Cremation Jewelry Going Mainstream

Ashes Jewelry

New Pandora Styled Cremation Jewelry

Funerary art and jewelry have played a strong role in commemorating the loss of a loved one throughout history. Memorial jewelry initially gained popularity because there weren’t many alternatives for remembrance; photography didn’t exist and there weren’t a lot of options for tangible mementos. While many technological advances are available to our society today, memorial or cremation jewelry continues to be popular as a very personal and meaningful way to hold on to connections to those who have passed. As this ancient tradition continues and even grows in popularity today, Cremation Solutions is happy to offer a wide array of cremation jewelry and customized services that turn a small amount of your loved one’s ashes into an heirloom creation that you can wear close to your heart forever.

Preserve Your Connection

During the Victorian period it was common for people to save small locks of their loved ones’ hair within jewelry like lockets. This practice has never gone out of style and it likely never will. People will forever mourn the loss of a loved one just as they hope to celebrate the wonderful aspects of their loved ones’ lives. Cremation jewelry helps people remember that connection, and helps to reinforce that the love shared will never truly be gone from their lives.

Types of Cremation Jewelry

There are various types of cremation jewelry that suit a wide range of budgets and style preferences. From colorful beads and charms to elegant pendants and more, we’re sure you’ll find something special to commemorate a loved one. We even often a selection for pets who have passed on. In addition, commemorative jewelry makes a meaningful gift for family members, who will appreciate having something to treasure that reflects the pure essence of their loved one.

Cremation Solutions offers three primary types of cremation jewelry:

  • Custom-made jewelry (such as glass and ceramic pieces) where the ashes are infused into the material during creation to become a permanent part of the piece.
  • Cremation crystals and diamonds actually made from the natural elements of the ashes.
  • Jewelry designed to be easily filled by the customer directly. Each piece has a hollow chamber into which a very small amount of ashes can be added.

Cremation Glass Jewelry

Ashes inside Jewelry

One of a Kind Glass with Ashes Infussed

Cremation glass jewelry is colorful and makes for a lovely medium for preserving a small amount of your loved one’s ashes. Cremation Solutions offers a dazzling array of styles and colors. Each pendant is handmade by an artisan who specializes in glasswork and glass-making techniques. Choose religious motifs like crosses or sentimental designs like hearts. You’ll find lovely glass designs to consider such as infinity symbols and abstract geometric shapes. Glass jewelry is durable because it’s formed as a solid, so you don’t have to worry that it will be more fragile than any other type of jewel, which makes it an ideal consideration as a cremation jewelry item.

Cremation Crystal Jewelry

Crystals made from ashes

Choose The Cut and Color of Crystal

To create a dazzling keepsake, consider ordering a crystal infused with your loved one’s ashes amidst beautiful sparkle and shine. The ashes are infused into crystal during its creation, using a patented process. Our crystal design gallery is filled with colorful pendants, rings, and earrings. Each crystal has an innate and radiant glow, perfect for reflecting the beauty and the timeless essence of your loved one.

Cremation Diamonds 

Diamonds from Ashes

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Cremation Solutions offers certified, high-quality, custom diamonds infused with the ashes of your loved one to stunning effect. These high-end jewels will truly become breathtaking heirlooms for you and your family to treasure. Each diamond is inspected, authenticated, and graded. These are true diamonds, created with the same chemical makeup and properties as mined diamonds. Choose from an array of colors, including elegant white, enchanting blue, or regal red to create a jewel that you’ll want to wear every day, for its beauty and for the ashes within its sparkle.

Cremation Jewelry Galleries

When you visit Cremations Solutions, you’ll find we have a myriad of galleries devoted to cremation jewelry designs. We invite you to peruse each one to discover your favorites. Within our traditional collection, you’ll find crosses, hearts, stars, and other meaningful symbols. Our modern collection boasts attractive and sophisticated styles that gleam with precious metals. Our nature collection features natural elements like seashell designs, birds, butterflies, leaves, and acorns. We even offer memory beads and charms perfect for Pandora-style bracelet systems. You can choose a design that reflects your interests or your loved one’s former interests, or contact us about creating a custom piece for something that is truly unique. Our artisans are happy to hear your ideas and collaborate with you to achieve the design you are after.

