Monday, September 29, 2014

Why should funeral directors value memorialization

This article originally appeared in American Funeral Director.

As funeral directors, we help families during some of the hardest days of their lives. We do everything we can to make the funeral services as unique and special as the lives they are celebrating. We help them plan every detail of the service from the casket and burial vault to the flowers and music.

But you and I know that our job is so much more than keeping track of the details. Our real job is to help lead families down the path of healthy healing. We provide families with the tools necessary to help them grieve. And permanent memorialization is a vital part of the healing process. Even if your funeral home isn’t part of a combo, it’s still imperative to encourage families to memorialize.

I’d imagine your funeral home offers online tributes for the families you serve. It is a great tool for people locally and across the country to interact with the grieving family and feel connected. But is that really memorialization? Leaving kind, caring words on a website can be comforting at the time of need, but the online tribute page is temporary. Even a stack of print outs from the website will eventually fade, be stored in a closet or even accidentally be thrown away. Only a permanent memorial preserves a legacy for generations to come and marks a special place for friends and family to continue to gather to share special memories.

Most of the time, when a family thinks about places to leave a loved one’s legacy, they start with the cemetery. But, the cemetery isn’t the only place families can memorialize a loved one, especially for those who chose cremation. For instance, a loved one’s cremated remains can be placed in a memorial rock and displayed in a beautiful garden in the family’s backyard. A family could also have a memorial cremation bench designed to be placed under a tree in a local park.

What if the family insists on scattering? I won’t spend time explaining why scattering is less than ideal. If they can’t be swayed, it’s our job, as funeral professionals, to strongly encourage them to include a place of memorialization. It could be an engraved brick on a path at a local school, a bird bath in a community garden or a plaque on a memorial wall in a cemetery. What’s most important is that there is a permanent, public place for people to gather to remember.

When a family is grieving, the last thing on their mind is genealogical research. But it’s up to us to remind them that their loved one’s memorial will have an important impact on future generations. By creating a permanent memorial in a cemetery or a special place of the family’s choosing, they help future family members learn about and honor their ancestors.

Cemeteries are a snapshot of the community’s historical timeline. They are a proud and permanent museum for those who came before us. Much like public records, memorials in a cemetery serve as an important way to track the life of a family, or many families across an entire generation.

If I still have your attention and you are still reading, then you must somewhat agree with me. As a funeral professional, emphasizing permanent memorialization is another component in the way we care for the families we serve. It not only helps the healing process, but it also provides families a place to visit and to share memories for years to come. So add one more thing to the list of details and help the families you serve tell the story of their loved ones’ lives.

Rich Darby is Chief Operating Officer for Trigard and Trigard Memorials. He earned his funeral director license from Southern Illinois University in 1987, and is licensed in Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. His family owns and operates Trigard, Trigard Memorials, Hall of Fame Plaques and Signs, a memorial park and seven funeral homes across Illinois, Indiana and Arizona. Email him at

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