Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dealing With Grief During the Holiday Season

Birthdays, anniversary, and holidays can be a painful reminder that your loved one isn't around anymore to celebrate with you. In our culture we expect to spend the holidays with loved ones, and the fact that a loved one isn't here anymore can be hard to cope with. Traditions that involved them can leave you not wanting to participate at all. Every one grieves differently, and people want different things when it comes to dealing with loss. We have rounded up some of the best advice on how to deal with grief during the holiday season to hopefully make the transition a little smoother.

1. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. Grief is the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and mourning is our external expressions.

2. Have a Plan A/Plan B – Plan A is you go to the Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. If it doesn’t feel right, have your plan B ready. Plan B may be a movie you both liked or a photo album to look through or a special place you went to together. Many people find that when they have Plan B in place, just knowing it is there is enough.

3. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Share your plans with family and friends and let them know of any intended changes in holiday routine. Memories can sometimes be a source of comfort to the bereaved. Share your memories with others of holidays spent with your loved one by telling stories and looking at photo albums.

4. GIVE! It's amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others.You might purchase something that symbolizes the person or time before your loss and donate it to a needy family. Or make a donation in a loved one's name to a charity or cause he or she cherished.

5. Make a new tradition to remember your loved one. Making a conscious decision to spend some part of the day talking about this person will enable others to feel like they have permission to talk about him or her, too. For example, you could hang a stocking in honor of the person you lost. Throughout the evening, family and friends fill the stocking with items that serve as talking points for memories It's a wonderful tradition that can generates conversation in a comfortable way.

6. Do something different. Acknowledge that things have changed; indeed, the holiday will not be the same as it was ever again. Accepting this will help manage expectations. Plan new activities, especially the first year after the loss. Go to a new location for family celebrations, change the menu or go out to eat, volunteer, invite friends over, attend the theater, travel … create new memories. Many families return to their usual routines and rituals after the first year, but some enjoy incorporating their new experiences permanently.

7. Skip it. If you feel that it will be too much for you and you'd like to simply opt out of participation in a holiday, let family and friends know. But plan alternative comforting activities for yourself and let someone know what you will be doing. It's a good idea to make sure someone checks in with you on that day.

8. Finding a supportive network can be very helpful. Seeking out others who will possibly better understand your feelings may help you feel less alone over the holidays. Grief groups are free to join and attend. Start here to find one in your area. You can also call a nearby hospice: The employees will be able to direct you to nearby support groups and holiday focused programs.  

sources here, here, and here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Not just a man's job: More women are funeral home directors

For centuries, and across many cultures, women have taken many roles in the rituals surrounding death. They have dressed bodies, cooked and cared for survivors and rendered other services.
But, until a few decades ago, few women were funeral directors in the American funeral industry. That job was one among many that were widely considered “a man’s job.”
That is changing, in both perception and reality.

Bernie Henderson, president of Woody Funeral Home and Cremation Service, grew up in a family funeral home business and has seen the change taking place around him.

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, Henderson said, “you didn’t expect to see a woman in that job. It was highly unlikely. It wasn’t thought of as work conducive to having females do it. It was like a lot of other jobs — police officers, firefighters, ministers, doctors, the military, engineers.

“Those were stereotypes that were still around, even into the ’80s,” he said, “in part, I think, because men were afraid they’d get shown up.”

But, in the past decade especially, Henderson said, women have proven “they can do anything they want to, and do it quite well.”

Henderson has first-hand experience to back that observation when it comes to his profession. At Woody — with its three Richmond-area locations — four of the company’s 10 funeral directors are women.

According to the Wisconsin-based National Funeral Directors Association, women accounted for 16.5 percent of the association’s membership as of 2014 — compared with 9.7 percent a decade earlier. The group represents 48 percent of U.S. funeral homes.

Ingrid Brown was the first of Woody’s female funeral directors when she started her apprenticeship there 13 years ago.

“My father made sure I got a good education,” Brown said. “I like dealing with different cultures, and I think that is a valuable asset for me.”

Women, she said, sometimes have a knack for attention to detail. “We have to check with the hospital to release the body, do the paperwork, meet with the family to make arrangements for visitation and services, book everything that needs to be booked, call the newspapers to put in the notices — there are so many details.

“And all funeral directors have to adjust to the different needs of different families.”

The other women funeral directors with Woody — Carmelita Anderson, Narita Wright and Jordan Mullins — also noted qualities that may help women in the job.