Ordering Your Cremation Jewelry

Ashes Jewelry

Jewelry To Hold Ashes

Once you decide on a jewel or jewelry, Cremation Solutions will send you a kit with detailed instructions on sending us your loved one’s ashes. In most cases, we only require a small amount. If you send us more than we need to create your jewelry, we will return the excess to you along with your beautiful piece of jewelry. We assure you that we take exceptional care of each order. Ashes are scrupulously labeled, contained, and tracked. Our process ensures the integrity of each order.

As Cremation Solutions is a well-respected New England-based company that specializes in cremation memorials and creations. You can trust our artistry and impeccable customer service. Every piece of jewelry we undertake to create is precious and we honor the role we play in creating this meaningful commemorative jewel that preserves your loved one’s ashes and memory.

If you have questions about our ordering process or our patented creation process, please contact us so we can share more information with you. We hope you’ll get to know our collection of jewelry and that we may be of service if you ever desire to honor your loved one with the timeless tradition of cremation jewelry.

Cremation Solutions

Posted in Cremation Jewelry, Cremation Solutions, Jewelry For Pet Ashes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How Consumers See Today’s Funerals (and What We Can Do about It) Part 3

Kim Stacy

Kim Stacy

Because of her academic training in anthropology, I thought I’d ask Kim to open this post with just a short examination of funerals as rites of passage. (She’s got a Master’s Degree in the field and has spent over 40 years in the cross-cultural study of funeral ceremonies.) “The fellows whose work I studied in grad school: 19th century anthropologists

Arnold van Gennep, Robert Hertz and their 20th century counterparts Maurice Bloch and Victor Turner; shaped the way I saw these events. It was Gennep who first proposed them to be “rites of passage” marked by three distinct phases. The field work of the others, Hertz, Turner (an intellectual “hero” of mine) and Bloch refined his theory, focusing on the idea of liminality and the changes in social and psychological identities of survivors. Their primary point is a simple one: a “good” funeral ceremony is a rite of passage which is made up of a series of activities and varying states-of-being; and is, by its very definition, transformative.”

But it appears the funeral ceremonies here in the United States are not at all transformative. In fact, the participants of the 2012 Funeral Foundation Study did absolutely nothing to hide their dissatisfaction with what they know to be a traditional funeral.

“Traditional funerals are about death,” said a fellow named Rick. “It’s just about broken relationships and there is nothing posit

ive about it”, he continued. Another described a funeral service as “a lonely, lifeless tomb”; while a woman named Jody emphatically declared funerals are “mindless”. “They leave you sad at the end just like you were in the middle”, said John; in other words, there is no transformation.

And there’s no sense of community either. “When I go (to) a funeral,” Rick explained, “I feel like I am alone. You’re just there as an individual to say goodbye to this person. It’s depressing and it’s lonely.”

“Traditional services are almost a lecture of sorts,” observed Becky; who went on to say “Some…who preside over death ceremonies don’t allow for any release of sorrow. In fact, the ceremony itself makes participants more sorrowful. “I almost think of traditional funerals as puppetry,” she concluded “with someone in control manipulating the people in attendance to act the way they feel is appropriate.”

The consensus of participants was perhaps best articulated by Marilyn B., who simply said: “Nobody wants to go to a funeral. They’d rather be at Starbucks.” Uh, oh; that’s trouble. And it gets worse, because the study declared the trouble begins with the way we see ourselves and how we define the work we do.

The Underlying “Disconnect”

It seems when a funeral director sits down with a family; it’s almost like two people, each of whom speaks a different language, meeting in the room. (Chances are there’s going to be a lot of talking, but very little constructive conversation.) That’s what we call disconnect.

