting presence of a deceased loved one (some patients reported seeing a loved one who was still alive but offered them solace and reassurance).
  • Preparing to leave on a journey with a living or dead relative. For example, one patient said she had a dream about boarding a plane with her son, (who was still living) and felt great comfort and peace as they boarded the plane together.
  • Engaging or just watching deceased relatives and friends. Realizing that their deceased loved ones had not simply “disappeared” and seemed happy and content also gave them a powerful sense of comfort and peace.
  • Feeling like their deceased loved ones were waiting for them to pass. One woman told researchers a few days before her death that she had dreamed of standing at the top of a staircase while her dead husband patiently waited for her at the bottom of the staircase.
  • Some people report reliving distressing or traumatic life experiences in the form of dreams or visions days or hours before dying. Reliving distressing experiences in this way seemed to be a kind of catharsis that relieved them of the pain they had felt while alive so that the transition from life to death could be completed in peace.
  • Some patients dreamed of unfinished business or the inability to complete important tasks before they passed. For example, dying young mothers in some studies experienced distressing dreams about wanting to continue caring for their children until they were grown.

What Medical Professionals Should Do

Researchers of dying dreams strongly urge medical professionals, as well as skeptical family members and friends, to accept these dreams because not accepting them may be detrimental to the mental health of those dying. Hospice Buffalo Director of Research Pei Grant states that “we need to treat the whole patient, not just the disease, by remembering that overall quality of life, even at the end of life, is just as important as it is during life”. She recommends that practitioners and families talk with patients and loved ones about their dreams and accept them as real and meaningful. Interacting in this way with a dying person allows them look back on their life, come to terms with certain experiences and gives them a chance to process their feelings about death. Grant says that being there and listening is the best thing a loved one can do for a friend or relative who is dying. “This acknowledgement of the personal significance of end of life dreams and visions helps families and patients through the difficult transition from accepting a negative diagnosis, they process of dying and finally, death itself”.

Withdrawing from the External World

Dreams 2In addition to comforting dreams and visions, patients also report strong feelings of detachment from the “real” world and loss of interest in what living people consider reality. A short time before death, dying people may become less responsive to touch, voice or other stimuli and appear to be in a light sleep. Sometimes they may unexpectedly emerge from this detachment and appear as though nothing was wrong with them. Now talkative and alert, the person may be eager to talk about their dreams as well as personal insights they discovered while in this state of withdrawal. During this time, loved ones should accept what they have to say and reassure them that what is happening to them is real, relevant and purposeful. Don’t distract them from talking about their dreams. Remain supportive, non-critical and continue providing as much loving attention as possible.

What Happens After the Death of a Loved One?

Experiencing the emotional effects of the death of a loved one is an intense and complicated process involving conflicting emotions that many individuals find hard to understand or manage. The sudden death of someone who was not expected to pass away is probably the kind of death which causes the most impact on individuals. Talking to a healthy and living human being one day and discovering they are no longer alive the next can generate severely crippling emotional issues that people often deal with by using illegal drugs or exhibiting other forms reckless behavior.

Symptoms of the Grieving Process

Repressing emotions caused by the death of a loved one can create physical symptoms which you might not realize are the result of your emotions. Feeling depressed, alone or confused can activate stress hormones which can cause physical complaints such as backaches, insomnia, sleeping too much, heart palpitations and even flu-like symptoms. Sometimes people think there is something seriously wrong with them and visit many different doctors who tell them they can find nothing wrong. It usually takes a referral to a professional grief counselor to help the person understand what is causing these symptoms

Dealing with Emotions

Receiving counseling from a therapist trained in dealing with grief and other strong emotions associated with the death of a loved one can greatly help the affected individual in realizing and coping with his emotions. Guilt, despair, confusion and fear are all common emotions people experience after a loved one dies. Ignoring these emotions will only prevent them from being understood and eventually assimilated into the everyday emotions that one feels. Moreover, knowing that the dying dreams and visions experienced by a loved one just prior to death gave that person much peace and comfort may help relieve feelings of loss and grief associated with losing a loved one, since some levels of grief can be traced back to a person’s own fearful feelings about death.

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I Will Die November 1st!

Britney

Could You Put A Date On “Your” Death?

A young woman in Portland, Oregon will die on November 1st, 2014. Brittany Maynard, formerly of the San Francisco Bay area in California has chosen to die the day after her husband’s October 30th birthday.

Brittany Maynard’s Story

Brittany, 29, married her husband in 2013. Shortly after the wedding, she started experiencing horrific headaches that debilitated her and kept her up at night. While she was on vacation with her husband, on New Years Day, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. More specifically, grade II Astrocytoma, and given 3 years to live.