“I think some women may be a little more in touch with feelings than some men may be,” Wright said. “And some family members are able to open up to us a little more and tell us what they need.”
Anderson said she sees women approach the job “a little differently, with more sympathy and willingness to show it. Some families respond to that softer side.
“Some men are stiffer, more businesslike,” Anderson said. “Though some are also able to show emotion when it’s called for.”
Mullins, 27, has been a funeral director for five years and been with Woody since July. She said that, once in a while, women in the position of funeral director still see resistance from grieving families.
“Sometimes certain members of families aren’t expecting to see a woman,” she said. “They still default to an older man in that role — a gentleman in his 60s rather than a female in her 20s.
“But being a younger woman can be an advantage, too,” she said. “It just depends on the family.”

Indications are that the percentage of women funeral directors will continue to rise, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
In 2013, the most recent figures available, 62.7 percent of mortuary science students nationally were women, up from 35 percent in 1995.
Chuck Bowman, secretary of the funeral directors association’s board and an officer in a Denver funeral firm, said that when women began to assume the role of funeral director “some people thought women wouldn’t be tough enough ... that they couldn’t deal with the sight of a dead body. Of course, that’s turned out to be a bunch of hocus-pocus.”

Bowman said women “bring a motherly quality to the job” that often is ideal for a grieving family, especially when the deceased is a child.

Lacy Whitaker, executive director of the Virginia Funeral Directors Association, said the industry “attracts the caring, nurturing side” of women. And as women continue to enter the business, she said, she expects more women will open their own funeral homes.

Henderson said the rising tide of women as funeral directors — and in administrative positions and ownership in the industry — also reflects the determination of more women to pursue the business.
“Women are coming into the industry with a strong will to be part of it,” Henderson said. “They’re not entering into it casually.

“They have a can-do attitude — they’re going to make this happen,” he said. “They’re not doing it because ‘I’m the son and my daddy wants me to do it.’ ”

Lacyn Barton fits that description. She is a licensed funeral director for Nelsen Funeral Homes and location manager for the firm at its home at 4650 S. Laburnum Ave. in eastern Henrico County.
Barton studied mortuary science at Arapahoe Community College in Denver and worked in the industry in Colorado, Washington state, Arizona, New Mexico and Pennsylvania — 14 years in all before joining the Nelsen staff last week.

“I’ve been trying to seek out opportunities to advance,” she said. “I wasn’t born into the business. ... I’ve been seeking opportunities for better, higher jobs.”

Her entry into the funeral business was an odd one. A horse-training accident resulted in a broken skull and left her unconscious. Her family was planning her funeral.

“When I did wake up, I had to learn to walk and talk again,” Barton said. “My family told me the story of what had happened.”

She no longer could ride horses because of the risk of even worse injury, she said, effectively ending her career in that field. She began contemplating what her family members had been through when they had expected her to die.

“I said, ‘I think I’ve found my calling — helping people through the difficult time of a funeral.’”

She said she expects more and more women to consider the funeral industry as a career path.

“Women will find they have the personality and skills for the job,” she said, “the compassion and empathy to make the work a meaningful personal experience. When it comes to nurturing and care-giving, women are especially adept.”

Nelsen’s two other locations are in Ashland and Williamsburg. Woody and Nelsen — both independently operated — are owned by Houston-based Service Corp. International under that company’s Dignity Memorial brand. A public company, Service Corp. International operates more than 1,500 funeral homes and 450 cemeteries.

Among the longer-tenured women funeral directors in the Richmond area is Nicole Blanchard, one of three women among the 12 funeral directors at Bliley’s Funeral Homes’ three full-service Richmond-area locations.

Blanchard comes from a funeral-business family. Her father ran a funeral home in Delaware. A 1990 graduate of the mortuary science program at John Tyler Community College, she made the rounds of Richmond-area funeral homes for 18 months looking for an apprenticeship — a requirement for a funeral director’s license.

“I wasn’t having any success,” she said. “A few places said, ‘We’ll call you,’ but I knew they weren’t going to.” She said she was ready to start hunting for jobs in Northern Virginia when she tried Bliley’s one more time. “And they were ready to have a woman on the staff.”

She is in her second tour at Bliley’s, her work there sandwiched around a stretch at Nelsen from 1994 to 2006.

Initially, she said, she saw some resistance to a woman as funeral director — at work and from families — but that faded and often many families appreciated her softer approach.

“Some people would say a woman can’t move a 300-pound body — well neither can a man,” she said. If a woman needs help, she gets help, just as a man does, Blanchard said.