The researchers of the study qualified the nature of this separation. “Funeral industry executives see themselves as caring creators: healing wounds, helping to write the story of a life, building foundations and bridges to the future; weaving and mendin

g the fabric of a community. But consumers don’t see them the same way; in fact, they see funeral directors as robotic rulers. “At worst, they are bullies,” said Marilyn H.; while another woman recognized the reasons why: “They are there to make everything run efficiently. They’ve done this so many

times they are tough, emotionally. They have to switch on to their remote, automatic, robotic.” Study participant John said, “They remind me of some sort of machinery. Not loud, but repetitive. They have a job to do, there are things that need to be done and the guy is doing it.”

Tear Down The Wall and See The Light!

Tear Down The Wall and See The Light!

Here’s what I think: this disconnect is a wall that has been carefully built by funeral directors. For generations they have lurked in the shadows hiding in a cloak of secrecy. It’s been easier for them to keep the mystery in funeral service and keep the consumers guessing. Yes they like to think of themselves as caring helpers but the complex nature of funeral service has caused them to often seek predictable paths that help them maintain the comfort level they desire to simply get the job done with the least amount of stress possible (and the highest degree of profit).

Funeral directors are “pros” at diffusing any conflicts that come up in the arrangement process. They are not about offering up options that would begin arguments and create more questions of their abilities. Funeral arranging needs to be a creative process that needs to open door to solutions that will embrace individual needs.

Funeral Planning

We Have All The Options….A B or C ?

Funeral directors prefer the pick A, B, C or D option nice and tidy ducks in a row with no surprises. While this is expedient, it’s the opposite of what needs to take place to create a funeral service that is as unique as the deceased and the special needs of the survivors.

When funeral directors seek out the easy path, the results become more generic and the resulting funeral is not special. So much so that those in attendance and especially the ones paying the bill will be left with a feeling of “why bother”, and then they say the most dreaded words in funeral service: “Just cremate me and scatter the ashes. Use the saved money to have a party in my memory.” And then they have that party, and we funeral directors look from the outside and say “Gee, I could have helped them plan a much better party that would be so much more meaningful and memorable. I have the know-how and all the best connections to have done this right.” But guess what? It’s too late.

Cremation Casket

Funeral Director Agreed That it Was A Nice Box

Robin Heppell candidly addressed the issue of “disconnect” in a recent interview with Kim, putting the blame squarely on a primary source of funeral home profits: the casket. “I do think the executives want to see themselves as caring creators; but as a whole, I don’t think they successfully transmit that vision through to their licensed staff because the casket still plays a big role in funeral home profits. If there was little or no profits from caskets, they would be closer to achieving their ideal of being caring creators. As long as caskets have a potential of providing a large amount of profit to a funeral home, their will the conscious or subconscious desire of greater casket sales–and the public isn’t interested in caskets.”

He went on to say, “Until the funeral home is in alignment with consumers, there’s going to be this disconnect. I think the thing is–when you’re able to almost let it go–and truly just give the family what they want and offer things they may not have realized you could, there will be more synergy between the funeral homes and the families they serve.

PaulbearerOkay, so consumers do not see funeral directors as the kind of creative resource they are seeking. But it gets worse. One respondent, Marilyn H., spoke about what it was like to plan her sister-in-law’s service: “It felt like we were buying a car.” She went on to describe the situation: “…we were with a man part of the time, then we were with a woman, and then he would come back. Then they put us in this room and on every single wall there was stuff you could buy. It was awful, like (when) you go to a carnival and they have all the prizes.” Synergy? How about just shooting for an experience that is less than “awful”?

How Can You Deliver the Kind of Funeral Service Today’s Consumers Want?

When asked to speak about their ideal end-of-life service, one participant said “A memorial service is about celebrating someone’s milestones and accomplishments. For the survivors, it’s good to rehash it all. If they’re in a grieving state, misery does love company. The companionship, the camaraderie. It’s kind of a support group. If someone is really grieving, it helps them cope with it better by sharing these common experiences.”

Good Funerals

Here’ To You!

