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No One Wants to Talk about Death and Funerals…Bulls**t!

It’s true; death has always been a taboo topic. I remember 8 years ago when I first started working in the funeral profession I would bring up the topic of death and funerals and most family members would become very uncomfortable and remove themselves from the conversation.

 

Fast-forward to now and the conversations about death and funerals are no longer initiated by myself, but by those family members who used to be uncomfortable.

 

In Alan Creedy’s article “Funerals as a Counter Culture” last week he made the following statement:

 

“I believe the public wants to talk.  They will find an outlet.  If not you then who?”

 

Alan is right on. Funerals and death are becoming mainstream topics. People are talking, your client families are talking, and they are the ones controlling the conversation around YOUR area of expertise.

I know many of you get turned off when I talk about social media, but the problem is those of you who get turned off are also the ones who think consumers are not talking about death and funerals, when the truth is death and funerals are becoming more and more mainstream. And the outlet most people are using is Facebook.

 

I have provided below a number of examples that back up the statement, “No one is talking about death and funerals, is absolutely bulls**t”. The examples include mainstream outlets as well as social media.

 

Proof:

 

Working full time for myself comes with a lot of extra privileges; like getting to watch morning cartoons with my daughters before heading to the office. This morning was like most, my four-year woke up early (shortly after me) and she came downstairs to my desk and asked for breakfast and for me to turn on a “kid show”.

 

I’m not sure the name of the cartoon that was on, but it was on Nick Jr around 8:00am. When I turned it on we caught the last 45 seconds of the characters acting out a fake funeral for one of their doll babies. I’m not sure how the funeral service was portrayed but the fact that death was being discussed in a cartoon directed at 3 – 6 year olds was a huge eye opener that this topic is no longer taboo.

 

Proof #2:

 

As I am writing this I am sitting in a hotel room in Erie, Pennsylvania preparing for a social media keynote I am giving tomorrow morning (actually right now if you are reading this Tuesday morning) and watching the “Bachelorette” because there is no basketball game on. As I am writing I notice the show on in the background and I hear one of the men on the show talking about the love his grandparents had for each other and how much he missed them since there death in 2009. He then pulled out of his wallet an obituary prayer card from the funeral of both his grandmother and grandfather. He said he has carried the prayer cards with him since the day of the funerals in 2009.

 

Proof #3:

 

I decided to scroll through my Facebook Newsfeed and some profiles of a few friends just to see if there were by chance any posts about funerals (excluding anyone connected to the funeral profession). Here are 2 posts that I found within 2 minutes:

 

#1:

 

“I passed Bolin Funeral Home tonight. I do believe that the cyclist that was killed was there and they had a showing. There were a ton of motorcycles and a long, long waiting line all the way into the parking lot.”

 

#2:

 

“I just want to share something with everyone and is a bit hard as I can be guarded when it comes to personal things..

I went to a funeral of a person I went to school with last night. We were not ever really friends just knew of one another. She was the girlfriend of my brother in law’s brother. I totally went to support my family. Well this will sound weird however it was the most uplifting and moving funeral I have ever been to! It was really about embracing life, living it to its fullest and helping others always along the way. I will tell you I thought I was one of the most thankful and appreciative people ever! Lol Boy after last night I sure did find I am SO much more thankful and appreciative of what I do have. A wonderful home life, wonderful family and extended family and a wonderful job and people to work with. Her death was sudden and unexpected. She left such an impression on all who knew her. Bottom line is that it sure makes me want to be a better person and help people beyond my home and work. I do not know how yet but I bet if I just reach out it will happen..”

 

Proof #4:

 

This was posted in November 2011 by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandburg on her Facebook profile:

 

“Today my family celebrated the life of my grandmother, Rosalind Einhorn (8/28/1917 – 11/1/2011), and laid her to rest next to her beloved husband of 65 years, Benjamin.

Grandma Roz was a woman to be reckoned with. Grew up in real poverty – scrubbed floors in the boarding house where she lived as a child, pulled out of school in high school by her parents to help support the family and then forced back in by a local teacher, eventually got to community college and graduated from Berkeley. Raised three children, including my Mom, Adele Sandberg, and was the proud grandmother of 7 grandchildren, David Sandberg, Michelle Sandberg, David Einhorn, Heather Einhorn, and Sam Einhorn, and 14 great-grandchildren. Survived breast cancer in her 40s and lived to be 94. Not the typical dotting Jewish grandmother, but a woman who spoke the truth and had the most strength of everyone around her, including the ability to save the family from financial ruin when their business was failing in the 1970s. She was one of the most capable people anyone ever met – a tireless fundraiser for breast cancer detection, an active volunteer in her community, and the person everyone turned to for help in every crisis. In another era, when girls had more opportunity, I can only imagine what else she would have accomplished.

I was born on her birthday and she was the role model I always strive to live up to. Grandma – thank you for your endless love and for the example you set of a life worth living.”

