What Funeral Directors Wish They Could Tell Families About Planning A Funeral

As funeral professionals, we know that planning a funeral can feel like one of the most confusing, stressful and overwhelming tasks that your families will ever take on. And if that funeral was for someone that they were extremely close to, or for someone who passed suddenly, that’s a whole new challenge that can leave families truly overwhelmed and wondering where they can go to for help.

While you may know that planning a funeral doesn’t have to be a dreadful ordeal, many families do not. And this is simply because they haven’t been educated on the true value that funerals have on the grief journey, and how big of an impact their funeral director can have towards creating a comforting planning experience.

To help better bridge the communication gap between families and funerals, we asked funeral professionals on our Facebook page what they wish families knew about their role. We also gathered some helpful tips for addressing these points with the families you serve, so you can help make the planning process less intimidating, and maybe even, dare I say, enjoyable for families who are entering your funeral home.


#1: Your funeral director is an incredibly useful resource, so please ask them for help!

When families walk into a funeral home, some are surprised to find that their funeral director seems like they couldn’t be happier that they’re asking for their help. Too many people overlook funeral directors as salesmen, frauds or just plain creepy. But in reality, we’re normal people just like they are. And, we’ve got years (if not decades) of experience and knowledge to share with families so that they can send their loved one off in a meaningful way.

So when a family chooses your funeral home, please, for their own sanity, make sure they know to ask for help! There is plenty of helpful advice to be given, and it will make your life, and your families experience, much better.


#2: Don’t go all “cookie-cutter” on your loved one’s service

In this day and age, a funeral is meant to be anything but cookie-cutter. I mean really, people are sending their loved one’s ashes into space, turning their remains into trees, and even holding wakes where you drink wine in their memory all evening.. And let’s be honest, does anyone really want NOTHING special said, sung, or displayed in honor of their life? If you ask me, life is far too beautiful and short to not be celebrated.

Do your families a favor – make their service meaningful with funeral personalization. If you’re running out of ideas or inspiration, check out our article on amazing funeral personalization ideas that families crave. They’ll be glad you shared these beautiful ideas, and you’ll be glad you could provide such a meaningful service for them.

#3: Funeral personalization isn’t just about making the service pretty, it actually helps you grieve

In light of the previous point, it’s important that families know that the point of personalizing a funeral isn’t just to make their loved one’s service look pretty or themed. Well, sure, everyone wants a pretty service, but the process of personalizing a funeral is also a really great first step for families to begin their grieving journey. For example, if families sit down together to gather pictures and memories for a tribute video or prayer card, they may find themselves laughing, crying and everything in between about the memories they shared with their loved ones. The bad haircuts, embarrassing moments, and achievements they end up talking about over dinner all night are the beginning of their grieving process.

So during the arrangement process, be sure to ask families questions about their loved one that will help to spark meaningful memories, conversations and ideas for personalization. Also make sure that your families understand just how important a personalized service can be for sparking meaningful memories and conversations with guests, which is all a helpful part of the grieving process.


#4: Don’t get so distracted by planning that you forget to grieve

We’ve all seen it time and time again – a friend or family member in the planning process whose head got stuck so far into the details and to-do’s that they were too distracted to pay attention to what the funeral was actually all about. Believe it or not, this happens all the time to families who are planning a funeral for their loved one.

It’s your job as a funeral professional to take on these planning details so that your families are not distracted by what’s left to do and, instead, can allow themselves to grieve. If your families put it off or hold it in, they’ll end up hurting more in the end. And what better way for them to begin their grief journey than with all of their friends and family there to support them? Plus, they will look back on their experience with your funeral home fondly if you truly helped them during their time of need, instead of just putting on a service.


#5: Your funeral director is working harder than you think

Most people have never really sat down and thought about all of the nitty gritty details that go into planning their loved one’s funeral. But we know what goes on behind closed doors in a funeral home, or inside the minds of the funeral directors who are tirelessly working to make sure every single aspect of a loved one’s funeral service isn’t just good, but perfect.

These details are what make your service so valuable, so make sure your families understand all the details – from large to small – that go into planning. From the miniscule details, to the big gestures, all of these actions by funeral professionals help to make a meaningful event for the family. And make sure that the funeral is executed perfectly. Until families really sit down and imagine all the hours of planning, scheduling, running around and stressing that goes into a single funeral service, they’ll never really truly appreciate funeral directors… at least the way the way they should. So make sure you are explaining the value of this service that you’re providing for them.

These are just a FEW secrets of funeral planning that many professionals wish families knew about. Did we miss any? What other tips and advice do you have for someone planning a funeral? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Joe Joachim


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  1. Valentine Miele

    In addition ,I would like to say as far as pre planning goes,very challenging, trust fund interest at a extremely low rate, families who may be planning for a spend down need also monies for cemetery and headstone plus engraving. These items go on final statement and make funeral home charges look astronomical.Make sure enough money put aside because interest will not cover inflation.

  2. Lin Webb

    Timeless hours and effort are put into every detail of every aspect of each funeral that is planned to assure we are honoring the families and the loved one that was lost. Most of us are selfless and it truly is an honor to serve. Thank you for this article!!!!

  3. Bobbie

    When our family member passed away she wanted to be cremated. So our funeral director suggested waiting a few weeks to put together the memory service. This gave us time to grieve and gather her special things instead of rushing through everything.

  4. phoebeminderhoud

    Let’s us help you plan your final day in advance, so no more stress, no more worry, just grieved.

  5. Doug Gilchrist

    In my 35 years in funeral service i have always maintained that we must “sell” the value of what we do, both at need and preneed. Too often during preneed discussions there is not a lot of time spent on helping the clients understand what we in funeral service believe in, what they should believe in. Take the time to understand who your clients are, their backgrounds, their interests; show you care. Stop trying to close the sale and treat them the way you would want your family treated.

  6. Rilee Chastain

    Well said, Doug! We agree!

  7. Rilee Chastain

    We’re so glad to hear you had such a positive experience, Bobbie!

  8. Sarahi

    If this is your best friend, pabusmrely you knew his/her grandfather as well and would be mourning his loss. Why don’t you ask your friend for guidance in this: Would you like me to come to the funeral and/or wake? If you wouldn’t feel comfortable at the funeral, perhaps you could offer to help set up the food where the wake is.

  9. WRay

    I have been a licensed funeral service provider for 34 years and have worked everywhere from my home town in rural South Mississippi to Jackson, MS to Broward/Miami-Dade Counties in South Florida. I agree that everyone should do some type preneed planning! It just makes a most difficult of times much easier to complete. That being said and in my opinion and experience, “prearrangement” should only be done by a licensed mortician, not a sells representative! I have personally witnessed the ugly face of greed and actions of preneed planners who are not liscensed or well versed in funeral arrangements. Usually, Preneed sales are commisioned based and when you are compensated with commission, that opens up an avenue for greed to stroll right in. In no way am I insinuating that ALL preneed representatives are greedy! Most are not. I have serviced many a preneed accounts at time of death and the families were told several things by the sells representative that was just incorrect and the FD is left to deal with the anger and frustration of families because the preneed councilor did not know anything about what the process of servicing a preneed funeral is like. In South Florida where I worked, the non liscensed preneed representatives made up to 10 times more money than a liscensed mortician who has to honor the preneed contract and do all of the REAL work!

  10. Bob

    When a family snaps at you don’t take it personally just remember that they just lost a love one and you might be the first person they saw after they got the news. Just continue to be kind and most of them will apologize after they settle down. Just remember the stages of grief at all times. They don’t happen in a particular order in fact sometimes they will readdress a stage they went through already.