She said she is surprised to see how many younger women are entering the industry now.

“The younger generation isn’t limiting itself,” she said. “Just as in other occupations, they’re overcoming the same arguments against doing the work.”

She said most men in the profession “care about the families they work with. They have the same warmth and sympathy that women do,” but there are times when grieving families respond to women more freely, such as when the deceased is a child or a baby.

She recalled a time during her apprenticeship that she took as a sign that she had made the right career choice.

She was driving a hearse, she said, not during a funeral procession but in ordinary traffic. “I was stopped at a light. An older gentleman pulled up beside me and motioned for me to roll down my window. I did, and he smiled and said I was the first female hearse driver he had ever seen. He said, ‘I think I like it.’ ”

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Allowing Families to Face Death - Watch Your Loved One's Cremation

You may have heard that cremations are on the rise. More and more people are choosing to forgo the traditional burial in a casket and do cremations. In an article posted by the Charleston Business Journal, it was reported that nearly 62% of Americans were buried after death in 2005. The National Funeral Directors Association projects 48.5% of Americans who die this year, or about 1.27 million people, will be cremated. The percentage jumps to a projected 56.2% in 2020 and 71% in 2030.

With the change, we have already seen a shift in the way we go remembering our loved ones. Companies have come out with more eccentric ways to store ashes, funeral homes sell pendant necklaces that feature a dead relative’s fingerprint, personalized urns with an etched photo of a departed friend and bracelets that hold the ashes of a beloved family pet. Today, the possibilities are really endless when it comes to memorilizing those you care about. You can even view your loved one being cremated. For some, watching the cremation process, something unheard of in the 1970s, has become another step in the grieving process.

Marcus Yocum, who has worked in the funeral services industry since the early 1990s, opened Charleston Cremation Center and Funeral Home in October. His 6,400-square-foot facility includes separate crematories for humans and pets in the same building as the chapel and reception lounge.
Loved ones of deceased individuals can stand in a hallway and look through a window to watch the cremation process. Yocum said it’s a way of giving families peace of mind and comfort.

“More and more families are wanting to witness the cremation, view the cremation,” he said. “We’re taking that question out of whether or not their loved one was the one that was placed inside. I want to take that question out. My facility is full-disclosure.”
The McAlister-Smith Funeral Cremation crematory in West Ashley is also open to families who want to see the process.
He then offers to let the family go to the crematory unannounced to inspect it. If the family is still concerned, he offers the opportunity for them to watch the cremation.
“I would make it available for you to not only place mom or dad in the cremation chamber, allow me to put everything in place, close it, you can even push the button to start the process,” Willis said.
“Now, that’s not saying you have to go and do this,” he said, adding that some religious customs require the entire family to bathe the body and place it in the cremation chamber as a group.
Willis’ facility also includes a draped window from behind which family members can watch.
“For us, as funeral directors, to be able to stand with the family and allow them to face death — that’s what we want,” he said. “We want to stand with them and be with them and help them walk down that road. All of what we do, all of these things is an effort to do that.”
The aftermath of death feels like it has always belong to the Funeral Director, but families are wanting to be more involved, more inclusive when it comes to the preparations of their loves ones. 
“There are a lot of avenues for families to take now,” Willis said. “It has become — not necessarily a trend, but families have said, ‘This is what we want,’ and most funeral homes nowadays are saying, ‘Then let’s help you do that.’ ”

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Will For The Woods - A Green Burial

We have a seen a "green" movement make its way into our every day lives, in our products, businesses, and even our drinks! Today people are more conscious about the earth we live in, and there is more of an urge to take care of it. There is an effort to make whatever we can more of a green processes, and we have seen that take affect in the funeral industry as well.  

What Is a Green Burial? Green burial is a simple and natural alternative to resource-intensive contemporary burial or cremation. The deceased is laid to rest in the earth using only biodegradable materials and without a vault or toxic embalming, in a woodland or other natural setting, often with a fieldstone or indigenous plant marking the grave. This practice can be used as a conservation tool, enabling the acquisition, restoration, and stewardship of natural areas. Simple natural burials were prevalent for thousands of years (and still are in many parts of the world, including in traditional Muslim and Jewish burials) before the contemporary funeral industry propagated the standard of expensive and elaborate funerals divorced from natural processes. 