The cancer progressed rapidly, and in April it had upgraded to grade IV Glioblastoma multiforme, which is a much more severe form of brain cancer. At that time she was given six months to live, and told that even with treatment she could only extend her life to 14 months.

After the doctors told her what the quality of the rest of her life would be like, she decided to end her life on November 1st. She wanted to enjoy her last day of life on her husband’s birthday, so they could have one last happy memory together before she passed on.

The family moved to Portland, Oregon, which is one of the only states with a death-with-dignity law. There, she was able to obtain a lethal prescription to end her life painlessly and peacefully.

Funeral PlanningOn November 1st, she will retreat to her bedroom with her family by her side, and pass away quietly listening to her favorite music.

Brittany Maynard’s Fight For Suicide Rights

Since her diagnosis and decision, Brittany has been sharing her story and fighting for suicide rights as an advocate for Compassion & Choices. She also set up The Brittany Maynard Fund to fight for death-with-dignity laws in states that haven’t yet passed the legislation.

She says that she will spend every last minute that she has left fighting for the rights of others with terminal illnesses to end their lives on their terms, so that they can have control over how they die.

Her goal is to change the laws so that people aren’t forced to die painful deaths. Through educating others, it is her hope that one day, assisted suicide will be a healthcare option for terminally ill people everywhere.

How Assisted Suicide Works

Currently Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and New Mexico are the only states that allow physicians to write prescriptions for assisted suicide. In order to qualify for assisted suicide, a patient must reside in the state and have a terminal illness that will kill them within six months.

The patient must ask for the prescription verbally twice, at least 15 days apart. Then, they have to ask for it once in writing. The patient has to take it in the doctor’s presence, but they have to take it themselves without help. The doctor cannot administer it.

The Court Of Public Opinion

Assisted suicide is a very controversial topic. You have people on all sides, making arguments for and against it. There are the religious people claiming it’s a sin, and the alternative healers. The thing is, most of these people have never lived through the pain and suffering from a terminal illness.

First, you have the people who are against suicide. However, assisted suicide isn’t people who are killing themselves, it’s people who already have a disease that’s killing them. These people aren’t suicidal, they simply want to choose how they die, instead of letting the disease choose.

If the option of assisted suicide wasn’t there, people might seek other means. This isn’t a selfish act. When an animal is sick with a terminal illness, we have it euthanized. Why can’t a person decide that they want to die without pain and suffering?

The thing people often forget is that it’s about the person who’s suffering, not anyone else. It’s everyone else that wants them to stay and suffer. If they want to go, people should let them go. Assisted suicide is not a selfish act, forcing them to hold on and suffer is.

There are those that believe that terminally ill people who ask for assisted suicide feel depressed because of their illness. These people are of the belief that once the depression gets treated, they won’t want assisted suicide. However, they aren’t depressed, they just don’t want to suffer. The gift of life isn’t a gift when you have no quality of life.

When someone dies, we often say, “at least he didn’t suffer,” or “at least she’s not suffering anymore.” So, why does society even consider letting someone suffer for months until their death in the first place?

How Assisted Suicide Affects The Survivors

If a person commits suicide for selfish reasons it leaves the family devastated with more questions than answers, and they never fully recover. They are always wondering what they could have done differently or if there are signs they should have noticed, and how they could have prevented it.

If a person dies from assisted suicide, the family generally knows ahead of time, and has time to prepare and say their good-byes so when the time comes they’re prepared. They mourn the loss of their loved one as they would if they had died from the disease, but there’s no sudden shock.

Everyone wants to know that their loved one’s final wishes were carried out. The guilt of knowing that a family member or loved one never received their last wish would be far greater than knowing that they died with dignity, the way they wanted to. They also know that their loved died peacefully and painlessly.

How Assisted Suicide Affects Funeral Planning

When a loved one chooses assisted suicide, they can rest assured that their eulogies will be about the way they lived, not about how they suffered in the last days before they died. Additionally, because they were able to plan ahead for their death, they can also plan their funeral, their way.

Farewell My Love

Farewell My Love

Often we carry our last memory of the person who passed with us forever. Assisted suicide allows family members and friends to remember their loved one the way they wanted people to remember them, and not frail and debilitated from a long battle with an illness.

It’s important to keep in mind that some funeral homes or ministers may refuse to conduct funerals, or some funeral rites, for people who have committed suicide, assisted or otherwise.

The right to die is a controversial one, but it affects us all. Some people see Brittany as weak, or giving up hope. However, Brittany is a very strong woman for fighting what she wants and believes in, to the very end. She’s spending her last days fighting for the rights of others to die with dignity.

