The Funeral Arranging Ethic

The FUNERAL ETHICS ASSOCIATION receives complaints from around the country about perceived inappropriate demeanor of some funeral directors. You can avoid being the target of these types of complaints by the way you and your staff handle the arrangement conference.

Inevitably, when such a complaint is received by the FUNERAL ETHICS ASSOCIATION, the heart of the matter is that the complainant individually felt they were excluded from participation, by the inattention of the funeral director, to their specific wants and concerns.

You have a difficult task in arranging a funeral, especially when there may be 3, 5 or 7 actual participants. Large families who come together at the death of a parent may have flown in, from various parts of the country, under pressure circumstances, just so they could be together in the decision making process. They sometimes come with a level of expectation that only a very alert funeral director can adequately meet!

Take a minute and reflect on the last large family you served. Who got the attention? At the end of the arrangement, had you called each person by name at least once, and asked if he or she had any questions?

Whether or not you look to one or two persons who are accepting responsibility of the funeral expenses, everyone involved is looking to you, or your staff member, as a facilitator. You take on the role of what might be that of a committee chairman for a civic organization. You’ve done that and you know that volunteers need to be led, acknowledged, encouraged and sometimes even pampered if they need it.

A family, and each individual in it, brings that same level of expectation to your office, whether or not they are the decision maker or the financially responsible person.

You ignore them to your detriment. The unacknowledged attendee, during the arrangement conference, is the most likely person to bring a complaint about you, because he or she, feeling ignored, will be ultra sensitive about every facet of the funeral. In short, the non-responsible family member is more likely to find fault, and complain, than the individual(s) paying for the funeral.

So many times, the caller to the FUNERAL ETHICS ASSOCIATION starts off with, “I want to lodge a complaint against a funeral director.” Recently, we received such a call from West Virginia. The woman was one of four daughters of a deceased mother. But she flew in from Georgia to “participate”.

She acknowledged that the youngest daughter, who lived locally, had been appointed as probate administrator, but resented her boyfriend’s interference. It was one of the situations where there was little money immediately available. The boyfriend agreed to put up an initial deposit of $1,500 “to get things going.” The younger sister and he had agreed to sign the funeral arrangement. The caller said, “The rest of us never got the time of day.”

It turned out there was an estate. She had learned that a claim, from the boyfriend of her sister, was made to the estate, not only for the funeral, but included an $8,100 monument. She immediately concluded that the boyfriend and the funeral director had colluded to trick the estate into a false reimbursement because the statement for the $8,100 was on the funeral director’s letterhead. In her view, it was the funeral director’s fault.

When we pointed out that it would be pure folly for a funeral director to engage in such a scam, but that getting a copy of the firm’s letterhead might not be all that difficult, she still blamed the funeral director, not the sister’s boyfriend, who submitted the claim.

Friends, when there is an arrangement conference, you are under greater scrutiny than at any time during the funeral process. The observers are the ones who can and will do you the most harm if you are not considerate of them, even if they are onlookers.

Take the time to sort out the decision makers while still attending to the psychic needs of each of the others who are present. It takes special strokes for all the folks.

There is an arrangements ethic. Polish yours and your future will sparkle, too!

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