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Guest Blog Post: Is it up to Funeral Directors to care about the surviving members of a family?

Apr 26, 2012

ASD Reward Partner, Timothy J. O’Brien M.S., is a Fellow of the American Institute of Stress and a Life Member of the International Society for Performance Improvement. Tim has been the Director of the Institute for Stress Management and Performance Improvement, since 1989. He has written articles for and presented at NFDA conventions and State Funeral Directors Association annual meetings.

Tim is also the author of the Grief Support Programs: A Season for Healing, A Reason for Hope: the Grief & Mourning Guide and Journal, and the Pet-Loss Grief Program: You will always be a part of me. He has published more than 400 print articles and wrote a bi-weekly “Life styles” column for Knight Ridder Tribune News and McClatchy newspaper services for 14 years. You can contact Tim at (850) 668-0696 or

The headline is a serious, honest question. Is it one of the responsibilities of a Funeral Director to help the surviving members of the families they serve recovery from their loss?

What was your immediate reaction? Yes or no? There are strong feelings on both sides of this question among the Funeral Directors I know and have spoken to about it.

On the “no” side of the equation, some argue that the primary responsibility of the Funeral Director is the respectful internment of the remains that they have been entrusted with and the role of Grief Support, and therefore, the facilitation of recovery from loss, falls to Hospice, Grief Counselors/Therapists, and the Clergy.

On the “yes,” side of the question, proponents agree that the proper handling of the deceased is important; however, they add that the survivors require more than just a memorable ceremony to help them with closure. And, they feel that given the changing dynamics of the modern family and cultural attitudes towards religion they are in the primary and best position to impact a positive recovery for the survivors. Some also feel that it is actually their obligation to offer some level of support or guidance on grief, simply from a compassionate point of view.

So, how do you see this? Is it part of the responsibilities of a Funeral Director or not? Or, maybe you feel “it depends?” I’d like to hear your arguments for that position.

To this discussion, I’d like to add the word “opportunity.” Can providing help in the recovery from their loss actually be an intelligent business decision? If you are successful in helping survivors toward a positive recovery, do you think that would make you more or less memorable to them? If you help them with their recovery, in addition to providing excellent service and a wonderful tribute celebration for their loved one, do you feel these could be synergistic and make it more likely that they will refer you to friends and colleagues? If you offer to help in a meaningful way with their recovery, do you think this would help them to believe that you care about them as a person beyond just the service you provided?

I believe the strongest case for helping survivors with their recovery from their loss is the business opportunity case. What do you think now?

About The Author

Jess Farren (Fowler)

Jess Farren (Fowler) is a Public Relations Specialist and Staff Writer who has been a part of the ASD team since 2003. Jess manages ASD’s company blog and has been published in several funeral trade magazines. She has written articles on a variety of subjects including communication, business planning, technology, marketing and funeral trends. You can contact Jess directly at

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