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Man Dies and Birds Get a New Home!

Grandpas ashes in the gardenIn the past few weeks, I learned a lot about death and cremation. I was close with my Grandpa, but was shocked to see him pass. Afterwards, I had to help my family find the best ways to honor him at the funeral. This meant arranging the burial and making the decision to cremate. We wanted to find something beautiful that accurately depicted the type of person Grandpa was.
One of the things I will always remember about Grandpa is that he loved to watch the birds. He would wake up at 5:00 AM, brew his coffee and listen to the birds sing. Before he got sick, he built a stunning bird feeder that would attract some of the prettiest birds in the neighborhood.

Monument memorial

He Would Not Want to be Here

After he passed, we weren’t sure what to do. We knew that whatever we did to remember him by had to be ecofriendly and it needed to incorporate our fondest memories of him. I did some research, since I knew he wanted to be cremated, and found perfect solution. He loved working in his garden and we all thought it would be appropriate to scatter his ashes there. We learned that special cremation urns are now available to scatter the ashes. We picked one that after the scattering the urn converts into a memorial birdhouse. Perfect to place in his garden! He would have loved it.

Cremation is a becoming more popular in the death care industry. I always thought that when a body is cremated, they had to be put in a jar and placed in the home. After talking with the funeral director, I learned that I couldn’t be more wrong. There are dozens of options available for people after they have been cremated. These options have made it possible to get a more custom funeral. Family members can also have peace of mind knowing that they gave their loved one the funeral they deserved and wanted.

Scattering ashes has become much more popular over the past few years, and it is easy to see why. The funeral director I spoke with said it is now the top choice among family members. More than half of the people cremated in the United States have their ashes scattered. It cuts down funeral costs significantly and allows us to conserve our resources.
We put together a memorial service in his favorite spot in the backyard. It didn’t take much to move his bird feeder to the side. The funeral director was happy to help us make arrangements. I was actually really surprised when he suggested a Birdhouse Memorial Urn.

I was also shocked at the quality. When I picture an urn in my head, I always think of black and gray metal urns with some decoration. The urns that I was shown were nothing like that. Birdhouse urns are beautiful, allowing them to serve as a peaceful reminder of the person. We selected a beautiful wooden urn made from a mango tree.

Birdhouse Urn

Urn That Coverts To Birdhouse!

When the idea was first brought up to our family members, not everyone was receptive to the idea of scattering. Uncle Robbie knew that while Grandpa wanted to be eco-friendly, he was also a very traditional man. We discussed the idea as a family before deciding to have an open casket service in addition to the scattering ceremony. This helped keep our family traditions alive and allowed us to pay our final respects to Grandpa before his ashes were scattered.

Our Grandpa was placed in a Birdhouse Memorial Urn for a lot of reasons. Not only was it decorative, we thought we could place it close to the feeder in the yard, keeping all the birds in the neighborhood happy. We know that he wanted to share his knowledge and love for birds with everyone, so why not create a beautiful home for them?
The memorial urn that we got was specially designed to scatter his ashes safely and effectively. The ceremony we had was very lovely, and we are happy that we didn’t have to travel far. While it wasn’t a traditional funeral, the service helped us to remember Grandpa. I still remember all of his friends and family showing up. People stayed after the scattering and shared in a social reception. It was great to hear the stories of a younger grandpa. I had no idea he raced motorcycles!

Scattering Urn into BirdhouseScattering ceremonies may seem like they are difficult to plan, but they are quite easy. For us, we knew right away that Grandpa would feel most at home in the backyard watching over us, his spirit soaring with the birds. I know a friend who said they wanted to have a similar ceremony in a park. We talked to the funeral director first, who helped us make some arrangements. Honestly, we had no idea how to plan a funeral on our own.
One thing that I noticed is that people like to see living memorials and are proud to be a part of the ceremony. Even in life we supported Grandpa’s ecofriendly practices, and everyone was happy to be able to fulfill his final wishes in a way that would support his ideals. Even the birds in our yard seem happier.

Scattering Urns

Learn More (Click Here)

After the ceremony, we moved Grandpa’s bird feeder closer to his urn. We know that he would want to be able to see the birds, no matter where he was. It didn’t take long before a small pair of chickadees moved in. As the seasons changed, we saw a wide range of birds come and go, knowing that each one put a smile on Grandpa’s face.
I am glad that I don’t need to go very far to visit Grandpa. His birdhouse is a living memorial that I can see from my kitchen window. We are keeping his memory alive with a functional urn that allowed him to have a dignified funeral. It shows us that life goes on and that we can still thrive while remembering our dear Grandpa.

