3 Ways to Create Healing Experiences

I recently posted a question on Facebook, “What are some of the best tools you use to help families heal from the loss of a loved one?”

What surprised me was, over 90% of funeral professionals who responded shared memorial products rather than experiences that truly help families heal. And we’re all in this for one thing – that is helping everyone touched by the death of a loved one heal.

What exactly is a “healing experience”?

“Healing” means to restore soundness, to set right, or repair, and “experience” brings in conscious participation. A healing experience then, is an event that brings about positive change in a person, which leads to a restoration, or healing of the individual and the circle of friends and family in which they live. Now that’s a mouthful of words.

I can make it even simpler. A healing experience gives people new ways to pay tribute, share memories, and learn to live, laugh and love again. Naturally, a healing experience is subjective – it’s different for everyone.

The real sticking point comes when we try to come up with objective ways to evaluate what is fundamentally a subjective experience. So, I’ve created criteria to evaluate the healing properties of what you’re currently doing for your client families. Ask yourself these questions – about everything you offer:

1. Does it stimulate – and help families capture – memories? Does it get them to focus on the life lived, as opposed to their recent loss? Realizing the impact their loved one had on others gives everyone an opportunity to heal.

2. Does it create a positive environment during the services? What I’m talking about here is an environment that stimulates more effective, heart-driven connections between people. Those connections go a long way in healing from loss.

3. Does it connect the family to the larger community? Giving client families ways to widen the circle of support so they do not feel so alone goes a long way in the healing process.

Alan Wolfelt, in a recent article, It’s the Experience That Counts: Funeral Home Customer Service for Today’s Families, echoed my belief that the things you do for client families that really matter –the things that start the healing process – aren’t things at all but experiences. And, not surprisingly, it’s those experiences which will drive the success of your firm.

Wolfelt writes, “You are in a position to provide those experiences, to differentiate yourself among area funeral homes. For many families, it won’t matter if you charge more to plan and carry out the funeral IF you create the best experiences. Families and community members will come away from your funerals saying, “Wow. That was absolutely the best funeral I ever attended. I never knew a funeral could be so powerful, so meaningful, so healing.”

What are you doing to create healing experiences for families? How well do your products and services align with the three criteria I’ve outlined?


Let’s hear from you. I want to know your thoughts on the power of healing experiences, and what’s working (or not working) for you. That’s what the comments box is for!

Stay tuned.
Next week I’m going to take a closer look at the differences between memorial products and those that create healing experiences.

Joe Joachim


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  1. Kim Stacey

    I couldn’t agree more! I loved the 5 steps you suggested, and feel that Step 4 is essential. All too often that’s where we fail – we get caught up in the ‘doing’ and ignore the evaluation.

    Touching bases with client families after the service can provide us with qualitative feedback, but it’s certainly only part of the picture.

    Can’t wait to hear more next week. Can’t imagine what your ‘big secret’ is!

  2. Anya Shortridge

    Joe, I so appreciate your commitment to families. Yes, we are all in business, but why did we go into this business? And why do we STAY in this business – it is the families. Someone needs to help them at a most vulnerable time in their lives. I welcome any tools that will assist me in helping these dear ones better. I can’t wait to see what is on the horizon.

  3. Kathleen Meyers Baska

    It is true that some of the material things do not give them a healing process. We do not offer any of the Product items, only if the family asks for them. We let the family know we can obtain these items if they really would like them. Very few ask. How ever the sympathy cards I send with the picture and obit on it have become great keepsakes and they let us know that it will stay out in their home. We are planning a Thanksgiving Memorial services this month. Asking those who come to bring a non perishable food item in honor of their loved ones to give to the food pantry locally for the holidays. It is becoming a great success also as for the at -needs memorial contributions also. It is something physically they can see being done in honor of their loved one and it gives them some healing they are helping those in need also.

    I never want a family feeling we are out to get them for their money, which from articles and other publications have led families to believe that is all Funeral Homes want from them. However, I feel funeral directors have lost some respect by cheapening a service and not letting people realize the hard work, long hours and how much we truly give up to help families through this difficult time. I could go on, but I will stop.

    I have grown up around the funeral industry all my life and I know both my Great Grandfather and Grandfather must be rolling over in their graves as to what has happened to some of industry. Our firm was started in 1905. We try to keep most of the family tradition and blend it in with the new. I wish there were more we could really do to reach out to the families.

    I still would like to know if you received the Brownies I sent you with a card?

    Thank you,

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