Inspiration can be found in all the wrong places!
I was challenged to connect the issues in funeral service with the recent worldwide phenomenon known as 50 Shades of Grey. 50 Shades is a romance novel that narrates the steamy relationship between a recent college grad (Anna Steele) and a young business tycoon (Christian Grey).
The rather erotic trilogy of books has dominated (pun intended) the number 1, 2 AND 3 slots on the best seller list for 18 weeks, and is currently one of the fastest selling series of all time.
The massive appeal of a book that features a kinky lifestyle (Oh my!) piqued my curiosity... and I wondered if it could provide inspiration to funeral service.
Here are some valuable lessons the funeral service can learn from 50 shades:
Be passionate about what you do
The intensity of the passion between Anna Steele and Christian Grey allows them to overcome all kinds of barriers and challenges in both their personal and relationship goals. The same goes for funeral directors - you cannot do your job well if you are not passionate about serving people who have lost someone.
Both characters take numerous personal and emotional risks as they explore new ways of relating to each other. Anna tries new things (new being an understatement) that lead her to what she thinks is the love of her life. And it's just as important for you as a funeral professional to take risks, too. If something in your funeral business isn't working, ditch it and try something new. Like Anna Steele, risk taking will give you a few bruises along the way, but it is absolutely necessary for funeral service to move successfully into the future.
Don't be afraid of change
Christian, in the pursuit of his passion for Anna, overcame his horrendous childhood, which caused many twists to his outlook. He was also able to take the few good childhood experiences he had, and build effectively on those. This is a great parallel to the funeral profession: we should honor the past, but not become bound to it.
Don't be overprotective
Christian took away Anna's ability to live and experience her life on her terms when he tried to protect her from all possible harm. Many funeral directors, with good intentions, will try to protect their families from their grief. They will try to distract or reduce the emotional impact, when they should trust the strength of the family to experience and process their grief.
Be clear and simple
Although the book is probably not going to win any literary awards, Anna and Christian were characterized simply and in the extreme - Anna, the innocent novice vs. Christian, the experienced and twisted object of her affection. A simple, clear and consistent portrayal of the funeral service offering is also critical to our families understanding the value we offer.
It's all about the experience
It's not about the props (merchandise), but how your families feel about their experience you've created for them. In the funeral profession, you can use the same merchandise for different families, but how they are used is what makes their experience unique and meaningful. The same props can be used in two different ways, creating two very different experiences... just ask Anna about the Red Room!
Don't take yourself or your circumstances too seriously! Anna and Christian did best when they tried to live this concept. Although we deal with difficult circumstances and tragedy, we should not shy away from humor as a coping mechanism. Many funeral services - and the associated grief - are made more bearable by the witty observation of our human foibles.
Whatever your position is on the trilogy, the point is that we should pay attention to ideas and concepts that resonate with large segments of the population, because these ideas will shape their expectations and needs even as they honor and pay tribute to the life lived.
Have you read 50 Shades of Grey? Is there anything else you can add to our lessons learned from this series?