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Robin Williams….What Can We Learn

Sad FuneralsUnless you’ve been away on a deserted island, you know that actor/comedian Robin Williams killed himself last Monday in his California home. The sadness most of us felt when we first heard the news was powerful. Here was a man that seemingly had everything–a loving family, a successful career, an artistic gift and the wealth that decades in the entertainment industry had earned him. If he could succumb to a sadness so profound that ending his life seems the only solution, what does that leave for the rest of use, many of us pondered.

That he battled–and largely overcame–addiction was widely known. In the days following Williams’ death, it has also become known that he struggled with depression and that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While such knowledge may make his actions easier to understand, it makes his death no easier to bear.

Gentle Caring Clown

Gentle Caring Clown

While Robin Williams’ tragic death made headlines because of his notoriety, he is far from the only person to take his own life. Someone dies from suicide in the United States every 13.3 minutes. More than 38,000 Americans die by their own hand each year, an average of 105 per day.  That’s more people than live in  Beaufort, South Carolina; Bardstown, Kentucky; Cooperstown, New York or Telluride, Colorado. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Although people who choose to end their own life may have feel alone at the end, a person who commits suicide leaves, on average, six close family members and/or friends.

Funeral planning and suicide

Suicides are some of the most difficult deaths to deal with, both for family and friends–and also for funeral professionals. Suicides are usually unexpected and family and friends haven’t had time to think about what sort of arrangements the deceased may have wanted. That is especially true when a young person dies, and more than 16 percent of suicides are people under 21 years of age.  In addition, family may still be in shock and denial about their loved one’s death when they meet with the funeral professional. This can hamper decisions like picking a casket, choosing a service and opting for burial or cremation.

Grief On Hold

As funeral directors, we are in a unique position to help families cope with the overwhelming grief and shock that accompanies suicide and help them to start the healing process. Whereas family members and friends may be afraid to talk about a suicide death and allow immediate family members to share their emotions, a good funeral director is non-judgmental and can provide that needed “rock” to lean on during the initial grieving and funeral planning process.

To provide the best support and service for the loved ones of someone who has committed suicide, funeral professionals should treat the death as a normal situation. Friends and family members of someone who died by suicide often feel isolated and alone.  Treating their situation as you would any other funeral can help the family better cope with the death.

Funeral professionals can also provide information about support groups that might be of assistance to survivors of a suicide. Such people might not feel at ease talking to co-workers or friends about how they are feeling. A support group can put them in touch with others who have been through a similar situation.

What can we learn from Robin Williams’ death?

For all of the people who successfully commit suicide each year, more than ten times that number–nearly 400,000–attempt it. What can we learn from Robin Williams’ death? We can learn the signs that indicate a person is considering ending their own life and be vigilant. We can refuse to be smug and secure in our own busy lives and avoid thinking that suicide can’t happen in our tight circle of family and friends–because it can. And, we can hone our listening skills, paying more attention to what people are saying to us and less to what we are going to say next.

According to WedMD, the most common indicators that someone is contemplating suicide include:

  • Frequent talking about death
  • Losing interest in things they once enjoyed
  • Making remarks about their life being hopeless or pointless
  • Putting their affairs in order (e.g. making a will, selling possessions, tying up loose ends)
  • Change in mood from very sad to happy
  • Calling or visiting friends and family to say “goodbye”

And, a few suicide facts:

  • More than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have clinical depression or other diagnosable mental illness, according to WedMD.
  • Although women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts than males, men are much more likely to act on those thoughts. More than three-quarters of all suicides in the United States are men.
  • More than one-third of all suicides involve alcohol, anti-depressants and/or opiates.
  • The highest suicide rate is among people between ages 45 and 64 (18%), with Americans 85 years of age and older being the group with the second highest rate of suicide (16.9%.)
  • Suicide rates are higher in the western United States and lower in the large metropolitan areas of the northeast.

Amid the vast outpouring of tributes, opinions and grief about Williams’ death all over the Internet, I was most struck by a simple Facebook post from Kennedy cousin and journalist, Maria Shriver. She posted the reminder for all of us to “Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Well said, Maria. Well said.

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams. You touched many, many more people than you ever knew.

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Why is Scattering Ashes So Popular

Spreading Ashes

Everyone is Doing it!

