What Tragedy Taught Us About Creating The Ultimate Healing Experience

I’ve worked in the funeral profession for many years. But it wasn’t until recently that I truly internalized what it takes to create an amazing celebration of life… And I’ve got to hand it to you, it’s no easy task. No, it’s not about the products, the religion, the flowers or the burial. It’s about creating a complete experience that truly reflects the life lived and provides healing for everyone involved.

The Funeral You Never Want To Plan

A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call from our office manager that left me in complete shock. A close friend of the funeralOne family experienced a tragic loss – two of her children (aged 25 and 15) passed away in a motorcycle accident. I immediately reached out to offer help via text (assuming there was no way she’d want to take a phone call at this very moment). But, to my surprise, she called me immediately, her voice full of a sadness and filled with a grief that many of us have never had to face. She was upset, confused and desperate for help. So obviously, the funeralOne team stepped in to help coordinate and plan the funeral, and do whatever else we could to help this family during their time of need.

Now, as I’m sure most of you reading know, it’s one thing to talk about the value of funeral products and services from a business standpoint, and another thing to talk about it with someone who has just endured the most tragic day of their life. And then have to plan an event that could somehow do justice to the amazing lives that were lost on top of that? To be honest, the task left some of us jittered and scrambling – “What can we do to make this funeral truly amazing? How can we enhance the service?”

Creating A Positive Healing Experience From Tragedy

Once we thought back to our roots, we were able to create the funeral service that the family not only wanted, but needed. We planned an event that delivered the ultimate healing experience to those honoring their loved ones. And we learned a few things about what means the most when it comes to planning a funeral that focuses on healing and remembrance…

1. Get to know the person inside and out.

We all know that planning a funeral is an extremely time sensitive process. By the time a family reaches out to you, they are ready to move the funeral service forward, and may not have a lot of time to talk about how they can make the process more personal through sharing memories and stories. But don’t let this fast timeline rush what you do best – honoring the live lived and helping the family heal.

Talking about a person’s life and sharing stories and memories about them is what truly helps a family begin the healing process. In fact, for many families, it’s not until they sit down at the funeral home and start speaking about their loved one that they truly get to live in the moment and face what has happened. This is typically the moment that kicks off the journey of healing, so don’t rush through it.

We spent a large part of our first few days with this family sitting down, listening to stories, and getting to know the deceased as much as we could. We learned about their hobbies, their favorite quotes, their interests, the things that mattered most to them. And it wasn’t until we had collected all of this information that we felt like we had a full picture of their life and could begin planning the funeral service.

2. Work personalized details in wherever you can.

Families don’t like to feel like they have had the same experience as everyone else… they want a personalized event that feels like it was created for them. After all, nothing is worse than feeling like the service that was put together for their loved one was just a cookie-cutter, fill-in-the-blank plan that the funeral director put together years before they even walked through the door.

Therefore, make sure that every single aspect of the service – from the flowers at the front door, to the music that plays – is personalized to the life they are celebrating. These small details make all the difference when it comes to making the family feel comfortable in your funeral home, and making their loved one the focus of the day.

When planning this particular funeral service, we took everything we learned while getting to know the loved ones, and we turned it into personalized elements for the service. For instance, we created large art-style silhouettes of the deceased that featured their favorite quotes (below), and hung them up at the funeral. Not only did these custom pieces of art make the funeral home feel more personal to the family, but they were also great for bringing up memories and stories from those in attendance.


3. Create an interactive experience.

One thing that we often hear from families and friends that have attended visitations in the past is that they are really never sure what to do while they are there. They give their condolences to the family, and then they walk around awkwardly until they feel enough acceptable time has passed and they can leave.

But this is the last thing you want guests to feel at your funeral home. Instead, you should create an environment that encourages sharing stories with others in attendance, and creates opportunities for people to learn new things that they never knew about their loved one.

We wanted to make sure that guests at this funeral not only felt comfortable while they were at the visitation, but could also contribute to the funeral in some way. Therefore, we created custom portraits of the deceased that family and friends could sign and leave messages on. We also brought the signed photos to the church and had them displayed next to the casket, to further add an element of personalization to the setting during the church service. People were able to leave amazing memories and stories, while also feeling like they added something to the funeral service. Plus, once the service was over, these became great keepsakes for the immediate family to take home as a remembrance of their loved ones.

4. Incorporate friends and family into the service.

When most at-need families get asked to bring in photos for an upcoming funeral service, they will typically only bring in photos of the deceased. And while a few beautiful photos of their loved one can help to add an air of personalization to the room, the true healing begins when you have photos that tell stories. And, often times, those are the photos that feature family and friends alongside their loved one.

When you have just a plain photo of someone, you will often hear the same responses from the people looking at it: “She was so beautiful!” or “He looked just like Grandpa!” But when you have a photo of a major life event, or a photo that features the deceased alongside friends and family, you suddenly have more of a story to tell. The people at the funeral will be able to point to the photo and say, “Right before this photo was taken, the funniest thing just happened!” or “I will never forget this day. It was at John’s birthday!” Suddenly, a simple photo becomes a story, and another way to honor and celebrate a person’s life.

At the funeral we planned a few weeks ago, we chose to collect as many photos as we could of the deceased with family and friends, and create a memorial tribute video out of them. We then played the video at the funeral service, and suddenly a few photos became a moving tribute of the loved one’s lives. Family and friends were able to see themselves on the screen, and bring back a particular story and memory that they might not have otherwise thought to share.

To learn more about how you can use Memorial Tribute Videos to help create the ultimate healing experience at your funeral home, click here!

What do you think is the key to creating the ultimate healing experience for your families? Are there certain service elements that you have found are more powerful than others? We want to hear about it in the comments below!

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  1. Brad Apsey

    It was good you had the time with the family to gather the information needed. So many families will not give out much information at a time like this because they are in shock and just kind of going through the motions to get through the day.

  2. Valentine Miele

    The 911 tragedy taught me so much about celebrating a life,i served families from the very beginning until recently, its unfortunate that it takes a tragedy sometimes to make us understand the value of someones life

  3. Dally Messenger III

    There is no such thing as a short cut to a good funeral as described above.Seehttp://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com.au/CFCs.htmlThis is what we have been saying (and are still saying) since 1975.But especially see [blocked link]. But in the money making world of funerals – a well prepared creative funeral is a nuisance, time consuming, system upsetting, and a money losing event. Best to keep celebrants low paid, therefore superficial and cost effective.

  4. Angelina

    Thanks, Janey. Indeed he was. In a way, this blog is kind of my way of following in his fotteosps, trying to help those who have suffered a loss know that there is a way through it, and that it’s OK to have the feelings that they’re experiencing.