Five Great Pieces of Advice Funeral Directors Can Give AFTER The FuneralAugust 17th, 2016
As a funeral director, you help families through what may be the most difficult days of their life. But in many cases, after the final service or burial, you part ways and may not see each other again unless they ask you to handle the funeral of another loved one.
But while your part might be largely done, much of the work the family faces is often just beginning after the funeral. They still will be grieving and will be faced with settling their loved one’s estate, which can include cleaning out a lifetime of belongings from a home, seeing that financial matters are handled, and dealing with probate court. In short, it can be extremely overwhelming.
So while your main role as a funeral director may completed once services are over, there’s still much that you can do. For example, as a trusted partner to your families, you can still help them prepare for the next steps in their journey.
Here are five great pieces of advice you can share with families after the funeral:
1. “Put family first. “
It probably comes as no surprise to you that families don’t always see eye-to-eye, especially when grief and sadness are in the mix. After a death, good relationships can become strained, and poor relationships can get downright hostile. Challenging spouses with strong opinions can complicate sibling relationships. In too many cases, families fall apart after a death. It might be that the deceased was the glue that kept the family together and, once they are gone, the rest of the family has little in common. Or in some cases, when it comes time to divvy up family heirlooms and money, the battles begin.
While you can’t predict or prevent what happens next for your families, it can be useful to remind them that families who navigate these choppy waters are almost always helped by putting family relationships first, and money and material concerns second.
2. “Be patient.”
After someone dies there is often much to do. Fortunately, most of it doesn’t have to be done immediately.
I remember a friend telling me how, after her father died, she couldn’t stop stressing about how much work needed to be done. She had to find all her father’s important paperwork, pay final bills, clean out his house, sell it, and on and on. She was devastated and not sleeping well, and the anxiety about getting everything done was consuming.
Fortunately, she realized that, although there was definitely much to do, it could be prioritized and taken in small, manageable pieces. And most of it could wait a couple weeks while she was in the early days of grief and trying to make sense of the loss. Reminding those who are grieving that it’s OK to hit pause and focus solely on grieving for a while is helpful and can reduce their stress.
3. “Ask for help.”
In the shock and sadness that follows a death, it can be easy to feel alone and forget there’s typically plenty of help out there. First and foremost, it can be useful to discuss grief counseling and provide resources, if you don’t currently do so. And taking a moment to remind your families that, while they might need to oversee much of the work that needs to be done, they don’t have to complete it all themselves. From estate attorneys and auctioneers to maid services and realtors, there are plenty of professionals out there to assist… and in many cases, the costs of these will be covered by the estate.
4. “Take advantage of tools to simplify the tasks ahead.”
When each of my parents died, I was charged with serving as executor of their estate. While they had taken steps to get their affairs in order, there was still much to figure out – from online passwords to finding retirement accounts and investments that were out there. Then there was the matter of filing paperwork in probate court, closing dozens of accounts, and making sure my siblings were in agreement on who should get Mom’s china and Dad’s gold watch. That’s why I created Executor.org, an online tool that walks an executor through what can often be a staggering, 100-plus steps of settling an estate.
Taking advantage of tools such as Executor.org can help your families keep track of what needs to be done and help them understand the process, which can both reduce stress and save them money on legal costs. Knowing what resources exist and sharing those with your families can be a great help to them.
5. “Don’t forget about me — your funeral director.”
You have played a memorable role in your families’ lives and they will undoubtedly remember your kindness, caring and how you helped honor their loved one. So reminding them that you’ll still be happy to help after the funeral is not only an extension of that thoughtfulness, it is a way to make sure they feel like they have received the best service around. Whether it’s finding a grief support group, getting additional copies of the death certificate, or sharing names of estate attorneys, auctioneers and realtors in the area, you likely have a wealth of knowledge that is very valuable to them.
While your main role as funeral director will typically only last a few days, your services and support will have made a lifelong impact in the lives of those who have walked through your funeral home. And helping families cope with the challenges they’ll face after the funeral is just one great way to offer extra help and make a lasting, positive impression.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patrick O’Brien is CEO and co-founder of Executor.org, an online resource that helps executors manage their responsibilities and duties in this complex role. The tool includes a helpful step-by-step interactive guide for executors and invaluable tips on everything from filing court documents and keeping beneficiaries happy, to dealing with grief and managing estate assets.