The scattering of ashes is now the most popular thing to do with cremation ashes. Keeping ashes home in a cremation urn is still common, however the burial of the urn in a cemetery is being bypassed by the faster and more glamorous method of scattering the ashes to the four winds and becoming one with nature. In fact, research indicates that almost half of all Americans choose cremation over a ground burial or mausoleum. Of those being cremated I estimate that more then 60% are choosing to scatter. Why have scattering ashes become such an acceptable and apparently desirable aspect of the funeral process? I would say that one reason is that survivors can choose locations of natural beauty that are both meaningful to the deceased as well as those who live on. People are drawn towards nature when faced with a death, they want to do what’s natural and like the idea of returning to the earth ASAP! Sociologists suggest that it may have something to do with the fact that people are highly mobile now and generations of families rarely remain in the same area as they did 50+ years ago. Moreover, because the economy and job market are consistently unstable, it is less likely that a family member would remain living close enough to visit another family member’s grave for an extended period.

It Makes People Feel Good

Scattering Ashes at SeaPeople who have participated in scattering the ashes of a loved one say it is a deeply emotional experience that makes them feel closer to the deceased because they are doing something so personal and meaningful on behalf of the person’s remains.  In addition, knowing they are fulfilling their loved one’s last wish helps them deal with the loss of that person by creating a sense of oneness with his or her spirit. For some, scattering ashes strengthens the emotional bond they had with the deceased by renewing a special spiritual bond that cannot be experienced while alive.  When we allow the wind or water to embrace a loved one’s ashes, we feel deep within ourselves that they are experiencing a rapturous sensation of freedom, vibrant energy and serenity. Scattering ashes because the deceased wanted you to scatter their ashes over the sea, a beach at sunset, into the clouds or over mountains from an airplane can relieve the anger, sadness, guilt and pain of losing that person to the natural processes of birth, maturation and death.

 

More Affordable Than an Expensive Traditional Burial

Unless the deceased had the means to maintain a life insurance policy for 20 or more years, purchasing a traditional funeral is often left up to his or her family members. Caskets are expensive and require you to buy a cemetery plot. Essentially, people just do not have the money for a traditional burial anymore so they are choosing different and less conventional perspectives regarding funeral preparations and the location of a loved one’s final resting place. Today’s society is more concerned with the spiritual and ceremonial aspect of the funeral process and less concerned about the physical disposition of the traditional handling and viewing of the body.

The Going “Green” Movement

Green Ashes

Scattering = Green Footprint

Since the 1990s, “going green” has slowly but steadily improved all aspects of our lives; from recycling items at home, using natural ingredients in cleaning products and taking part in preserving the environment by establishing more animal reserves and protected wildlife areas. This concern over excessive land use and the destruction of forests for commercial purposes has also contributed to the popularity of cremation and scattering a loved one’s ashes. Injecting a body with harmful chemicals and putting it in a man manufactured casket then sealing it in a concrete vault, all to take up space, just isn’t cool anymore.

People are Living Longer and Making Their Own Burial Decisions

In 1900, the average lifespan for U.S. citizens was 46 for men and 48 for women. Today, it is 73 for men and 76 for women. This means that people are living long enough to make their own decisions about their final wishes instead of their relatives making funeral plans. According to surveys asking men and women why they opt for having their ashes scattered, the four main reasons for electing to be cremated are: 1) it is more affordable; 2) greener; 3) simpler to arrange and 4) personal preference. They love the idea of using a bunch of the money they saved on cremation and putting it into a grand celebration of their life in a more party like atmosphere.

 Water and Earth Scattering

Scattering In Ocean

Surfer Gets Scattered

Specially made urns are used to scatter ashes over a body of water or landscape that come in a variety of colors, shapes and styles. They are functional in a way to prevent accidental dispersion of ashes until the scattering ceremony takes place or are tube-like and come with a cap to keep ashes safe until the scattering ceremony. Some scattering urns even convert into a birdhouse following the scattering. Ashes get spread and birds get a new home in which they may continue the cycle of life. Scattering at sea can get a bit messy because of the wind and the waves. Using an urn that’s made to scatter ashes at sea can add ease and dignity to the scattering ceremony itself. Biodegradable urns that float a few minutes allowing people to toss flower petals as the urn drifts, then eventually sinks and dissolves in the water. Ashes are held safely in biodegradable urns until they are buried in the ground or placed in water, where the urn slowly disintegrates and returns to the elements from which it came.

Where and Why Do People Scatter Their Loved One’s Ashes?

The most popular places to scatter cremated remains are naturally meaningful places that the deceased loved and revered. Beaches, lakes, parks, a favorite vacation spot or even the Minneapolis Mall of America are places where “ashes” have been scattered. Over water and in the garden are the two most popular locations. Scattering ashes from a helicopter or small plane while flying above a place that was special to the deceased is also becoming more common.

