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Growing Trends In The Funeral Planning Industry

by Ann Heinz, Product Manager | Sep 05, 2019

An Open Discussion Surrounding Death and Funeral Personalization

Death Cafes and The Importance of Pre-Planning Your Funeral
Ann Heinz, our FuneralCE product manager, spoke with Gail Rubin in an interview you can read here. Rubin is a pioneering death educator and Certified Thanatologist who works to help people of all ages discuss and plan ahead for end-of-life issues. Previously, we spoke with Rubin about her work with Death Cafés and her involvement with the Before I Die Festival in New Mexico. In this follow-up, Rubin speaks to the future of the funeral planning industry and what trends we can expect to see.

Heinz: Would you say it’s popular to see funeral homes help families personalize the funeral experience?

Rubin: Absolutely. It’s one of those new trends we’re seeing in death care and funerals. Personalization makes a memorial service memorable and the funeral director wins the affection of the family, leading to additional business.

Heinz: What other new trends are you seeing?

Rubin: Celebrant services. There is a decline in religious observance in this country. If you’re not associated with a religion, when someone dies, you don’t have ritual or structure to help process this important life cycle event. People are turning to celebrants for weddings as well as funerals. The idea is to make it all about the individuals involved. We focus on what their passions were and what effect they had on the people in their lives. Not everyone is a good person. In some cases, you might have to do a funeral or memorial service that helps heal the wounds inflicted by the deceased on the people left behind. Celebrant services are a new trend that people are just beginning to become aware of.

Green burials and eco-friendly funerals are also trending in interest and awareness. Baby boomers who have been recycling and environmentally conscious throughout their lives want to extend that concern to their final arrangements.

Also, a behind-the-scenes development in the funeral industry is the use of online arrangement platforms. Online platforms allow a funeral home to help a family that’s spread out across the country to get together virtually. They can have a conversation and make funeral arrangements as if they’re all in the same room together. It makes it easier for the funeral home because the data gets entered in one place and then the information can be used for the obituary, the death certificate, signage, and in other ways.

Heinz: Bringing funerals back into the home seems to be gaining some traction lately. Would you agree with that?

Rubin: Absolutely. Home funerals are a trend. The National Home Funeral Alliance was started in the past few years. It brings together people who are death doulas and home funeral guides, those who want to help educate people about approaching death and planning for home funerals. They’re not hospice or medical personnel, but they’re helping people to make arrangements for families to care for their own dead.

Heinz: How much interest are you seeing in medical aid in dying compared to people who just want to embrace hospice care?

Rubin: A lot of people think choosing hospice means you’re giving up. There are studies that show that people who go on hospice actually live longer and better than those who continue to pursue aggressive treatments. Medical aid in dying is now available in ten U.S. states and the District of Columbia. It is for people who have a terminal illness, they know they’re going to die. It gives them a certain sense of control that if the pain gets too bad, they can take this medication and pass peacefully on their own terms. It’s trending as more states are considering and implementing laws around medical aid in dying.

Heinz: Why do you think that people are more open to talking about death now?

Rubin: I think the internet has played a big role. There are online videos by people like myself and others that have helped open the conversation. The baby boomers are aging and they’re beginning to have thoughts about leaving a legacy and how they want their death handled. Even younger generations are more open now. I see a number of younger people coming to Death Cafes.

Heinz: Who do you think are some of the leading people who are making changes in the funeral industry today?

Rubin: Caitlin Doughty is phenomenal; she’s written two New York Times best-selling books about death and funerals and she’s got a third one coming out. She has a very popular YouTube channel, Ask a Mortician, which uses humor and practical information to encourage people to plan ahead.

Ernie Pray is a funeral director in Michigan. He is very big on personalizing funerals and life celebrations. He makes them as memorable as weddings.

Amy Cunningham is a funeral director in Brooklyn, New York. She used to be a journalist and had a late life change to become a funeral director. She’s doing some wonderful things: helping families consider death care at home, home funerals, green burials. She’s a wonderful woman and has some really good thoughts about returning the funeral to the family.

Heinz: What are some of your key takeaway lessons from your 30 Funerals in 30 Days project?

Rubin: It’s okay to be creative and it’s a good idea to plan ahead! At funerals where the deceased planned ahead, the families were so much calmer. They were sad, but they weren’t as stressed as they would’ve been had this person not planned ahead.

There is also an importance to holding some sort of event. I went to a memorial luncheon in a bowling alley bar. The deceased man’s wife had said, “We’re not going to have a funeral for him.” But this man had friends, he was a part of the community, he was a member of a civic club, and he was a supporter of the YMCA summer camp in New Mexico. There were people who wanted to raise a toast in his honor and say goodbye to him. These celebrations are really for the people who know and love you, so they can say goodbye. It serves a very helpful function in our society. Funerals allow people to honor the life lived and provide support for each other.

The funeral industry is ever-evolving with societal trends and expectations. To learn more about how to incorporate new important topics with your funeral home such as pre-need planning and managing grief, visit www.funeralce.com or call our knowledgeable customer service team at 877.332.8480.

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