Can The Funeral Industry Change With The Times?

Last November I published “Public Opinion Concludes Funeral Service Has Dropped the Ball!” where I outlined the findings of the 2012 public opinion study by Olson Zaltman Associates (OZA), completed at the request of the Funeral Services Foundation. To view the findings of the study see Funeral  Study. The post was meant to be the start of something much larger: a series of posts exploring the study’s findings and recommendations, but then I ‘hit a wall’. While I had about a billion thoughts about the ramifications of the study, I wanted to come up with some genuine solutions. I soon realized I would need to get the input of others if I was to come up with solutions that came from my singular experiences in my twenty plus years working as a funeral director. The study intrigued me and I was anxious to hear responses. There was some chatter about the importance of the findings and industry analysis of the findings, but very little in the way of solutions for those working day to day. Most suggestions from industry experts were met with the seeming paralysis of funeral directors and owner/operators.  I wanted to acknowledge the study as a whole and form true and tried solutions that even a little country funeral home could implement. I understand how working in this business can lead to reinforced comfort zones that can be scary to break out of. Fear like this limits the ability to make significant changes in the way they do business, and the very future of funeral service.; I couldn’t get any words on the page. I guess I too was a victim of a paralysis of sorts.

 

I decided to get help and called my friend Kim Stacey to collaborate with me on this project, there’s nothing like a second set of eyes (and ears) to reinvigorate a project. She spent weeks connecting with funeral directors, owner/operators, consultants and association administrators; all of who helped us to shine a brighter spotlight on the issues raised by the study. “So many people gave graciously and generously; not just of their time, but of their very best thinking,” Kim noted in one of our follow-up conversations.

 

She was also quick to share something else: a chat with Todd Van Beck had opened her eyes wide enough, so she could really see how those working in funeral service are more than willing–almost eager–to criticize ourselves and others in the business, all the while decrying the very future of the profession. We are, it seems, crippling ourselves with negative talk. “I believe,” he began “that the average, day-to-day, typical American funeral director has undergone…undeserved beating by the national media and the self-appointed funeral critics.” The cumulative damage of these beatings, he argues, “results in funeral directors being filled with fear for the future, fear of change, and fear of making a mistake.” Fear is indeed a powerful motivator, but it is a poor motivator.”

 

Because we know Todd to be right–that fear is a lousy motivator–Kim and I are both adamant this series will be different. We’re not here to make you feel worse about what you do and how you do it, or bemoan the future of funeral service; we’re here to discuss, motivate and uplift–and ultimately get you to make changes in the ways you see fit. We want you to weigh the evidence, trust your own thinking, and make only those changes which are authentically in line with your firm’s values; but bottom line–change is here and it’s always best to accept the fact and respond rationally, using all the resources at your disposal.

 

Basically, we want more funeral directors and owner/operators to see the significant potential found in the gap between how consumers see us and our services, and how we see ourselves. While we want to be positive and uplifting, we’re not going to sugar coat anything; so best be prepared.

 

What’s AheadCrossroads of Funeral Service

 

In the next edition of the Cremation Solutions blog, we’ll look at the initial finding noted in November’s post: that the general public sees funeral homes as dark, confining and sometimes even scary places. (In the OZA study, respondents said things like funeral homes “are real formal and not really inviting” and “sterile, cold and out-of-date”).  This is a really big issue, because these same people will do anything they can to avoid returning to a facility they think is unappealing.  ”If the consumer has less-than-positive feelings about a business,” began Alan Creedy, “but they go and experience the urge to leave, they will naturally do all they can to avoid coming back–and they’ll do what they can to keep their family from experiencing those same feelings. What does that mean? It means they’ll seek more comfortable alternatives to what you offer.”

 

oWe’ve all seen examples of funeral home design which is in line with the study’s findings: facilities like any one of the Anderson-McQueen locations: light, bright, open, and inviting.  Legacy Funeral Home in Edinburg, Texas has over 19,000 square feet of space, with a coffee lounge and reception area.

Scarry Funeral HomeYet, for every one of these fresh, modern facilities there are 100 small-to-medium funeral firms, often housed in aging buildings with too many small, uncomfortable rooms and too few windows. “Ninety percent of funeral homes are built ‘inside-out’,” said Alan. The public areas are interior rooms with no windows, and heavy drapery (often used to frame the casket). Add to those the low 8-foot ceiling, and you’ve got a funeral home that literally drives people out-the-door. But,” he notes, “if you’re running this kind of business you want them to linger, so you need to make the kind of changes which will cause them to stay awhile, share stories among themselves, and find communal comfort.”

 

We’re going to leave you now with a question. If your funeral home is, as Creedy believes; the primary touch point with those living in your service area–the very cornerstone of your brand– you will certainly benefit from looking around your facility and then asking yourself this question: “What signal is it sending?”

