Are Funerals a “Rip Off?” 5 Myths Debunked

Sometimes I’m not sure what’s more dreadful… losing a loved one, or planning their funeral.

Both experiences can feel equally overwhelming, especially when it comes to finances.

I think part of this stress stems from the stigma surrounding funerals and their cost. Google “planning a funeral” and you’ll probably find articles scattered throughout your search results telling extreme stories of funeral directors ripping families off, and how consumers can “protect themselves” from those seemingly evil creatures.

Some of the stigma may be deserved. We can’t deny that there are folks not coming from a place of integrity in the funeral profession (just like literally every other profession in the world). But for the most part, funeral homes (and the people working in them) are here to genuinely help families face one of the most difficult tasks they’ll ever have to face: dealing with the loss of a loved one. And believe it or not, while they’ve got to worry about their bottom line, they’re not here to send you into serious, life-long debt by offering that help.

To clear the air and provide some insight into the world of funerals and planning them, here are 5 of the most common myths we hear about funerals being a “rip off,” and the truth behind them:

Myth #1: There’s no value in hiring a funeral director

This is our favorite myth to debunk. If you’ve ever sat down with a genuine funeral director, or followed them around for a day, you’d never be able to mutter the words “funeral directors aren’t valuable.” You’d be lying through your teeth. Trying to come up with reasons why funeral directors aren’t valuable is almost like trying to explain that doctors aren’t valuable. No one else is properly trained to do this job, and it’s an important one to do.

The truth: We aren’t in the Victorian era anymore… we can’t leave our dead in the parlor for a few days, and then send them off on a bamboo float with some flowers and candles. Our loved ones must be taken care of with respect, integrity and knowledge, and that’s where funeral professionals come in. Without them, we’d face a lot of burdens, and likely break a lot of laws.

Myth #2: It’s easy to plan your own funeral

You’ve just lost a loved one. And now it’s time to figure out what to do with their remains, where to send the death certificate, hospice communication, and legal jargon that’s way over your head. Is it easy? No, and to be honest, when you’ve just lost a loved one, chances are these details are the last ones you’re going to want to have on your mind. Don’t get us wrong, you can plan out your loved one’s funeral. But you’ll likely lose out on the necessary time needed to be with your family and friends, and to heal your heart in a healthy way.

The truth: By hiring a funeral professional, you won’t have to bear the burden of planning a funeral during a time of loss, but rather spend the necessary time with your family and friends. Time is money, especially when it comes to time that is precious to the heart.

Myth #3: Low-cost options are sparse and uninspiring

If you ask any funeral home for a low-cost option, chances are they’ll offer you something for $1,000 or less. And let’s be honest, you probably couldn’t respectfully handle your loved one’s remains for much less on your own. But unfortunately, when families choose an option like a direct cremation, they stop there and leave it at that. They don’t explore the options for celebrating their loved one’s life. And as funeral professionals, we don’t like that. We know the value of life and celebrating it. So if it’s affordability and meaning you’re looking for, ask for it. Even if you don’t see if on the funeral home’s website, always ask. Chances are they’d be more than happy to help you.

The truth: Many funeral homes offer affordable cremation options AND celebration of life packages, such as this one for under $2,000. Always, always ask, or check out their funeral home website for more details on their product and service offering.

Myth #4: Funeral homes are just trying to rip you off!

If I had nickel for every time someone told me that funeral homes are just trying to rip you off, I’d be one rich woman! I read it in blogs and on news websites all the time; people swear that funeral homes only want to sell you the ridiculous funeral services and mahogany caskets that are $8,000 and up. That could be true for some funeral directors. And yes, every business has got to worry about their bottom line, especially when the landscape of their profession is very unpredictable (the times are a’ changing). But if you go into a funeral home with the intention of finding an affordable and inspiring option for your loved one, most funeral directors will be more than happy to help you.

The truth: The funeral profession is facing some serious changes, which may make the experience you have very different, depending on where you go. Do your research on websites like Yelp and Google Reviews to find the funeral homes who have integrity in their offerings, and genuinely want to help you.

Myth #5: When it comes to planning a funeral, go BIG, or go home

Why does it feel like everyone either chooses a traditional, “doom-n-gloom” funeral , or a $1,000 “put em’ in a shoe box,” no frills option? Don’t people know that you can have the best of both worlds? Yes, it’s true. You can combine tradition and respect with no frills. It’s not that funeral directors don’t want to help families find this happy middle ground, it’s just that they’re so used to getting people from one extreme or the other. But the businesses in the funeral profession who are honing in on that happy medium are the ones who will be the most successful moving forward, so keep an eye out for them.

The truth: Whether you rely on the funeral home to help you create a celebration of life that’s both meaningful or affordable, or you dive into the DIY world, there are a lot of options for you, and the best funeral homes will help you explore both.

Bridging the gap…

It’s about time the world saw funeral directors for what they really are, a vital and necessary part of any community. Our thought is that once the gaps are bridged, and the stigma is cleared, people will start to feel more passionate about their send-offs.

Because at the end of the day, the way you die should be just as important as the way you lived.

What other myths are out there surrounding the theme of funeral costs? Do you agree or disagree with them? Share them in the comments below!

Rochelle Rietow

funeralOne

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  1. Allan Stearns

    Denying the need for a celebration of life, based upon “mother never wanted a service” is denying your self, the living the first opportunity to start a closure and also to allow grieving that can be beneficial. The service is not for mother, it is for the living who wish to commemorate her life and to remember the stories, the acts of kindness, the love that was shared over the many years of her life.
    Those that shut the door and decide not to look back, are hurting themselves, because down the road a feeling of guilt will creep into the subconscious and will find its way out. When friends in 6 months say “I wish I had had a chance to honor your mother for all she meant to me”, you will start to realize that your mom was far bigger than yourself. If there is no church affiliation in your life, seek a certified celebrant. The funeral home may have a list of names they trust. The other reason for denial of a service is the perceived cost. This should not be a roadblock, because you can do a celebration in your back yard, in a public park, on the beach, or in a rent a hall. As a celebrant, I have done all of these and the closure seen on the faces of the families, is worth the small price paid..

  2. Kate Walker

    I wholeheartedly agree with all of this, 3 and 5 especially. Being part of the industry on the low-cost side of things, I’ve seen plenty of beautiful, inspiring services that were done for very budget-friendly prices. I think that there’s often the underlying feeling that one MUST spend a lot of money to show how much they loved the deceased when in reality, this isn’t the case at all.

    “But unfortunately, when families choose an option like a direct cremation, they stop there and leave it at that. They don’t explore the options for celebrating their loved one’s life.”
    This is something that I wish more people knew about. Direct cremation is an excellent option and it absolutely doesn’t rule out a memorial service or celebration of life.