Scattering Lets Your Spirit Soar

Scattering Lets Your Spirit Soar

Spiritual concepts surrounding the act of scattering a person’s ashes originally come from Hindu and Buddhist beliefs regarding physical, or bodily life. The belief is that the life one lives on Earth is ephemeral and the soul experiences many transmigrations as an eternal but ever-evolving spirit. Over thousands of years, Hindu and Buddhist beliefs concerning cremation were eventually adopted by mystical philosophers, spiritual individuals searching for an alternative to traditional religions and naturalists who wanted to symbolically return themselves to the place from which they came–the Earth.

Scattering Ashes Helps People Through the Grieving Process

After the death of a loved one, people experience five stages of grief–numbness, yearning, guilt, anger and acceptance–in varying intensities. Some may feel more anger than others while some miss the deceased so much they cannot move past the stage of “yearning” towards the final stage of acceptance. Reality may not hit a person until the memorial service is actually underway and they see the body of the deceased resting in

Scattering Ashes

Free At Last!

an open casket.

Following the strange sensation of disassociation after realizing that a loved one has passed away, most people have feelings of numbness replaced by a yearning for the loved one, an almost agitated state that causes moments of extreme anxiety, panic and hopelessness.  Watching the burial of a loved one–the whole process of lowering the casket into the grave and later, visiting the grave after it has been filled in with mounds of dirt–can be more upsetting than the actual passing away of the deceased. Although the belief that a person’s soul leaves the body at death dominates most Western religions, it is still hard to think about someone you loved very much as a body buried underground.

Cremation Jewelry and Keepsake Urns
–Another Way to Always Feel Close to a Loved One

Ashes Jewelry

Jewelry To Hold Ashes

In addition to scattering ashes, you can keep some of the loved one’s ashes always with you by placing a small amount of the ashes in cremation keepsake urns or jewelry pieces.  Cremation jewelry comes in three different styles: the kind filled by the customer, jewelry made with cremation ashes integrated into glass beads and jewelry made from the actual ashes.  After a scattering ceremony, cremation jewelry keepsakes are beautiful mementos that can help those having a difficult time with the grieving process hold onto their loved one in a symbolic way for as long as they want without needing to make an emotionally difficult visit to a grave site. This is why it’s always a good idea to retain a portion of ashes to be shared with surviving family and friends.

Jeff Staab is a funeral director in southern Vermont. A certified Life Cycle Celebrant. He owns and operates www.cremationsolutions.com and is a cremation memorial and ash scattering specialist. When he’ not dreaming up the next cool cremation product he enjoys adventure in the mountains and on the sea, cooking for friends, social responsibility and green living. He can be reached at jeff@cremationsolutions.com

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Introducing Our Funeral Celebrant Writing Service

Americans have embraced the current trend of Celebrant style Funerals and Memorials. These powerful, meaningful and soul healing ceremonies are here to stay. Now those planning a funeral can use the services of a professional Celebrant no matter where and when the ceremony will take place. You can now hire a professional Life Cycle Celebrant to write a well crafted ceremony that you will be able to have conducted by a Celebrant or anyone  you please.

What to do RevTraditionally, funeral ceremonies have been rote rituals typified by the same old hymns, prayers and eulogies. Family members and friends are often left feeling empty. Today, families and friends are seeking a funeral ceremony that is more meaningful, and celebrant funerals are surely the answer!. As a result, people are getting creative in crafting their own personalized ceremony that reflects their loved one’s life. I lived, I mattered, here is what I believe, please share my legacy” are thoughts that most people desire to have their funeral or memorial communicate to their loved ones. Crafting a unique eulogy, adding personalized photos and videos and selecting more contemporary music are just a few of the ways people are creating a spiritual experience along with celebrating or honoring a life lived. Not only do we grieve, we rejoice in life.

Funeral Writing

Unique Like You!

While many clergy prepare eulogies the old-fashioned way, most people today are opting for a more meaningful service that truly captures the personality, beliefs and life philosophy of their loved one. The stage for traditional funeral ceremonies has been replaced with celebrant funerals and celebrant memorials. At Cremation Solutions we are proud to offer our innovative and personal celebrant funeral writing service that goes hand-in-hand with celebrant funerals and celebrant memorials and can be ordered right online. With our funeral writing service, you fill out an in-depth questionnaire one line and then have the opportunity to work with a certified funeral celebrant selected just for you. The Celebrant will first review your answers and then through consultation by phone, email or Skype will capture the information needed to write a complete funeral service as well as committal services if necessary. You can guide the funeral celebrant with the tone and feel that you desire for a personalized service. Our funeral writing services can be used in any location and be conducted anyone capable of public speaking.  We also offer a custom “Life Story” video service as well as professionally printed funeral programs to help further support funeral services.

