Never presume! Recommendations from an experienced funeral director

June 14, 2017   //   No Comments

I have just had one of those occasions where I didn’t heed the advice that I regularly give to my staff, namely: Never presume!! So often in life we assume things which ultimately turn out to be completely wrong. For us as Funeral Directors, it is imperative that we don’t fall into this bad habit as it can not only be a cause of embarrassment for us but it can be distressing for the bereaved we are helping.

The situation I encountered was with a lady whose elderly mother had died following a fairly lengthy illness. During the discussion about the funeral arrangements, I made comment about how difficult it must have been caring for her mother and watching her suffer. This was certainly an occasion I should have kept my mouth shut as I received a five minute lecture on how her mother wasn’t a particularly pleasant person, and how she was glad that she had suffered before her death. Now, I have been very fortunate to have been brought up in a very loving family, and so I have difficulty imagining how it can be that a daughter can wish her mother ill.

However I am only too aware that relationships aren’t always as they seem. With regards to presumption, it is something we all do in very many different situations. The example above is to do with relationships, but as Funeral Directors we have many occasions where we can influence the bereaved decisions through our own assumptions. For example,perhaps we have personal views about a particular detail when arranging a funeral. Maybe we don’t like a particular coffin and assume that our clients view will be the same. But that certainly doesn’t mean that we should influence any decision because of our own views. It is essential, that as professional individuals and businesses, we offer complete freedom of choice to our clients.

One of the most important things in our role is to establish quite clearly, who is the responsible person for arranging the funeral. It is easy to think that the first person to contact us is the appropriate client. But I would guess that the number of occasions that this is disputed at my business alone is well into double figures each year. It is a simple thing to ask at the first call, if the caller is the next of kin or executor and if there is anyone else in the same position or indeed has a closer relationship. This simple question will help to clarify the likelihood of any family disputes.

This is a reminder for us to always be aware of the risks of allowing our own thoughts or assumptions to influence the way we act and the decisions we make when organising a funeral. Keep an open mind and it will benefit both you and your client.

Paul Allcock

SAIF Immediate Past President & PR Rep.