 

Don’t stop at just asking yourself the question: ask everyone you can. Take notes, and keep ‘em handy. We’ll be back soon, and want you to add your “two cents” (more would be even better!) to the conversation.  Shouldn’t “scary funeral homes” be a consumer perception from our past, not one from our future?

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When is it The Right Time To Put Down Your Pet

Funeral Planning For PetsEvery pet owner dreads it. It’s one of the most heartbreaking events one can go through. Most would rather not think about it. But regardless of how they may feel, they will have confront the reality that their pet will not be with them anymore.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. As funny as it sounds, losing a pet is very similar to losing a relative. Your pet was an integral part of your family. Most of your family memories involve your beloved pet. It’s nearly impossible to not get attached.

Dealing with the loss of a family pet can be incredibly difficult. This is why it’s important to be prepared. This post will discuss 4 things:

  • How to know when it’s time to put down your pet.
  • How to deal with the emotions invovled.
  • The best way to go about doing it.
  • Saying goodbye to your pet.

This post is designed to make this heartbreaking event easier on you. If you follow the advice given in this post, you will have an easier time dealing with the pain this will c

ause.

Knowing when it’s Time

Knowing when it’s time to put your pet down is one of the most difficult part of the process. You know that it may be time to make the decision, but you don’t want to part with your dog or cat.

Pets Love Us

There are several factors to consider if you think it may be time to euthanize your pet. Considering these factors will help you make the right decision for your pet and your family.

Your Pet’s Condition

If you have determined that your pet has become terminally ill, it’s likely that it’s time to put them down. Especially if it’s a condition that is incurable and painful.

Your Pet’s Functionality

In some cases, your pet may not be terminally ill, but they are unable to do the things they were able to do before. If your pet has just grown too old to live happily, it might be time.

Cost

If caring for your pet has become a serious financial burden, then they may be too ill or injured to remain. In this case, it’s best to consider euthanasia.

Your Veterinarian’s Opinion

Pets to SleepIf you are unsure of the decision you should make, you should definitely consult with your pet’s veterinarian. They can advise you on the course of action you should take.

The veterinarian can go over any potential treatment options that may be available to your pet. In some cases, your pet can still live longer as long as they have the right treatment. Also, if it is time to euthanize your pet, your veterinarian can help you do this humanely and peacefully.

As you make your decision, you may wish to discuss the care of the remains of your pet’s body with your family and veterinarian. You have several options, and your veterinarian can provide information about burial, cremation, or other alternatives.

In the end, your pet’s care is your decision. Make sure you get as much guidance as possible. You don’t need to make the decision right away. Take the time to truly assess if it is the right time.

Coming to Terms with It

If you have made the decision to euthanize your pet, your family is likely going through a very emotional time. Especially if your pet has been in your family for many years. This can be very painful, but there are things you and your family can do to help you cope with the pain.

Guilt

In some cases, a pet owner may feel guilty about deciding to euthanize their pet. This can be particularly difficult because the pet isn’t dying of natural circumstances.

You may feel like you should have known that your pet was getting sick. You should have seen this coming. Maybe you could have done something about it.

However, this isn’t true. In most cases, it isn’t easy to see that your pet is becoming seriously ill. Veterinarians may even have trouble foreseeing this sometimes. Don’t make things worse by blaming yourself. Just know that you cared for your pet the best way you knew how.

Grief

Losing a pet will cause grief for the entire family. Dealing with this grief can be very hard. If you are going to euthanize your pet, you need to make sure that you and your family are as prepared as possible.

It’s important to have a support network. Family and friends can help you get through this. Let the people close to you know about the decision you have made. They will know that they need to be there to support you and your family as you go through this time.

If you know people who have already been through this, they can be an excellent resource for you. They know what it’s like and can empathize with what you’re feeling. Others may not be as understanding if they have not owned pets.

Children

Putting Pets To Sleep

If you have children, this can be especially devastating for them. As the parent, it will be your job to help them get through this in a way that is healthy.

Make sure that you are up front and honest with your children about the decision you have made. Let them know that it’s okay for them to grieve and to talk about it.

Make yourself available if they want to talk about it. A pet’s death can be very confusing and upsetting for a child. If you are there to comfort them, it will make it easier on them.

Try to talk about the positive and fun memories you have of your pet. The more funny stories you talk about, the better. It will help your child keep the pet’s memory alive in their hearts.

How to Do it

The best way to euthanize your dog or cat is to consult with your veterinarian. They know how to conduct the procedure in a way that is humane.

You will need to make an appointment with the veterinarian to have this done. Make sure you are able to take a few days off of work in order to give yourself time to grieve and comfort your family afterward.