As the world has become increasingly concerned with climate change and environmental degradation, the role that our funeral and burial practices play in these matters has gone largely unaddressed. The typical American-style funeral — with a casket made of precious wood or metal, a concrete vault, a large marble or granite monument, and embalming — is incredibly resource-intensive, and it has become common in much of the world. In the U.S. alone, approximately 33 million board feet of mostly virgin wood, 60,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, and 5 million gallons of toxic embalming fluid are put into the ground every year. Further, the large tracts of land that conventional cemeteries occupy are typically covered in turf grass in need of constant maintenance in the form of mowing, watering, and the application of chemicals. Cremation, sometimes misconstrued as a green alternative to conventional burial, consumes a large amount of fossil and other fuels, and as the body is burned at high temperatures, particulate pollution, CO2 (approximately 110 pounds per cremation, on average), and toxins such as dioxins, furans, and mercury are released into the atmosphere. The burgeoning green burial movement seeks to change these conventions — not only by greatly reducing resource use and pollution, but also by using burial as a conservation strategy to protect and restore natural areas. In addition to these environmental benefits, the cost of a green burial is often much less than that of a conventional one. Furthermore, green burial offers many the solace of knowing that they will remain within the cycle of life. Created over the course of four years, A Will for the Woods documents the movement’s progress by focusing on some of its key figures, including Joe Sehee of the Green Burial Council; Kimberley and Dr. Billy Campbell, founders of the nation’s first conservation burial ground; and Dyanne Matzkevich, who is saving a tract of forest within her conventional cemetery by turning it into a green burial ground. The film’s main focus, however, is the story of Clark Wang and Jane Ezzard. Faced with the possibility of Clark's imminent death, they find beauty and comfort in the environmental and spiritual significance of green burial.

Wang asks the questions, what if our last act could be a gift to the planet? Determined that his final resting place will benefit the earth, musician and psychiatrist Clark Wang prepares for his own green burial. While battling lymphoma, Clark has discovered a burgeoning movement that uses burial to conserve and restore natural areas, forgoing contemporary funeral practices that operate at the ecosystem's expense. Boldly facing his mortality, Clark and his partner Jane have become passionate about green burial, compelled by both the environmental benefits and the idea that one can remain within the cycle of life, rather than being cut off from it. The spirited pair have inspired a compassionate local cemetarian, and together they aim to use green burial to save a North Carolina woods from being clear-cut. Making the most of the time that he has, Clark finds joy in his music and dance, connection with his friends and family, and great comfort in the knowledge that his death, whenever it happens, will be a force for regeneration. The film follows Clark's dream of leaving a loving, permanent legacy, and environmentalism takes on a deeply human intimacy. Documenting one community's role in the genesis of a revolutionary movement, A Will for the Woods draws the viewer into a life-affirming portrait of people embracing their connection to each other and to timeless natural cycles.

Check out the trailer for this inspiring documentary!

A Will for the Woods - Official Trailer from A Will for the Woods on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Reach client families in relevant ways this Holiday Season!

Security National Life shared a post on their site with Simple Steps to Find More Success For Your Funeral Home. We wanted to expound on one of their steps, "Reaching client families in relevant ways." 

With Thanksgiving tomorrow and the rest of the Holidays following shortly after, now is the season to gather, and celebrate with your employees, clients, and community. It is not only a time to foster relationships you have, but to cultivate new ones. As a funeral home owner, your reputation in the community is everything, and creating opportunities for the community to get to you know you can be a huge part of your firm being successful. How is your community going to get to know you? Invite them over!

Depending on your funeral home and the space you have, here are some great examples of involving your community in your place of business!

Host a Holiday Party.

Invite the community over for a Holiday Party! Show a Christmas movie, drink hot chocolate, or sing carols and play games. Do you have an outdoor space? Screen your movie outside, have a bonfire, roast marshmallows. You can make this event family friendly, like having children over to decorate ginger bread houses, or decorate a Christmas tree with their creations. Or you could cater it towards a group of adults and do more of a formal sit down dinner. If you have the space, utilize it!


The holidays can be a hard time for those who have lost loved ones. Host a service at the end of the year that celebrates and remembers those who have passed away in your community over the past year. You could have a light vigil, have speakers, let anyone come up and share memories. You can really make this a night to remember! 
Rent your space!

The holidays are a time for lots of parties! If you have the ability, think about renting out some space for local businesses to host their own holiday parties and dinners. Not only does this bring people into your place of business so they become familiar with your funeral home, you can earn money on the side. Now that is a win, win!

