The Ugly Truth: Baby Boomers’ Thoughts on Funeral Service


It’s nearly everyday that I preach about the importance of offering more than just a traditional funeral service. Most people in the funeral profession will tell you the same thing: Baby Boomers don’t want a traditional send off, they want a celebration of their life. But do you really understand why Baby Boomers don’t want to end their life in a traditional manner?

Sometimes, it’s hard to get into the minds of our families, even if we’re considered to be in their demographic ourselves. For me, the most helpful way to see how my target demographic feels about my products or services is to have them actually tell me, word-for-word, how they make them feel. And luckily enough, the Funeral Service Foundation and Olson Zaltman Associates have teamed up to offer funeral professionals exactly that: real life stories from Baby Boomers on how they feel about traditional funeral services.

Read each of these quotes, print them, highlight them, cut them out and glue them to your computer screen… whatever you do, don’t ignore them. After reading what Baby Boomers really have to say about funeral service, you’ll have a better understanding of why they don’t want a traditional service:

1.  “Traditional funerals are mindless. You just go through the motions. I think, ‘Is that all this person was worth? Didn’t anybody think any more of that person to want to really show what that person’s life was about or why they loved that person or what they liked about that person?’ It’s kind of sad to think they didn’t put any energy into their supposed ‘celebration’ of life… we just have to bury the old broad and let’s get on with our lives.”


2. “When you shut those doors, [leaving the funeral home] it’s silence. I almost feel a relief that I’m out of there and I can hear the wind and the cars going by. [In the funeral home] I have to suppress my normal being because normally I’m pretty happy and easy-going and tend to want to laugh.”

– Rick

3.  “…When you go to a traditional funeral it’s just about death and death is depressing and sad and it’s just about broken relationships and there is just nothing positive about it.”

– Anonymous

4.  “It separates you from the outside like a coffin. You are enclosed.”

– Lee

5. “When I go to a funeral, I feel like I’m alone. It’s not a group. You’re just there as an individual to say goodbye to this person… You’re not there to reminisce. You’re just there to say goodbye. It’s depressing and lonely.”

– Rick

6. “They’re cold. Kind of intimidating. It’s pretty formal… sometimes not real inviting. Like art museums or galleries.”

– Marilyn

7. “Traditional services are almost a lecture of sorts. Some people who preside over death ceremonies don’t allow for any release of sorrow. In fact, the ceremony itself makes participants more sorrowful. It’s almost like we were being forced to feel sorrowful instead of being able to celebrate. I almost think of traditional funerals as puppetry with someone in control manipulating the people in attendance to act the way they feel is appropriate.”

– Becky

8.  “There is so much that has happened in a person’s life that you don’t really get to know and express during traditional [services]. There’s so many things that in a traditional funeral get overlooked. You don’t get a chance to see the total person.”

– Anonymous

9. “Nobody wants to go to a funeral. They’d rather be at Starbucks. I think funerals in my early life were kind of fearful. I think just being in the room with lots of people crying, that was very uneasy for me, even as a little child. It’s an emotionally charged time.”

– Marilyn

10. “The non-traditional that I have experienced tend to get you balanced, taken away from that sad, pensive state. I don’t know many traditional funerals that do that as well as the non-traditional. They quite often just leave you sad at the end like you were in the middle.”

– John

What did you think?

These quotes are pretty negative in regards to funeral services, aren’t they?  They’re not meant be “doom and gloom,” but rather open your eyes and get you thinking about how you can improve your services to better meet Baby Boomers’ needs.

Take a moment to read a positive quote to help you see exactly why Baby Boomers are looking for a celebration of life:

“ I want plenty of dancing and laughing and having a great time [at my funeral]. When we left [my friend’s funeral] everybody was laughing and talking abou the person because we saw all the happy moments on DVD, the person moving around alive. When we went to the party afterwards, everybody was in a festive mood. We were talking about the person like they were still existing. We didn’t grieve her life. We celebrated her life. I didn’t leave heartbroken. [My heart] was sliced, but it wasn’t broken. When I walked away from there, I thought they were sort of still with me. I [was] basking in her achievements and her friendship and what she meant.”

– Arlene


So what did you think about these quotes? What can we do as a profession to make our services valuable?

Joe Joachim


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  1. Staab

    All these quotes make it obvious to me that the most important change we need to make is how funerals make people feel. It’s a no brainier that funeral Celebrants are exactly what they are asking for. What baffles me is why is it not obvious to others in this business that have witnessed how a well prepared personalized funeral can make people feel. Have you heard that today’s people are all about the experience.

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  3. John Ebey

    I see this so clearly in the families of today and more so in conversations with my contemporaries. Neither myself nor my freinds are overtly religious, though we are all believers. I think the connection to God is closer at a time of loss for non-churchgoers, but we want a softer, gentler approach. I recall the funerals from my youth where there was the “altar call” for redemption. I dont see that any more. Like most people I would prefer a party, but I am not so sure I could do that depending upon the circumstance of the death.
    Much to think about in this article, thanks

  4. Steve

    I understand the concept that people have a misconceived notion toward
    funerals in general. However, I believe that the preceding comments do
    not reflect a true picture of the masses. I have been in the funeral
    industry for over twenty years and while it is true that funerals are
    typically a solemn event, I would venture to say that more often than
    not they tend to be a celebration of life as you stated in your post. I
    have had families to bring the family dog, birds, cats etc. because
    these pets were a significant part of this individuals life. The
    greatest atrocity is that funeral homes (directors specifically) do not,
    and will not think outside the proverbial box ! The funeral must be a
    foundation for the family to express the life of their loved one, an
    opportunity to “show off” the life he/she has lived , and an opportunity
    to recall those precious moments that they will hold dear for the rest
    of their lives as well. Will sadness and grief exist ? Naturally, yet it
    is how we channel, or direct, that energy and emotions that dictate
    the atmosphere. Many funeral homes/directors need to grow up…get off
    their butts and quit being pretentious self absorbed individuals !

  5. Mary Ellen Markant

    Shane’s empirical observations spur food for thought. Age of family members probably is one factor affecting their inclinations toward embellishments beyond traditional approaches. Also, maybe some of his clients were too entrenched in the abyss of sorrowful exhaustion to embrace memorial bells and whistles. The indescribable power of grief usually shuts off receptivity to anything but bare essentials. One doesn’t care about the icing on the cake when totally lacking an appetite; only the basic substance is consumed to meet essential needs.

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  12. Katja

    Thanks for sharing such a nice idea, piece of writing is good, thats why
    i have read it entirely

    my web site Alexandre Ber – Katja,

  13. Barry Slocombe

    Absolutely a great article that everyone should read Baby Boomers or otherwise. I lead a service recently where the deceased was a collector of older cars and we had 6 of them lined up outside the Funeral Home – Why not? They were a major part of his life. And the same can be said for other services, dogs, music…. I just handled a service where the deceased was 64 and HIS music choices were from Lady Gaga and Jon Bon Jovi and the guests were clapping along to the music, it was great.

  14. Krystal Penrose

    Hey Barry, we loved reading your comment! Such a wild world out there, we can’t limit our possibilities on infinite beings!

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