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Creating “Gathering Time” may be the secret

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Probably the biggest value for me in blogging with Funeral Director Daily is the people I have been able to correspond with that I would have never got to know without the blog.  I’ve got lots of new friends who I have never met — almost 3,000 regular readers — many who correspond with me about my articles. . . . Some people agree with me and some people don’t.  But, all have opinions that I value and many times something they may say jars me to think about something in an entirely different way than I ever have before.

One of the readers I’ve really come to appreciate is a funeral director from Michigan named Dale Clock.  Dale lets me know when he thinks I’m right on something and he also lets me know when he might have a difference of opinion with me.

I published this article just last week entitled “Cremation rate at 57% . . and it’s not coming down anytime soon”.  The article pondered why cremation has grown so fast and also questioned why is there not more permanent remembrance.  It prompted this comment from Mr. Clock:

As I have said before, for the last 100 years funeral service has believed that the value of the funeral was “the body and the box”. That is not true and never has been. The Value of a Funeral is “the gathering together of people and the sharing of stories”. With the increase in cremation the body is now being unbundled from the event and funeral service has not adapted to that. Folks in funeral service still feel that viewing a dead body is required for “proper grief recovery”. This is not true. Grief recovery is a by-product of people gathering together and sharing stories. Funeral Service does not exist to help people grieve. Funeral service is there to help people gather together and share stories which will in time help with their grief. But if Funeral Service continues to use Grief Recovery as their main value proposition, they will ultimately loose out to the folks who help people gather and share stories.”

I learned over 40 years ago in mortuary school that “Grief Shared is Grief Diminished”.  I still believe that is true, but as Dale Clock so eloquently gets to, in my estimation, “it is a by product of gathering” not a stand alone phenomena.

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

So, as funeral directors have we missed the boat when we worry too much about helping a family diminish or resolve grief?  Should we simply be more focused on a “gathering event” rather than a formal service, that at least in some religious orders, is pieced together as a traditional way of helping family members mourn and resolve grief?  I thought of that as I read this article entitled “More cremations mean fewer chances to grieve together” from Christianity Today.

The sub-title from that article seemingly takes a page from Mr. Clock when it says, “With church funerals and burials no longer the norm, pastors hope to restore occasions to gather and remember.”  Notice the “Gather and Remember” phrase that seems to come right out of Dale Clock’s comment.

I think that formal traditional church weddings have lost their flavor in that couples now prefer to have a less traditional “Gathering and Celebration” of the event just as it may be that formal funerals now offer less meaning to survivors than does the ability to just “Gather and Remember”.  I agree with Mr. Clock, that if we don’t propose alternatives from traditional funerals to those folks who prefer the more simple “Gather and Remember” plan of action we will lose business to those, like wedding planners, who do offer alternatives.

More and more I’m finding myself going to a “Gathering event” rather than a funeral service.  It’s now pretty common for members of our golf club to have a Sunday afternoon reception for the family at the golf club instead of any formal service following a direct cremation.  And, most of the time — matter of fact, almost always — there is no funeral home involved in this “reception”.  It seems to me that families are well satisfied getting to see and visit with so many of their loved one’s friends in this friendly and familiar environment.

Today’s article is one of those philosophical articles that I sometimes put together that has no right or wrong answers.  It is meant to stimulate our thinking in order that we may provide the best and most needed services to those who lose a loved one.  As time and tradition modifies, we as death care providers need to make sure that we are moving our business in the direction that our clients see relevant.

Related – Clock Funeral Home website

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One Comment

  1. We have encouraged “Gatherings” for many years, to families who don’t want a “service”. the informal atmosphere allows them to remain relaxed and supplying refreshments gives the feeling of hospitality. The one sound coming from the gathering that tells me that the event is a success is……. laughter. Laughter tells me that the family and friends have moved the focus from death to the life of the loved one. The sharing of great memories.

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