Decorate your Funeral Home

Have you ever heard of those communities that have such astounding decorations people come from all over to see it? Light up and decorate your funeral home! Make it THE place to come and see! Blast music, sell hot chocolate, and make stopping by your firm a holiday tradition every year for people in your area!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Write an Obituary

Have you ever thought about who would write your obituary? We have shared several interesting and fun obituaries on this blog that were written by the deceased themselves, (HERE & HERE) but have you ever thought about the kind of pressure you would have, having to write one for someone else? If you are being asked to write an obituary for someone else, odds are they were someone very near and dear to your heart, which could pose even more difficulties for you in writing something with a clear mind. Below are some key steps to take while drafting an obituary for your loved one that should help make this processes easier and help you not feel so overwhelmed.  

1. Get in touch with your local newspaper and/or Funeral Home. 

You need to make arrangements to print the obituary. By contacting your local newspaper, and your Funeral Home, you can learn what it will cost to have the obituary printed, the deadline for when it will need to be submitted, and when it will be printed. Plan to publish the obituary at least 1-2 days prior to services so that friends and family can make arrangements to attend. Also make sure to ask if they have specific guidelines for the obituary. Some Funeral Homes might even provide you with a form to help you with the drafting of the obituary. 

2. Biographical Sketch.

It is called a sketch because you are not supposed to include an entire live's biography in the obituary, but more of a broader picture of the person's life and important information. While there are things that make each person's life unique, we all have some common threads when it comes to milestones, and so here is a list of some important factors to include:
  • Full name of the deceased (including maiden name, nickname, or any other name by which your loved one might be identified)
  • Dates and locations of birth, marriage, and death
  • Cause of death
  • Predeceased and surviving loved ones’ names
  • Schools attended
  • Military service
  • Place of employment and position held
  • Membership in organizations (for example, civic, fraternal, church)
  • Hobbies or special interests

3. Family

The obituary is for the living too, and one of the most important parts is the listing of survivors and those who preceded your loved one in death (remember that preceded means to come before, while proceeded means moved through). In the confusion and preoccupation of grief, important relatives can be forgotten. It’s unfortunate if we forget to mention a hobby or interest, but it can be painful if we forget to mention a step-child or sister.

Typically you list survivors first, starting with the closest relations: spouse, children, grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren, parents, and siblings. If any of these relations are nonexistent or have died, skip and move to the next relation. Nieces, nephews in-laws, and cousins are usually left out, or simply numbered unless they were close to the deceased. Grandchildren and greats are often numbered too, and if you not sure you have all the names, use a number or say ‘many grandchildren’ to avoid leaving anyone out. List relatives with their first name, spouse’s first name in parenthesis, then surname. If the spouse’s surname is different, or the couple is not married, include the partner’s surname in the parenthesis along with their first name.

4. Service Times

If services are public, include full funeral service information: location, day, and time of visitation, memorial or funeral service, and burial.  If services are private, indicate so (for example, "Burial will be private" or "Private services will be held").

5. Be Unique

With all the standard and important information that is included, your obituary can easily become stale and uniform. Make your loved ones obituary unique by showing how they stood out as an individual. Using specific examples that made them unique or stand out will help illustrate and bring to life the person you are honoring and remembering. What was a quirky habit they had? Did her sense of humor brighten your life, did he always make time for the kid’s games? Did she make guests feel welcome? Paint her picture in the obituary with these details. Ask loved one's for their input here as well. Ask for details they recall, or loved about the person. How did they look or dress? What made them happy? Try and be creative with these details because this is what really highlights the individual! Try to remember specific instances where she made a difference in the lives of others. Such information inspires people and helps them connect with the deceased.

6. Special Messages

At the end of an obituary a special message is sometimes found, such as ‘in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to..’ or ‘Special Thanks to the staff at General Hospital for..’ or ‘We will always carry your memory in our hearts’. Sometimes a short prayer or a line from a poem is placed at the end. These messages are optional, but can be a way of communicating something that did not fit into the body of the obituary.

7. Photos

Photos add to the cost of an obituary, but can be a pleasant reminder of the person we miss, and a useful way for readers to recognize our loved one among all the other obituaries. It’s a great treat to see old photos and to be reminded of all the living that happened before old age and death, but friends may not recognize the person in the photo, so if you are wanting to use a dated photo it would be smart to include a recent shot as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Finding Harold


Unless you are used to the bustling throng of city life, it’s hard to explain the inherent loneliness one feels upon first entry into Wyoming’s high country. Internal sirens blare as all of your city coping skills call in for backup. None arrives.

It’s far too quiet.

Too big.

And under the weight of all that blue, even the sky starts to feel heavy. 