Find out what your vet’s procedures are for the procedure. In many cases, the pet owners prefer to be in the room and hold their pets when it’s time. Most vets are open to allowing you to say goodbye and be with your pet during their final moments.

Finding Closure

So what do you do afterward? Many pet owners feel like they need to find some type of closure after having their pet euthanized.

It’s not unusual for pet owners to hold a funeral for their pet as a way of saying a final farewell. It’s something that you and your family can work on and plan together.

You can figure out things to do to memorialize your pet. There are many ways to do this.

Pet Funerals Here are some good suggestions:

  • Create a photo collage
  • Create a photo album
  • Write a poem
  • Write down stories about your pet
  • Create a plaque

You can do one or all of these things to keep your pet alive in the memories of your family.

Pet Ashes Urns

Urns For Pet Ashes

After the ceremony, you will have needed to decide whether you want to bury your pet or cremate it. In some cases, families prefer to cremate their pets. That way they can keep the ashes as a memorial for their pet. In other cases, they prefer to have their pet buried in a pet cemetery. That way, they can come and visit whenever they want.

Regardless of the choices you make, make sure your family makes them together. It’s important that the whole family participates in this process. It makes it a lot easier on everyone involved.

Jewelry for dog ashes

Pet Jewelry That Holds Fur or Ashes

It’s not easy dealing with the death of a pet. It can be one of the most heartbreaking traumas a person can endure. It can be especially difficult if you have children. Make sure you get as much input as possible before making the decision. If you need to, don’t be afraid to seek out counseling or other types of professional help. Losing a pet is a serious matter, and you don’t want to deal with this event in a way that isn’t healthy for you or your family. There are many counselors who specialize in this type of grief. Your vet may even be able to make some recommendations.

Have a good support system for your family. Make sure you have the right vet who can make this process easy on you. Finally, make sure you and your family find some way to find closure after your pet’s passing. Doing this will help you cope with the grief in a way that is healthy and comforting.

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How Celebrants Can Help the Funeral Industry

Death is part of life. We all know that, yet many of us are unprepared for it. Loved ones left behind are unsure how to go about laying their deceased family member to rest other than the basic burial or cremation. The funeral is often assumed to be a part of the burial, so they may expect matters to simply fall into place as they just go through the motions: Eulogy, followed by kind words, followed by psalms, followed by hymns, and so on.

You can rise up and go beyond the emptiness of boring traditions and help a lost and grieving family members celebrate the life of their loved in a different and better way with Funeral Celebrants who understand what your clients want and need to say goodbye in a way that feels whole and provides a transition to move on.

Families depend on you to create a memorable funeral.

Grief On HoldWhen family members come into your funeral home to arrange things, they are often dull with grief and expecting you to plan the funeral for them. You will ask them about their loved one and try to come up with enough information for a basic obituary. You can hand the funeral ceremony over to your choice of clergy, knowing you can count on them to get the expected job done. Im sure the clergy will get just enough information to be able to express who the deceased was in life: their beliefs and what they meant to their survivors. The bare essentials created out of those simple guidelines, plus some psalms and hymns to tie things together, you have the basic and expected funeral.

The best way to gain the trust and loyalty of the families you serve is to exceed their expectations! There is a better way and to prepare a funeral that celebrates the deceased and helps those in attendance move through the transitions needed to embrace a life lived and support each other through feelings that are unique to each individual.  Funeral celebrants are trained and certified to write beautiful and creative funerals that go beyond the expected funeral.

We can help you create memories of joy for loved ones left behind.

Funerals Can Be Enlightning

Funerals Can Be Enlightning

Families and friends who have attended traditional funerals often leave as sad as they felt when they arrived. The eulogies often simply address the years of life lived, who they loved and raised, and what they did for a living as they did their duty for love and family. That is all well and good, but what about the joy the deceased had in life? What did they do that gave them pleasure and laughter in life? What did they value and share with their spouse, children, siblings, and friends? What message did they value so much that they would hope would continue beyond their life span and be carried by those they touched in life. Celebrants ask these questions with a complete questionnaire and interview process that stimulates survivors to share real life stories of the deceased. They then craft all they learn into a well written a memorable ceremony that shares their beliefs, values, humor, love, and joy through words, video, music, and anything else the symbolizes the life of the deceased.

When the family comes into your funeral home, they are lost and often unable to think clearly about the funeral. They may be thinking of details such as the casket and burial locations, logistics such as when it will be done and how to get everyone there. The last thing they may think about is how to send off their loved one with meaning. The irony is that the following days after the funeral when they reflect and talk to each other asking “How Was The Funeral”? The first thing they will talk about is the ceremony and how it made them feel. Followed by how did it truly reflect on the life and relationships of the person who died. Did the ceremony say I lived, I mattered, and I cared! That is where the real value of using Celebrants will reflect a positive light on your funeral bussiness.

Who can become a funeral celebrant?

