Bringing Life to End-of-Life Care: Helping Families Mourn & Celebrate

Posted July 11, 2016

5 min read

Jeff Friedman is the funeral director who writes the popular blog, the Distinctive Life Guy, where he brings light to the darkness of the funeral industry. Friedman, a funeral director at Distinctive Life Cremations & Funerals, has been serving families for more than two decades. CRäKN spoke with Friedman about serving families with compassion, and how directors play a key role in helping families mourn and celebrate their loved ones.

“Should I Mourn or Should I Celebrate?”

Families often struggle with the dilemma: “Should we be mourning, or should we celebrating our loved one?” This is a dilemma that funeral directors have been called to help families through for years, but the question is more common than ever, because people are living longer than ever, explains Friedman.

“People are living longer, and dying [with less] today. If a loved one has lived a full life into their 80s or 90s, do we mourn or celebrate their life? This same question applies to families experiencing the death of a young person who has been ill for years.” Whether they realize it or not, families look to funeral directors for guidance during this time of uncertainty.

“Funeral directors all over the world know this answer and I am confident in representing the industry in saying ‘yes’ to this question—that you should mourn the personal loss you are experiencing, but you should always celebrate the life lived.”

Funeral directors play a major part in giving families permission to both mourn and celebrate. And, acceptance of this idea can help families in their grieving process.

“We are also saying goodbye to our loved ones much earlier in life through dementia and Alzheimer’s. To mourn the death, or just to mourn the last two years of what the person’s been through is important. There’s also a whole number of years [to honor our loved one] through celebration at this time. “

That healing process may look different for every family, and even for every person, but that is expected. “Give families permission to mourn, but also permission to celebrate the life. Mourning is very personal, and it’s different for everyone. Celebrating the life that was lived is really what a funeral should be. We share that in every aspect of our business,” says Friedman. “The celebration of life service is what allows us to heal as a community—a group that all shares their own personal story and connection with this person.”

Serving with Compassion

“Funeral directors need to figure out: how does the family want to talk to me? How do they want to be treated? What’s important to them?” adds Friedman. The answer, says Friedman, isn’t just what has always been done in the past. He goes on to say that no matter what the answers are to such questions, a place to start is serving with compassion.

First, argues Friedman, it helps to recognize the state of mind families have when they engage with a funeral home. It’s an emotion-filled time for everyone involved.

“When people come to [a funeral home], they are not buying something they want, they are buying something they need. I know that my value may not be recognized right away, especially with all the other emotions they are experiencing at the time, which I acknowledge, are much more important,” says Friedman. Being aware of this helps directors continue to treat each family with compassion.

“I recognize all of this, but my job is to guide the family through this process. My job is to help make sure they have no regrets on their decisions made on this day… Economics will get you in the game, but compassion and real emotions win every time.”

For Friedman, serving with compassion impacts all areas of the business. When hiring new team members, for example, it’s about finding people who are just as compassionate as the rest of the team.

“These are the [kind of people] who really love the reward of a thank you letter, or getting a hug from the family. So we really put a lot into that when we’re hiring, trying to figure out what their priorities are, how ‘out of the box’ they are, and how open they are to new things. We have had to go through a lot of directors to figure out our formula.” If that person is someone true to himself, knows why he is in the profession, and can serve families with compassion, he might be a fit, says Friedman.

“We are always focused on serving the next family, and we give them the best service possible,” he continues. “The hardest thing about any service industry—not just the funeral profession — is not to let your success go to your head, or your failures go to your heart.

Always putting families first can help directors uncover what a family really wants out of a service. “[As funeral directors], we need to start really looking at the consumer and what’s the consumer doing—what they want. The consumer is way ahead of the funeral industry. As long as we’re just looking at ourselves, we’ll never get to where they’re at, or serve them or treat them as well as we could.”

About Jeff Friedman & Distinctive Cremations & Funerals

Jeff Friedman is a Funeral Director at Distinctive Cremations & Funerals, a firm that prides itself on offering a better, more personal way to plan and create remembrance services that are as distinctive as your loved one. Distinctive Cremations & Funerals comes to those wherever and whenever they are needed—which allows for arrangements to be made in the comfort of a family’s home. Find Friedman’s blog at

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