Let alone when one moves from a city of nearly 60,000 to a population of 4 in a remote outpost stuck out in the middle of a desolate high desert prairie. 

Welcome to Lost Springs, Wyoming. It’s America’s smallest incorporated town. After having moved to Lost Springs just over a year ago from Idaho Falls, Anngela Starnes learned exactly how long a day could feel.

“It was really, really hard at first,” Anngela says, wistfully. “I was so lonely for people, even though I was also really happy to finally have my family under one roof.”

She had resisted the move for four years. At the same time, she really missed her husband. Buddy owns A&B Trucking Company and had moved to work in Orin Junction with sporadic visits home. 

His persistence won her over in the end, when he overcame Anngela’s final stipulation – no trailers! – by finding a lovely rental house in Lost Springs with a rural school close for her teenaged daughter Nikki.

“It just felt like it was meant to be,” Anngela says with a smile. “I figured, why the heck not.”
That said, even with the family at place, the lack of human contact was hard for her to take. She’s naturally social with a warm, talkative spirit. Human connection is her lifeblood, and, as a certified addiction counselor, Anngela had spent the past 20 years helping people.

So she started walking.

Really walking. Often up to four or five miles a day, along the dusty country roads and section lines, the lifeblood connecting neighbors across the vast miles of empty land.

“I would walk for hours,” she laughs, “just looking for people, talking to nature, trying not to go too crazy.”

This is how she stumbled upon Prairie View Cemetery. At first, she mistook it for a grain field. The white of a headstone, barely noticeable in the overgrown drab green sagebrush, caught her attention.
She had always been drawn to cemeteries and other historic places. It’s the Victorian in her, she laughs, that ultimately led her to open the rusty gate and explore.

What she found nearly broke her heart. Overturned headstones gnarled within weeds and sage, graves so eroded that names were barely legible, others unmarked and lost in the overgrowth.

Most disheartening for Anngela were all of these lost lives, untended, forgotten or potentially unknown, by loved ones – most of whom had long since moved or passed away themselves, or are too old and frail or far away to maintain the upkeep of these familial graves.

She returned with her daughter Nikki and a weedwhacker. The pair blazed through the cemetery, clearing a path.

Two days later, she could barely operate a TV remote.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2015 NFDA Innovation Award


The NFDA International Convention & Expo is the place where all facets of the funeral service profession can come together to learn and share thoughts and ideas on the latest trends, technology and products. At this year's Convention, ASD’s MobileFH™ won the 2015 NFDA Innovation Award. This prestigious award is given annually to a funeral service vendor whose product or service was introduced during the previous year and represents creativity, innovation and excellence. 

MobileFH™ was developed by ASD’s technology team after hearing directors describe a common problem they experienced when using their cell phones for funeral home business. Caller ID, as helpful as it is, can also cause a lot of headaches. From the risk of a missed call to the frustration of being contacted while off duty, these problems can make it difficult for funeral professionals to separate their personal and professional lives. MobileFH™ provides a new solution to this problem by allowing funeral professionals to call any number from their cell phone and display their funeral home’s number as the outgoing Caller ID.

Not only are Directors less likely to receive business calls while off duty and in a distracting environment, the app also keeps phone numbers private, and ensures that families will always recognize when someone from the funeral home is contacting them. This aspect of the app alone could help secure business that would have otherwise been lost in the shuffle and stress that typically surrounds family members after the passing of a loved one.

Calls placed using MobileFH™ are also recorded providing a convenient tool to review and evaluate after-hour calls. Call recordings give Owners and Managers a way to objectively evaluate how employees handle challenging pricing and preneed calls. These recordings can become excellent training tools to help staff improve customer service skills.

Learn more about this helpful app and what it could do for your business!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Woman Buried Alive, Funeral Goers Hear Screams From The Grave...

The fear of being buried alive has been a real fear for centuries, in fact, the phobia even has a formal name; taphophobia. Before modern medicine this fear wasn't completely irrational. Before the 20th century, methods of determining death were far from reliable and cases of premature burial was not uncommon. Throughout history, there have been numerous cases of people being buried alive by accident. Because of this a large number of designs for safety coffins were patented during the 18th and 19th centuries. Safety coffins were fitted with a mechanism to allow the occupant to signal that he or she has been buried alive. On his deathbed in 1799, George Washington made his attendants promise not to bury him for two days. One of Edgar Allan Poe's horror stories, "The Premature Burial", is about a person suffering from taphophobia. Other Poe stories about premature burial are "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Cask of Amontillado"—and to a lesser extent, “The Black Cat." 

