Why Funeral Ceremonies Matter (And How to Create An Extraordinary One)

We all know that the way our culture celebrates end-of-life has moved away from traditional.

With that, more and more, individuals are falling into the “we don’t want anything” category and not seeking funerals at all.

What’s up with the divide?

What we’ve found, is that those that do opt for funerals today want life-focused and personalized ceremonies. In fact, 54% of people say that they want their funeral to be a “celebration of life.”

But, not every funeral home is offering meaningful and engaging options for families that help them celebrate their loved one’s life. The trouble is, funerals that are inauthentic, disconnected, and impersonal leave attendees with a negative perspective on end of life services.  


The importance of funeral ceremonies


The truth is, we need funerals. Why? Because ceremonies foster connection, give us a purpose, help us celebrate, and leave a lasting impact on us.

We tuned into Linda Stuart’s session at the  2019 annual ICCFA conference to learn more about why funeral ceremonies matter, and how we can work to transform them. Linda shared these 5 tips using the “EXTRA” model on how we can turn ordinary funerals into extraordinary ones:


E – Emotional Connection

The opportunity for emotional connection begins at the first contact with a grieving family. This starts with the initial phone call or email. Grieving individuals are vulnerable and tender. We, as funeral professionals,  can benefit from shedding a few layers to connect more deeply with them in this space.

Let’s make an effort to remove some of the formality and walls that we put up when dealing with grieving families.

For example, how often do we answer phone calls or emails while we’re in a hurry and fail to take a minute to think about what this client family is going through? Remember to place yourself in their shoes and respond from a place of empathy, patience, and understanding.

Or, how often is some of our first in-person contact with families from behind a desk? It may be more personal to meet with families in a comforting room where everyone is sitting on couches instead.

Working to remove physical as well as emotional barriers will help foster emotional connection. Connection leads to trust, and trust is a key component of extraordinary funerals.


X – (E)Xperience

People do not want to simply go to a funeral anymore. Instead, they want to engage in a meaningful experience. Consumers wish for an end-of-life ceremony to be more of a special and memorable experience. Personalized services and ceremonies make for transformative experiences that are remembered for years to come.


T – Telling Stories

For centuries, humans have passed along information and memories by telling stories. We also use storytelling as a way to remember our loved ones. When spending time with client families, learn the stories about their loved one who has passed on. This can help us learn personal qualities that may tie in with end of life rituals families desire. In approaching funerals, think like a celebrant!


R – Rituals

Rituals are intentional and purposeful actions that provide impact and meaning to our lives. For the most part, our Westernized culture has moved away from rituals. However, personalized, unique, and special rituals can be an integral part of the end-of-life service. These specialized rituals help bring comfort and purpose to grieving families during a difficult time.


A – Authentic

Above all, funerals should be authentic to the individual who passed. This also means that while interacting with the grieving family, we must be authentic. People connect more deeply with those who are genuine. Being authentic to ourselves while also being authentic to the individual who passed helps strengthen the personalization of the funeral and allows it to be a memorable, impactful event.

You probably won’t remember a cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill funeral as well as you would remember a ceremony where a loved one’s beautiful scarf collection was on display, honoring her favorite hobby of collecting scarves.


How will you apply the “EXTRA” model to your funeral home? Tell us in the comments below!

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