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Funeral Conventions

As the hundreds of funeral alternatives on display at the National Funeral Directors Association annual convention prove, creativity does not end with death. Whether people are concerned with their carbon footprints after their demise or want to transform the body into its own memorial, there is something for everyone. The convention hosts upwards of 5,000 directors, mortuary students and other industry professionals from 50 countries. It is an opportunity to get a gander at the latest developments from all over the globe under one roof. Directors say the convention inspires them to continue to think about what people want and need in the way of funeral services. At a recent convention, there was even a design contest for innovators to imagine and construct new ways to help people navigate this essential milestone.

An Intentional End

The fact that there are so many options for how people may treat the body after death indicates a growing trend. More and more people are considering the impact that their remains have on the earth and are rejecting the traditional casket and burial. It is a factor, as well, that a standard funeral, complete with casket and internment, can cost more than $10,000. For these reasons, there is intensified interest among professionals to seek alternatives that resonate with a changing public. One such product is the mushroom burial suit. The suit is a kind of modern shroud that is suffused with mushroom spores that facilitate the swift decomposition of the body. It appeals to people who want to avoid leaching chemicals such as formaldehyde into the earth. Other alternatives include:

  • Salt urns for sea ceremonies
  • Biodegradable urns for fresh water burials
  • "Family tree" niches for cremated remains
  • Services to turn the body's carbon into a synthetic diamond
  • Earth-friendly caskets

It is clear that a greater number of people are concerned with both creating a unique statement and minimizing any negative environmental impact.

The Importance of Storytelling

A major trend in funeral services has been the online memorial page. Social media giant Facebook has taken steps over the years to help structure special guidelines for memorial pages on its site, and many people have found this a meaningful way to process their grief and reach out. At the same time, fully dedicated pages on memorial sites have soared in popularity. A memorial site is a place to post obituaries, receive condolences, and more. Many funeral directors are now offering pages as part of their services. Cody Joachim of FuneralOne, a company that designs and offers the online service, says, "That is more our generation, of how we want to portray the story."

Many funeral parlors across the country have technology and space available to show tribute videos and host interactive ceremonies that engage participants in actively honoring their loved ones. One director helped organize a service for a family that included a series of live band performances. Another ceremony was a memorial for a kayaker. It involved taking the proceeding offsite to a local river, where friends and family paddled alongside the biodegradable urn until the ashes dissolved into the current.

For the Living

Alternative funerals are often designed according to the unique qualities and wishes of a loved one, but they serve as a validation for the survivors as well. For example, when someone chooses to have their ashes sent up in a weather balloon so that his or her remains may seed the clouds, it may be seen as a very individual gesture that reflects the values and the personality of the person who died. In addition, it gives the loved one's family and friends a way to acknowledge their intimate connection to the deceased. Some funeral directors say the most challenging memorials are those for which the person had no plans or desires. Survivors are left with very little venue for channeling their grief in a deep and meaningful way.

Industry professionals use the convention to stock up on options that help people honor their loved ones and process their loss, whatever shape that takes.

Category: Funeral

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