Another shared “I want plenty of dancing and laughing and having a great time.” What Arlene said next (about a friend’s funeral she had recently attended) was most descriptive of the transformation consumers are looking for.  ”When we left, everybody was laughing and talking about the person because we saw all the happy moments…everyone was in a festive mood. We didn’t grieve her life, we celebrated her life. I didn’t leave heartbroken. When I walked away from there, I thought they were…still with me. I (was) basking in her achievements and her friendship.”

You can see the problem: today’s consumer doesn’t just want to just “get through” the funeral. They want to create a memorable and healing experience that will form a platform which is strong enough to carry their memories into the future and help them to feel that they are actually part of the legacy of the life lived.

As a funeral director, I believe our biggest value is ability to create a healing environment where people can come together for a memorable experience. This experience should promote those in attendance to support each other in their grief. The life of the deceased is the star and the theme is how that life affected their world and the world of others.

What Does All This Mean for Funeral Home Owner/Operators?

What we may see as the “special need” of today’s consumers–the desire for a truly personal, improvisational and celebratory event which is transformative for all concerned–does create busy work for funeral directors; work they may not have the time or the skill sets to perform. But there is one thing you can do to reduce the workload:

  • Hire more specialized part-time employees and rely upon them for the more creative tasks. You should not have to hire more licensed funeral directors to meet the unique needs of today’s families. In truth, doing so could be counterproductive in the long run. Not only could it drive up the cost of the average funeral, chances are it won’t provide families with what they want.

If a specially trained Master of Ceremonies who knows just how to draw on all aspects of a life lived and craft all that information into a well-balanced and touching ceremony would help, then you should be hiring the best Certified Life Celebrant you can find. If you cannot find a good celebrant in your area, you should find a person that you think would be good and pay for their training. (Check out “Not Your Grandparent’s Funeral“, published “way back” in 2012, for a look at the enormous value a certified celebrant can bring to the service.)

  • Change the way your licensed staff make funeral arrangements. This is critical; funeral directors must focus more on the event and how it will make people feel. They need to be more aggressive in conveying the options when it comes to the location, look and feel of the ceremony. And the feel of the service can be a very positive reflection on their funeral home.
  • Use the latest bells and whistles available. Today there’s a wealth of them: video tributes, custom photo blankets, programs, funeral favors, keepsakes and memorial websites. If any of these will help support the goal of creating a healing experience; then why not use them to the best of your ability?

keyThe key lies in providing value to the consumer. Value that they can feel moved by. If our services don’t move people to say “Wow! That’s what I want when I die!” we will all become disposers of the dead as people flock to cremation societies and event planners. Never forget the clock is ticking. Chances are your attitude, demeanor and operational skill sets are already costing you customers. If you don’t decide to change your approach, the families in your service area will simply leverage the Internet to get what they want if they don’t feel your funeral home is up to their special needs.

Let’s Talk

Jeff Staab

Author and Funeral Director           Jeff Staab

We know you won’t disagree with the fact that consumers are turning away from “traditional funerals” in favor of more celebratory, life-oriented services. But we have made some strong statements here today which you might disagree with; statements like:

1. It’s unfortunate that funeral directors have long defined a funeral as “a traditional service for the deceased at a chapel or church with the casket present”.  “It’s the biggest screw-up ever,” said Rob Heppell, who went on to say it’s high time we omitted the focus on a casket. If consumers don’t want an expensive casket, and we define the very word as casket-oriented; then they won’t want it.”

2. As long as caskets have a potential of providing a large amount of profit to a funeral home, there will be the conscious or subconscious desire for greater casket sales. In promoting casket-oriented services funeral home owner/operators are guilty of putting their own needs first and in doing so are their own worst enemies.

3. Funeral directors intentionally built a wall between themselves and the consumer.  But, it has now been torn down by the information highway known as “the Internet”. Funeral directors can no longer play “cat and mouse” with the consumer.

4. It’s time for us to get real. We really need to work on our genuineness if we are to build any trust. If we can’t build a genuine trust people will do things themselves. Without trust we cannot effectively convey the real value of funeral service.

