Funeral Aftercare

Over the years, funerals have undergone significant changes. Once, they were sombre affairs where people mourned the loss of a loved one or friend. Today, funeral services are more of a hybrid occasion, an opportunity to celebrate someone’s life as well as to grieve their death.  

One reason reshaping the industry is that people are living longer and fuller lives. In contrast to the 1800s and 1900s, premature deaths were prevalent, and many young individuals were unable to reach the prime of their lives. 

Increased cremations and decreased open-casket viewings are additional shifts in the traditions surrounding funerals and the culture of death. One industry response to these changes is the introduction of funeral aftercare services, which assist mourners in navigating the grieving process. 

Recommended course: Aftercare – Extending a Helping Hand All Year Round 

What Is funeral aftercare? 

The concept of aftercare, as outlined in the book Ethical Practice in Grief Counseling (2009), refers to “Attending to the social, emotional, and psychological aspects of grieving experienced by the bereaved that extend beyond the time frame of customary funeral rituals.”  

Previously, funeral homes cared for the deceased and their families by arranging a service where mourners said goodbye to their loved ones. Funeral arrangements might include embalming, preparing the bodies for open caskets, and arranging burial or cremation services. Post-funeral care, also known as funeral aftercare, is the support offered by funeral professionals to families following a funeral. It can provide practical assistance related to the deceased’s estate and assist in processing grief by contacting families to check how they’re doing and offering support if necessary.  

The beginning of funeral aftercare service programs 

As the demand for traditional funerals declines, funeral homes are evolving and devising new ways to generate revenue. One such adaptation is repurposing the Chapel of Rest. Generally, it is where loved ones pay their respects before a funeral. Nowadays, fewer people use the chapel in this way. An alternative use is as a wedding chapel.  

Additional income streams for funeral professionals include introducing aftercare service programs. “The role of the funeral home is now to facilitate a dialogue with the mourners. It is to help the dependents of the deceased learn to survive without the deceased.” (Foresight Companies, Aftercare & Outreach, Completing the Service, Dan Isard, MSFS) 

Why offer funeral aftercare services? 

While no one escapes the trauma of death, a person’s age can affect their reactions. “Older adults grieving a spouse’s death have an increased risk of dying compared to those whose spouses are living,” according to the National Council on Aging. Elevated stress levels in older adults may also result in poor health. They might assume a new role, like managing finances and addressing maintenance issues. Furthermore, older people already experience a reduced appetite and are more likely to skip meals while coping with loss.  

Mourners of any age can experience confusion, but this state can heighten with age. Social isolation is a common risk for older people as many friends and family members have died or moved away. Effective funeral aftercare provides support by building relationships with families and communities. It also includes healing and assistance through contact and resources, helping people navigate the grief cycle.  

Types of aftercare services 

Funeral homes offer aftercare through various methods, such as emails, newsletters, online resources, cards, and workshops. The grieving process is unique for each person. Providing a thoughtful funeral program that caters to individual needs is essential. Maintaining communication is of utmost importance.  

Some effective methods that funeral homes use include: 

  • Text-based aftercare: Texting is a preferred communication method these days, and for someone grieving, it is much less demanding than a phone call. 
  • Follow-up phone calls: While text messages are convenient, periodic phone calls are a reminder of the funeral home’s continuous support. 
  • Videos: Videos are a valuable tool offering support and information through a compassionate voice and provide a welcome distraction from the silence of a home. 
  • Monthly classes: Stepping outside the home can improve a person’s emotional state. Talking about feelings and exchanging stories is crucial to the grieving process, as is engaging with like-minded people. Having similar interests is beneficial, whether it involves acquiring a new talent like photography, painting, dancing, or cooking.  

How can funeral aftercare services help a business grow? 

Funeral professionals who excel in their field understand that their role begins with organizing a funeral and supporting the family during a challenging time. They also acknowledge that the connection with the family can continue beyond the funeral service. 

Like any other industry, profitable funeral businesses must understand their sector and develop an evolving long-term strategy. Funeral homes must differentiate their businesses from competitors to stand out. Raising awareness of services increases brand recognition, reputation, and brand loyalty.  

Websites are powerful tools for establishing connections with local communities and people worldwide, opening opportunities to engage with potential customers. Ongoing communication maintains support for families and enhances brand awareness.  

For those recently bereaved, a thoughtful text or a handwritten card can offer immense comfort. Organizing a commemorative gathering offers continuous care, including linking distant family and friends living overseas via a virtual memorial, enabling all to unite in remembrance. 

Ethical issues for funeral professionals 

While funeral aftercare helps to raise brand recognition and increase business, it is not an opportunity to generate leads. It is unethical to pressure someone into a financial decision while they’re experiencing the vulnerability that accompanies grief. People must have a stable mindset when facing important decisions related to death, and grieving people are not likely to make rational choices about their funeral plans. 

It is important to note that funeral aftercare services do not provide counseling, which a qualified professional must conduct. In certain situations, hiring a qualified counselor to facilitate counseling sessions, either in a group or individual setting, may be practical.