 

Sheryl talks about the decision to post her Grandmother’s obituary on Facebook and the surprise response she received in the below video;

Proof #5:

 

Alan Creedy addressed this topic again on his blog last week. He points out the Time magazine cover from last week and how the words “HOW TO DIE” captured the attention of millions of people. You can read a portion of this article here: http://connectingdirectors.com/articles/35057-death-goes-mainstream

So, those of you who are stuck in the old school way of marketing and monitoring the public perception of your profession need to WAKE up.

 

The statement, “No one is talking about death and funerals”, is absolutely bulls**t!

 

Please tell me below, do you agree or disagree?

Ryan Thogmartin

Ryan Thogmartin is founder and CEO of two innovative companies. Connecting Directors LLC (www.connectingdirectors.com) and Disrupt Media Group, LLC (www.disruptmg.com). ConnectingDirectors.com is the premier progressive online publication for funeral professionals. ConnectingDirectors.com is a thriving global publication with a reader base of over 15,000 of the most elite and forward-thinking professionals in the industry.

Disrupt Media Group, LLC is a social media marketing solutions firm. Disrupt MG focuses on proficiently assisting small businesses in creating engaging social media marketing strategies. Without a social media marketing strategy companies and brands are just aimlessly posting without any coherent direction. Social media marketing is more than just having a Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube page; businesses have to have a strategy to telling their story, one that opens the door and starts the conversation.

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  • Mike – Trinity Fluids

    Great article Ryan….it started my day off on the right foot…

  • alan creedy

    ryan, thanks for picking this up.  This is fast becoming a mainstream conversation which we are welcome to join as long as we teach and don’t sell.  teaching involves being open to alternatives.  My challenge to funeral directors is pointed for a reason:  ”if not you then who?” 50 years ago (yes 50 years ago) the conversation got snatched away from us by a muckraker by the name of Jessica Mitford.  That breed is still alive and active today. 
    I am hopeful that we will engage in this conversation without the typical attempt to be warm and fuzzy wringing our hands and anticipating sensitive feelings.  this conversation is about the practical more than the emotional.  I have done at least 3 years of research on this topic and believe we will be spurned if we try to do this through our grief and bereavement programs.  

  • Tim

    Agree wholeheartedly. Alan’s article and comment is spot on – the time of not talking about shadowy subjects like death and its polite society are well behind us. Alan’s idea of “teach don’t sell,” is the basic foundation of content marketing a significant and effective way to build trust, name recognition and loyalty, all positive qualities for Funeral Directors

  • Mark Young

    Absolutely right!  100 years ago, birth and death took place in the family home.  We’ve compartmentalized life events for so long now, to the point of being emotionally unhealthy and leaving people unprepared for what should have been expected.  This new openness is refreshing and healthy.  People are hungry for information – facts and alternatives.  If professionals don’t provide it, who will?

  • Lindas

    Ryan,
    I agree with you 100%!  If we don’t talk about it and share our stories, the media will…their way!

  • MTS

    It’s simple:  How do you want to be remembered?

  • Max Strandhill

    I do not think it is an issue of being taboo. Rather, death just isn’t that interesting to talk about, unless you are a funeral director. It makes sense, however, that people are using facebook to discuss death. Facebook, if you take a close look, is becoming polluted with people who use it as a platform for cries for help and attention. Most facebook users are not very interesting. Also, Facebook is a fad that is slowly dying and the latest polls confirm this.

    One final point, those using the term “spot on” should really stop it. Sounds silly. Is that a social media marketing phrase?

  • http://www.eFuneral.com/ Mike Belsito

    You and Alan are both right — in that we believe people do want to discuss death and dying.  For most people, it’s just that they don’t know how.  We posted a few articles in our Resources section about this topic — but the more that people (both funeral professionals and non funeral professionals) that engage in this dialogue, the better off we’ll all be.

    Thanks for another great article, Ryan.

  • http://www.griecocares.com/ Matt Grieco

    Here’s another point that puts this in perspective…We funeral directors have all been to gatherings, business, social, etc. where the question comes up, “What do you do?”  We reply with pride, “I’m a funeral director, and I educate families on planning meaningful ceremonies”  or someting to that affect.  So what topic or profession is discussed the most from that ponit forward at that gathering….  People are fascinated by death and WE ALL question and ponder our own mortality.  The more we engage people with our poise, ideas, what we’re up to in our firms… the more educated they become, and thus better decisions are made at a time of death.  Educate at EVERY chance you get… Matt 

  • Krystal

    Great post, Ryan.

    I recently found an interesting stat the other day: 3 in 10 topics on Facebook in 2011 were about death.

    People are talking about death (like Alan said), and there’s an opportunity for funeral professionals to engage in those conversations (through social media). I’m interested to see how long it takes for our profession to catch up to the “social” times families and communities are in. 

    Thanks for the insight!

    -Krystal

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