Funeral CelebrantVirtually anyone can become a funeral celebrant, even a licensed funeral director. Grief counselors, hospice care providers, and social workers may have a natural calling to become Celebrants. Member of the clergy are also naturals. The main reason people become funeral celebrants is that they found they have a calling to help assist people to mark or celebrate the important moments in life of the family member who has passed on. Women are far more often drawn to the profession.

Is there a license to become a funeral celebrant?

No, there is no license, but the  funeral celebrants receive training to write and perform the celebration properly and they may even receive certification to indicate their training, but there is no government oversight or regulation. Often Celebrants are also trained in other life events as well, such as births, weddings, divorce and life transitions.

Funeral celebrants come from different walks of life. The may have experienced a traditional funeral and left feeling like something was missing and thought to themselves there must be a better way to say goodbye. They may then search for this better way and ultimately learn about becoming a Funeral Celebrant.

For example, hospice providers are present during the final months of a person’s life. They may listen to the stories of the patient’s life from the patient, their family members, and close friends. When the patient passes away, the loved ones enter a period of sadness and grief, with brief periods of levity caused by the memories of the deceased.

This is a light-bulb moment! They found laughter and joy even in their time of grief! The hospice care provider realizes this is what was missing at the funerals she attended in the past. The patient lived a long, loving and heroic life, why not celebrate who he was at the funeral so that the ones left behind can feel that love and joy as they send them off into the next stage of life! Thus a Funeral Celebrant is born.

What can this mean to your funeral home business?

Funeral Director with head up ass

Typical Response of a Funeral Director on Using Celebrants!

When a family comes to you establishment and you can provide them with much more than a simple tradition and find out how the family really wants to remember them. You can then use the skills of a Funeral Celebrant to create a lovely and memorable celebration that will help sad grieving family and friends leave with love and joy in their hearts.

What does this mean to you? Those who experience a true celebration at a funeral often remark to their families that is how they want their funeral to be when they go. This has proven to increase the public’s desire to pre-arrange funerals. You can setup everything needed for the celebration ahead of time to avoid rushing about and missing important details.

Costs for Funeral Celebrants vary depending on what is needed for the celebration but expect it to cost twice as much as a typical clergy donation. This is mainly because of the simple fact that Celebrants put in much more time and on average take 10 – 12 hours just to interview and write the ceremony. The extra time and effort will show in the quality of a more personalized funeral. Extras may include a Life Celebration Video of the deceased or specific music or even props present at the funeral. The writer may not necessarily be the speaker, so that may be a separate fee. Conversely, the writer may be the speaker, so they may charge a flat fee for the complete service or separate fees for each aspect of the celebration.

Your funeral home is a business that celebrates life.

funeralhome1In every town or city there are several funeral homes. Most are traditional ones that perform the basics. Your funeral home can be the one that stands out as more progressive and truly knows how to celebrate life. When a family loses someone they love, they will look to you to help them. Celebrants are trained to work with funeral directors and consider it their job to shine a positive light on the funeral home the hires them. Your relationship with your Celebrant will grow and you may find new ways to use their services, such as a public holiday service of remembrance or the opening of a new business. They want you to call them again and again so be sure to explain your special needs and likes.

Traditional funerals often do not satisfy people.

In the current social environment there are many people who do not define themselves as religious, thus they may prefer to keep religion out of the funeral service. Instead they may prefer to celebrate the life of the deceased live with stories, music, and videos. They may want to share funny or poignant stories that show who they were in life. Grieving family members may ask for certain songs to be played instead of hymns, certain poetry recited rather than psalms.

A funeral celebrant understands these different expectations and can help you provide these services for your clients. Your job is to help the living say goodbye to the deceased the way they wish to say it. The difference here is that the funeral is planned and arranged with minute detail.  A funeral celebration is a calming balm to the soul in a time of loss and sadness to lift the hearts into love and joy. We encourage you to learn more about Celebrants for your funeral home to take your business to the next level. You can keep up with the current social atmosphere that prefers to celebrate life instead of mourn death. Celebrants are here to help you help your clients say goodbye the way they want to say it: with meaning, with words, with love, and with joy so that they will come back again to your funeral home when they need to say goodbye to another loved one.

To locate a Certified Celebrant in your area you can check out the Celebrant Foundation and Institute www.celebrantinstitute.org or call #973-746-1792
To hire a Celebrant online to write but not perform a ceremony check out our Funeral-Writing-Services.

Jeff Staab is a Vermont based funeral director and Certified Life Cycle Celebrant. He can be reached at #877-365-9474 or info@cremationsolutions.com

Posted in Celebrant Funerals, Dealing With Grief, Funeral News, Funneral Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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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Posted in Celebrant Funerals, Funeral News, Funeral Service, Funneral Planning, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

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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