Funeral Writing Service by Professional Funeral Celebrants

Sky CelebrationOur funeral writing service is written by professional certified life cycle celebrants trained at the Celebrant Foundation and Institute to write and conduct healing ceremonies. Although celebrant funerals are popular today, celebrants are not in every town. With our funeral writing service, you can have celebrant style funeral services written by pros and performed by a friend, yourself or added to the ceremony of your clergy. Keep in mind that celebrant funeral ceremonies create an atmosphere of healing and are a natural stepping stone for what was and what will be your legacy. You’ve got only one chance to get it right and leave an appropriate legacy of your loved one.

CFI LOGO 2010Our funeral celebrants take in-depth training at the Celebrant Foundation and Institute for six months. Our funeral celebrants undergo the intensive study of ritual theory, ceremonial structure, symbolism, choreography, storytelling and the history traditions and ritual throughout the world. The training at the Celebrant Foundation and Institute is the gold standard for the industry, and you get a professional who can create and write a ceremony for your unique needs.

Celebrant Cost

Including Prices

Working in close collaboration with you, our celebrant funeral writers will carefully craft a eulogy to create a meaningful ceremony. There are many options when preparing the eulogy, including preferred readings, poems, memorable quotes, rituals and music. After crafting the idyllic ceremony, you are given a draft for approval. We never deliver a written eulogy until every detail has been checked and approved by you and your family. In addition we have celebrants from coast to coast and if you want a celebrant to conduct the service as well. we can connect you to one in your area.

Life Story Videos and Funeral Programs

Funeral VideoIn addition to our funeral writing service, we offer life story videos that can be played at the funeral or reception. Life story videos capture important events that create forever memories. Viewing life story videos at any funeral ceremony allows friends and family to reflect and rejoice on their memories of a loved one. Even though life story videos cannot eliminate grief, they are an excellent resource for psychological, emotional and spiritual comfort. They always add a special touch to any funeral service and copies can be made to share as a precious keepsake.

Our funeral FuneralProgramThumbprograms are created online using one of 30 different designs. We have beach scenes, spiritual themes, classic designs, patriotic templates and music themes. The themes can be matched up with the video theme as well. There’s something well-suited to most everyone’s life and interests. However, our funeral programs are far from stock, one-size-fits-all pieces. Our program allows you to add as much or as little information as you see fit, to truly make a personal remembrance of your loved one.
 You’ll find that working with funeral celebrants offers you a lot of flexibility and versatility in the preparation of a funeral ceremony. These professionals come with no set rules and no set agenda and can incorporate multiple religions and life styles with no bias. They can help you prepare the perfect ceremony that is upbeat, solemn or a mix of both. The focus is to provide friends and families with a ceremony that is truly comforting and personalized.

If you’re planning a funeral ceremony and want only the best, you can turn to the pros at Cremation Solutions. Whether you choose our funeral writing service or a life story video, we keep you engaged in the whole process. It’s your input that allows us to create the perfect ceremony for that special one. To find out more about our new Funeral Celebrant Writing Service, including prices and details  CLICK HERE!

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Celebrants Will Save The American Funeral

I Hereby Predict That Celebrants Will Save The American Funeral !

Celebrants
Bringing people back to funerals, One life at a time

Celebrants are:
Shining light on a life well lived

Funeral Celebrants are
Putting the spot light on the lives we live

Celebrants
Helping funeral directors take back the funeral, one life at a time

Celebrants
Write the outline on the back of the book of life

Celebrants
Helping lives to shine on, one funeral at a time

Invite the deceased back to the funeral, hire a celebrant

Celebrants
Artist that paint portraits of the lives we live

Celebrants
Narrators of the book of life

Take the wheel of life on a final voyage
Hire a celebrant

Celebrants
Taking the wheel, for life’s final passage

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Holograms Allow The Dead To Attend Their Own Funerals !

All eyes were on the stage at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, as no other than music legend Michael Jackson took the stage. That is right, nearly five years after his death, new holographic imaging technology allowed for his 3D, free standing image to grace the stage once again. This is not the first time holograms have been used to wow the audience. CNN used holograms to grab the attention of their viewers as they had correspondent Jessica Yellin and guest star and musician Will.i.am report live on TV as a hologram for the 2008 elections.

CNN used live people to make their hologram debut, but what about Michael Jackson, he has been gone for since 2009. This site was reminiscent of the 2012 Coachella Festival when Snoop Dogg took the stage with his long-time friend and fellow rapper, Tupac, who had died in 1996. This new technology of bringing the dead back to life is receiving mixed reviews by the public. While some people are amazed at the technology and love seeing their favorite icons back on stage, other people find it disrespectful to the dead and a little creepy.

What is a Hologram?