Don’t sit and stew over whatever’s on your mind; instead, speak up! Tell us what you’re thinking, and we’ll return the favor.

Posted in Celebrant Funerals, Funeral News, Funneral Planning | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Why People May Hate Your Funeral Home + “Remedies”

FoundationThis is the second in a series of posts where Cremation Solutions is focusing on the findings of the 2012 Funeral Service Foundation study. The first, “Can the Funeral Industry Change with the Times?” was published earlier this month as a follow-up to “Public Opinion Concludes Funeral Service has Dropped the Ball!” Today, we’re talking about what Alan Creedy called your “primary touch point” with the people living in your service area: your funeral firm’s facility.

Funeral ChapelIt’s not really very surprising but, no matter their reason for being there, it seems people really don’t like to go into most funeral homes. Participants of the study said funeral homes are “sterile,” “cold” and “intimidating.” One went so far as to say “it separates you from the outside like a coffin.” You’ve got to admit: the picture these words paint isn’t at all inviting. And perhaps neither is the idea of making significant changes to your facility–but if you read the most recent post and did your homework, you’ve already gotten a head start.

Don’t remember your assignment? We challenged you to go around your facility asking yourself this question: “What signal is it sending?” Depending your level of interest, it could have taken just a few seconds to complete (“Hey, it all looks good to me!”), or far longer (“Oh, that could be a problem. And chances are those drapes have got to go, and the…”) However long it took, we’ll bet when you were done, there was an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach. That’s because, if you thought “everything is a-ok”, you’re now concerned you were just kidding yourself (or downright delusional). Or, if you now have a long list of potential problems, you may be feeling anxious or overwhelmed by the tasks that lie ahead. Set those feelings aside, and let’s get down to specifics.

There are Four Major Goals

According to the researchers, in order to dispel these very negative impressions, funeral home design must focus on achieving these four things:

  • Minimizing the feeling of physical and psychological confinement
  • Providing consumers and mourners with a stronger sense of control
  • Encouraging creative thinking in the planning process
  • Highlighting that the funeral home is an area where a transformation takes place

Researchers made some very specific suggestions: you’re to encourage social interaction, making the funeral home “come alive” with a man cave like feel where mourners can retreat for relaxation; rooms with writable walls, outdoor gathering places, and a chapel that looks less like a chapel and more like a living room.

To reduce the uncomfortable sense of “confinement,” funeral home owners should incorporate outdoor areas (perhaps one for congregation and one for quiet reflection), bring in more natural light, and create comfortable, open indoor spaces.

I know these are really big recommendations, and major changes like these take time (and solid planning). But where do you begin? That’s easy: with the very first thing a visitor to your funeral home sees.

The Entryway

Welcome Friend

Welcome Friend

Go stand outside your funeral home and try to view it with new eyes; pretend this is the first time you’re seeing it. Ask yourself: what does the entryway look like? Is it clean and well-swept? Is the landscape well-maintained? In my opinion, entryways are the most important: it’s all about first impressions. Keep it light and inviting and understand that people want to know where to go: your signage should be clear and highly visible. My friend and collaborator, Kim, spoke with MaryAnne Scheuble, an interior designer and author of the Nomis Funeral & Cemetery News “Designing Woman” columns. In “Design Plan: Where Do I Start?” she was decidedly practical, simply asking readers “does the entryway have a safe yet attractive surface for bad weather conditions?” These are things which can make a huge difference in making visitors feel welcome from the moment they arrive at your door.