"In 1905, the English reformer William Tebb collected accounts of premature burial. He found 219 cases of near live burial, 149 actual live burials, 10 cases of live dissection and 2 cases of awakening while being embalmed." - The Corpse: A History 

You would think this fear would be something of the past, but just this month a 34 year old woman was buried alive. Unfortunately in her case it wasn't an accident. Now 8 News reported the Chicago modern day horror story; "A 34 year old woman in now recovering from a most bizarre scene, one you only hear about in the movies. A Chicago family was grieving the loss of their son, as they said their final goodbye’s at his funeral. Police say it was unlike anything they had ever seen before. Reports say that approximately 15 minutes after the body of the man was laid to rest, the family of the deceased began to hear screams. 

“We decided to stay for a bit after the funeral, to let it all sink in. When all of a sudden we heard screams, but we could not figure out where they were coming from,” said one family member who wished to stay anonymous. “We realized it was coming from under the grave where we just laid my brother. We ran and got help.” Police say when firefighters arrived, they received permission from the family to dig up the freshly dug grave. As they did, the screams became louder and louder. When they reached the coffin, they pried it open, to find 34 year old Linda Lynch inside. 

Police say it was a twisted plot. The coffin of the man, who was supposed to be buried, was wheeled to the back and his body was quickly removed after the service by the funeral director, Harold Lynch, at Thomas Hite Funeral Home, who had attempted to murder his 34 year old estranged wife. Lynch had drugged his wife with arsenic and hid her in the funeral home, perfectly timing it with the scheduled burial.  The young man who was scheduled to be buried was found wrapped in a blanket in the funeral home basement.

Lynch’s wife is currently hospitalized in stable condition undergoing an intense detoxification process. Lynch is being held on a $200,000 bond and faces attempted murder charges. The Chicago family has properly buried their son.

Whether accidental, or murder, the fear of being buried alive has found its way into our culture through scary movies, and literature. If for some reason you find yourself in this predicament, here are some steps on how to survive being buried alive in a coffin! You can also check these ones out from the worst case scenario website.

Have a fun and safe Halloween weekend! 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Online Funeral Planning - Should Funeral Homes Have To Post Prices Online?


Prices for the same funeral services in the same city can be double or triple those of a nearby funeral home. With that being the case, it is obviously in someone's best interest to comparison shop funeral homes to find the best price. But is that really what a loved one going through a difficult time wants to be doing?

Today almost everything can be purchased online, our bills, clothes, pets, the list is endless really. E-commerce appears to be the way of the future. However when the Funeral Consumers surveyed funeral home prices and disclosures in ten areas of the country, tracking down prices for 15 funeral homes in each area, including at least one part of a funeral home chain; the Alliance found 16% of the 150 funeral homes failed to disclose prices on a website, in response to an email or in response to a phone call. Not only that but Steve Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, found that in the same city there is a huge range in prices for essentially the same thing. Prices for the same funeral services within individual areas almost always varied by at least 100 percent and often varied by more than 200 percent. Direct cremation charges ranged from $455 to $3,390 in Seattle. Immediate burial charges ranged from $1,195 to $5,200 in Atlanta. And full-service funerals ranged in the District of Columbia ranged from $3,370 to $13,800.

“As an advocate who’s researched prices for consumer services for decades, I was stunned by the price differences. The huge price ranges for identical funeral services within individual areas indicate that these markets lack effective competition,” said CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck in a statement. “The lack of price competition is unfortunate given the relatively high cost of funeral services and the reluctance of many bereaved consumers to comparison shop for these services.”

Because of these wide gaps in price, thirty-one years after the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule intended to make funeral home pricing more transparent became law, consumer advocates are calling on the FTC to require funeral homes to post prices online.

The CFA found just 25 percent of funeral homes post prices on the Internet, largely because they don’t have to. "Federal law only requires funeral homes to provide prices by telephone or mail—antiquated relics, the CFA says, of 1980’s rulemaking." 

Price transparency aside, with a younger more tech savvy generation up next, wouldn't it make more sense to have some kind of online funeral planning available anyways? With the baby boomers coming up as the next senior population, the funeral industry is going to be hit with a lot more business, and it will undoubtedly shake things up for the old ways things have typically been done. What is the future for the funeral industry? I can't say but change seems to be imminent!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Families choose home funerals for their loved ones...

Sisters Rebecca, left, and Lacy Denboer spend a moment with their mother LuAnn Denboer at her casket during a home funeral.