Holographic technology was the brainchild of Dennis Gabor, who came up with the theory that this type of technology was possible. This technology has advance greatly over the years, especially in the last decade and seems to be making dramatic improvements all the time. When CNN created their holograms for the 2008 election night, they used a series of 35 high-definition cameras to capture video pictures from different angles that were used to create a hologram. In this instance, the co-anchors on the show could not see the hologram on stage with them, but it could be seen on the screen and by the viewing audience.

Typically, a hologram is created using a different method that involves laser beams, mirrors and beam splitters. The laser beam is directed towards the mirrors, which work to reflect the beam to the beam splitter. This actually cuts the beam in half by sending half of the light to the object being captured and the other half to the hologram. These two beams are again redirected ,and meet at a photographic glass plate, where it is recorded.

Unlike a photograph where the image is recorded and the transferred into a picture, holographic technology only captures a pattern. This pattern is what is used to transform the object into a hologram. One of the most amazing things with this technology is that if a magnifying glass is used in the process it will magnify the object automatically. If the hologram were created prior to the person’s death, they would be used at the object being recorded. If the person were already decease, previously taken pictures and video footage would need to be used.

How to Integrate a Hologram into a Funeral

The increasing use and popularity of holographic technology has many people wondering if there is an effective way to integrate holograms into a funeral. This technology is only expected to improve in its capabilities in the upcoming years. In addition, the use of these technology and its tools will likely decrease in costs as it become more popular. This will certainly make hologram integration into funeral planning possible, but how will it work.

Hologram Funeral Planning

Or Just Bring R2D2 To The Funeral!

This simplest way to make this integration occur is to have a holographic message prerecorded before a person passes away, and then play it back during the funeral. This will give a person the ability to leave a final message to their loved ones. This has actually been done for years, but through a video recorder with the video displayed on a screen or TV. A hologram will provide a life-like version of the person and make it seem like they are almost in the room at the funeral.

Another way would be for the families, as part of their funeral planning, to convert their loved one, through the use of old video footage and pictures, into a hologram. Of course, this method would require more work and probably cost a bit more, but it would still have the same effect. This would be a way for grieving family members to honor their loved one and pay a special tribute to them. This may also allow friends and family to say their goodbyes in a more personal way.

Not only could a hologram be used as part of the funeral service allowing the deceased to say his/her final goodbyes, but it could also be used in during viewing allowing family and friends to pay their respects to the decease. In addition, the hologram would be something the family could look back at days, weeks, or years later to remember their loved one by.

Is the World Ready for this New Technology?

Funeral Hologram and Video

Iron Man Uses Them. Why Not Funeral Directors!

The big question is not can this technology be done or even if a funeral hologram can be used effectively. The bigger question is how will using this new technology be received by those who attend the funeral. If the onstage performance of either Tupac or Michael Jackson shows any indication, society is split down the middle on how they feel about the use of holograms for the deceased. Many people thought that seeing Michael on the stage again was fantastic and some of his friends claimed that even Michael would have loved being a hologram. However, other avid Jackson fans felt it was disrespectful to his memory and just a bit creepy.

While this involves feeling about some of the top names in the music industry, how will people feel about it for a funeral of a loved one or close friend. It really is hard to tell. Presumably, people would not find it disrespectful if the deceased had prerecorded the holographic message before they passed away, since that was their choice to make. However, when the family makes the holograph after their loved one’s death, it may get different results. It may also depend on the delivery. Including a holographic message as part of the funeral services may not be as overwhelming for people as the thought of standing next to this hologram.

The truth is that holograms are already gaining in popularity and now that one of the most famous legend in the world has made his holographic musical debut, it is only going to become more popular. The use of a funeral hologram in the services may be inevitable, whether the world is ready for it or not. As with most new trends, the more people get used to seeing them, the less debate there will be about their use.

There are certainly some circumstances where a funeral hologram may be a great idea. Imagine the mother dying of cancer who wants to make sure her children remember her, or the father who wants to know his family will be alright after his death, or even someone who wants to be as humorous after his/her death as he/she was in life. For some people, this may be a great way to have people remember them just the way they want them to, rather than only thinking of how they died.

Urns For Ashes

Personal Urns “Too Real”!

If you are planning a funeral with or without cremation services and trying to determine if a funeral hologram is right for you or your loved ones, you should consider all your options. For now, at least, holograms used for the deceased are still surrounded by a lot of controversy. This may cause some people to feel uncomfortable, think (Personal Cremation Urns) while others may think the idea is great.

In the end, it is a very personal decision that can only be made by yourself, and/or your family members. It is important that you take everyone’s feeling into consideration when making the decision to use a funeral hologram or not. What kind of message would your hologram give at your funeral?

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