Start Outside and Bring it in

Start Outside and Bring it in

It’s really a no-brainer: good lighting sets the tone and creates the atmosphere in a room. Lucy Martin, author of The Home Lighting Effects Bible, argues “the key is to understand the use of that room and apply the relevant lighting to ensure it functions well.”

comfortable-roomAccording to Ms. Martin, you’ll want to hire a designer who can set the balance between task lighting and mood lighting, use lighting to enhance small spaces (or break up large open ones), and take into account the effects of reflection and shadow in a lighting scheme. “So much has changed in lighting over the last two years, it is a minefield to understand so if at all affordable get help. It will reap dividends in the future.” If you can’t afford a certified designer, I would recommend that you head over to your local lighting store and have a professional consultant visit your funeral home. In the meantime, however, here are some tips to get you started:



Get rid of those torchers and cosmetic floods and redneck bulbs you use to make the deceased look more life-like. Really, where else do you see these things? There’s got to be a better way to get some pink light on the bodies. And while we’re asking, do we really need the pink light?

Make the switch to Compact Florescent Light and Light Emitting Diode bulbs (CFLs and LEDs). It will lower your overhead and impress your customers that you really do care about the planet and the whole green thing.

Lighten up the drapes and let in the natural light as much as you can in every room. The days of heavy damask drapery are long gone. Today it’s all about bringing in natural light, and reducing oppressive feelings. Dump the drapes. Period.

Get rid of those old table top brass lights with the giant ugly cloth lampshades.  “Oversized lamps are out-of-date”, says MaryAnne; and we agree. Kim can’t begin to tell you how many times she’s seen photos of facilities where the lighting was just plain awful: pockets of bright light from floor and table lamps, surrounded by a sea of dark shadows. This is not the place for darkness; nor is it the right place for clinical lighting like in a hospital examination room. Remember to think “task” and “mood” lighting and provide adequately-lit transitions between task-oriented spaces.

MaryAnne Scheuble (in that same column noted above) offered three points-to-ponder regarding lighting when taking a second look around your funeral home (spoiler alert: that’s your homework for this week):

  • Is there directional lighting for flowers or memorabilia?
  • Does the room look balanced and visually interesting?
  • Are seating areas welcoming?

Carpeting and Floors

We’ve all seen some wretched carpeting, but hopefully not in your funeral home. If your firm’s carpeting is showing its age and is stained or just plain ugly and could be the cause of that “old smell”, it’s a relatively easy and inexpensive fix in the big scheme of things. My rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t put it in your house, don’t put it in your funeral home. Think light and airy, but remember you will have to keep it clean. I personally like the area rugs of artist Susan Sergeant. Or, if we want to be conscious of the potential for coffee and tea stains, how about hardwood or bamboo flooring in the coffee area?

Wallpaper, Paneling, and Paint

So who watches any of those home improvement television shows? If you do, you’ll know the paneling and wallpaper in your funeral home has got to go. The first thing they do is to tear this stuff down and so should you. It’s outdated, faded, peeling and ugly.

If your walls are painted, ask yourself if the paint is peeling, stained, or if the color is out-of-date. MaryAnne asks you to consider, before repainting, whether the paint color should be the same in each room (or should each room have a different color theme).


Earlier I advised to dump all the heavy drapery in your funeral home. But MaryAnne encourages you to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are your window treatments appropriate to the total design?
  • Do they provide “architectural” interest in a plain room?
  • Are they too full or heavy-looking?
  • Is their purpose to cover unattractive views or do they allow natural light?

Here’s something you might not know: there’s actually a professional association for people who make window coverings. That’s right: the Window Covering Association of America, where you can find a window covering specialist in your area. If you’ve got window covering issues, it might be the right time to call in reinforcements.


Belongs in a Museum!

Belongs in a Museum!

There’s certainly an abundance of styles: classic contemporary, modern, traditional, eclectic, rustic and even something called vintage industrial (which, although cool, may not be quite right for a funeral home). Again, it comes down to checking the simple things (before making any big changes):

  • Is seating firm and comfortable for those with hip, knee or back issues?
  • Are there pieces available to accommodate generously-sized people?
  • Examine all furniture for sagging seats, rumpled cushions, and weak or unsteady legs.
  • Do tables have scratch marks or stains?

    Say Yes!

    Say Yes!

Wall Art

I have some strong opinions about wall art. Art can make a huge difference in the feel of your décor, but I would urge you to modern it up! Make it real with real pics of people in your community doing all the stuff that make your community great! Use local scenery and highlight local events, like the town fair, the river, the mountains; whatever makes your community and region unique.