Read more here:

Article originally appeared on Star Telegram

It had been a rough five years for Robert Denboer, who mourned the deaths of his mother, father, mother-in-law and several close friends in quick succession.

Then, in June, the cancer his wife had fought to a stalemate years ago returned vengefully. He knew he would be planning another funeral.

One day Denboer wandered onto a YouTube video of two women discussing home funerals — services conducted for loved ones, usually unembalmed, right in the living room or other part of the house.

“I got two impressions out of it,” said Denboer, 60, of Fort Worth. “One, that it was morose, even kind of gross, just too strange. But the other impression I got was that the two ladies talking about it were very sincere and felt it was the only way to fully experience that their loved one was gone and to be reconciled with that.”

He discussed having a home funeral with his wife, LuAnn, who liked the idea but didn’t want their adult daughters to be uncomfortable with it.

Rebecca and Lacy Denboer, who live at the family home, hesitated at first.

“It seemed a very foreign idea,” said Rebecca, 30. “My initial reaction was, ‘Is this going to be respectful enough?’ 

Home funerals are nothing new. In the pioneer days, families took care of their dead on their own. Funeral homes didn’t start springing up until embalming procedures were refined and became popular during the Civil War.

Home funerals are legal in all states, although 10 of them require the involvement of a licensed funeral director for some services.

Read more here:

Texas is not among those 10 states, although critics say some funeral directors don’t always make that clear to their grieving customers.

Bonnie Smith of Arlington, a nurse who had a home funeral for her husband in April, complains that many funeral directors push expensive, unnecessary services on families who may too be shellshocked with grief to make good decisions.

“Especially people who go into debt to pay for this and they don’t have the money. That’s terrible,” Smith said. “They don’t know what they’re getting into.”

Michael Land, past president of the 125-year-old Texas Funeral Directors Association, said the vast majority of funeral directors have the best interests of the families at heart. For those needing more incentive, the U.S. Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule” has strict requirements for openness and fairness.

“When we sit down with a family, we have to disclose certain things — like embalming is not required by law and not all cemeteries require an outer burial container,” Land said. And they must go over a detailed price list with the family. “But when a family comes in to make arrangements, we don’t just sit down and say, ‘You know you can do this yourself.’ 

19,391 Number of funeral homes in the U.S. in 2015, down from 21,528 in 2004, according to the National Directory of Morticians
People like Elva Roy are working to spread the word that there are alternatives to full-service traditional funerals, also including green burials, in which all materials are completely biodegradable. Roy says more and more people are learning about their choices — certainly those in the audiences she speaks to as a board member of the advocacy group Funeral Consumers Alliance.

“We as Americans have been conditioned to fear death. It’s a taboo subject because we’re in denial that one day we’re going to die,” said Roy, who helped the Denboer family with their in-home service. “So it’s hard to even get a conversation going with family members.”

Home funerals are clearly less expensive than traditional funerals, which on average cost about $10,000 in the U.S., including a standard casket and cemetery vault, said Land, who has been director of Forest Ridge Funeral Home in Hurst since it was founded in 1997.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Documenting your Funeral with Videography

Documenting important events has been something we do for decades, and over the last several years videography for weddings, births, and even just family outings has become common place. But what about videography for your funeral? We have heard about live streaming your funeral, but actually making a video to remember the day and watch later?  

Professionally filming your funeral has become very popular in New Zealand, and videographer/editor Juliet Campbell makes a great point that it is a way for family and friends who live overseas or who can't attend to be able to see the funeral, commenting that they sends "heaps of DVDS overseas." Campbell brings up the fact that a lot of times family is going through such a hard time it can be hard for them to remember everything from the day, and having it documented in this way provides them the opportunity to go back if they want, adding that the video also acts as an archive for families for who was in attendance.

With funerals making a shift towards "celebrations of life" I guess it would make sense to document such an event, especially since they tend to be a family reunion of sorts. There is a joke in the pre-need funeral business that people spend so much money on a wedding when so many marriages aren't a guarantee. However, when the one guarantee in life is that you will one day pass, people don't want to spend money on their funerals.

Campbell reiterates that filming a funeral isn't a morbid thing, but like watching a biography of the persons life. In New Zealand, professional filming of your funeral has become a service offered by many funeral homes. Read more HERE.

With the younger generation documenting everything from what they had for lunch, to what they are wearing for the day, maybe this isn't such a weird idea after all. Funeral homes should take note of this new line of business that could prove to become common place in the funeral industry very soon!