And in no uncertain terms, absolutely nothing dark and dreary! Visit your local frame shop and tell them you want to get hip! Frames can add so much. Giant gold gilt frames were beautiful about 200 years ago!

Couch-Wall-Display-21MaryAnne notes that “wall groupings are good; sparse or non-existent wall décor is neither inviting nor interesting.” If you check out the Designing Woman column for February 2015, she’ll introduce you to two firms who know the value of wall art. Coyle Funeral Home in Toledo, Ohio, where, “at the end of (a) hallway, guests are greeted with a hand-painted mural of double doors opening to a lush garden. Well-positioned spot lighting completes the effect of this trompe-l’oeil. Nearby furniture anchors the scene to reality. It is as if you could walk into that garden and escape into a more beautiful, peaceful world”.

Smith Funeral Home in Grinnell, Iowa features an equally memorable moment when, she writes, “a step in the door leads the eye to some remarkable antiques. The second look takes in in a long hallway carpeted in a Meadow Green color is punctuated by several wide doorways. The third glance is the most captivating: an artistic collection of veterans’ memorabilia from World War I through the present.” Here’s her bottom line: “funeral homes need to bring in more art; it soothes the soul.”

Ambient Temperature and Overall Air Quality

Is your funeral home warm enough? Maybe it’s too warm. Are there pockets of cold air, or bothersome drafts? Certainly opinions differ as to the right indoor temperature, but most experts tell us the comfort range is between 62°-74°F.

And while we’re looking at the topic of air quality, does your funeral home smell bad? My big tip of the day: burn candles. I prefer Relaxing Rituals Comfort Blended candles from Yankee Candles. They’ll get the whole place smelling inviting and awesome.

Outdoor Areas

Outdoor Healing SpaceThis can be the most important part of your property. Wherever you’re located, seasons permitting patios and garden areas should be easily accessible to those in attendance. Outdoor funerals can separate you from the competition. Look at all the outdoor weddings these days! In many rural areas, people would prefer to get married on a farm in a cool barn over any fancy catering hall. I believe they prefer real to fancy fake. In life and death when the going gets rough, people will always turn to nature to seek balance.

In the End

It comes down to making people more comfortable in what is a thoroughly uncomfortable situation. We want to contradict their expectations, and – to some degree (as in the case of Coyle Funeral Home trompe-l’œil mural) – to surprise them.

John McQueen spoke of this quiet surprise: “When a family comes in, the first thing we do is to give them a tour of the facilities. Usually they say, ‘This just doesn’t feel like a funeral home.’ Because I am who I am, I then ask them (somewhat jokingly) ‘Do you frequent funeral homes a lot?’ Nine out of 10 have never been in one. But they have a preconceived picture in their mind, and in renovating our facilities, we’ve done everything to contradict that mental image. In fact, we tore out all the heavy drapery about 15 years ago, and we’ve always done our best to not make it feel like a funeral home. ”

Alan Creedy remarked, “If I was building a new facility from scratch, every public room would have lots of windows for natural light, and I’d bring the outside in–eliminating that feeling of confinement described by the study participants.” He goes on to answer his own question: “What would I do if I had to work with an existing facility with none of the study-recommended features? I’d hire a certified interior decorator or designer–not your wife’s best friend or maiden aunt– but a fully accredited and recognized professional to assist me. I’d give them a copy of the study, and tell them, ‘This is the reason behind the changes we need to make’.” (Certified interior designers can be found on the website for the Certified Interior Decorators Association.)

Need additional inspiration? We’ve been prowling around the internet, and found dozens of galleries of wonderful funeral home design and decoration ideas, and I’m sure you can too. Here’s a short list to get you started:

What’s up next for you? Your homework this time around is to take that second look around your funeral home facility. Again, take notes, and keep them in a safe place, because we’re not done yet. See you next time around.

 [ML1]What are we really trying to say with this?

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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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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

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!


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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