Everything This Funeral Home Does Is For the Living

Posted January 24, 2018

7 min read

“Everything we provide is for the living,” says Todd Borek, Funeral Director, President, and Co-Owner at Borek Jennings Funeral Home.

Borek Jennings Funeral Home has spent years studying the entire grieving and loss experience. As a result, they are pioneers, educators, and experts in the field of Acute Loss Management.

“This is a field that is viewed both nationally and internationally as the palliative care model replacing the traditional funeral experience,” says Borek.

In part two of our blog series with Borek, we explore how Borek Jennings Funeral Home puts families-and their community-first through healing support services.

A Funeral Home That Focuses on the Living

“We often tell families that 10 percent of what we do is for the deceased, and 90 percent of what we do is for the living,” says Borek.

And that’s not just hyperbole: Borek Jennings leads families through the grieving and healing process so that they can be more empowered as they grieve. “What we teach are the seven phases of the acute loss period and the corresponding human needs attached to those seven phases,” explains Borek.

A metaphor for the approach that Borek commonly shares is to imagine you’re standing on the shore of a river, and there’s seven large rocks in the river. Those rocks take you safely from one bank of the river to the other bank of the river.

Borek explains that those seven rocks (or stages) represent the stages of the acute loss period. “These are noble and understandable things that safely take you from an acute loss to early grief. The corresponding needs that accompany are emotional, relational, and spiritual,” says Borek. This process they’ve been teaching for about 13 years is not only taught to individuals and families, but Borek and Karl Jennings (Borek’s business partner who developed the approach) also teach it to funeral directors across the U.S. and in Canada.

“Our information has been translated into many different languages. And I believe that the acute loss period (or what you could call acute loss management), is something that will be taught in every college and university in the future, because it’s so beneficial and true.”

Educating Families on Grief & Death

The process first involves demystifying the phases that are experienced during grief and healing. That way, mystery about what to do when a loved one dies can be minimized. These phases include:

  1. Hearing: we learn about death first through our senses. After an initial [emotional] response, the natural impulse is to suppress what we are feeling as we attempt to regain some emotional bearings and stability.

  2. Sharing: Sharing in the early stage of loss is done to inform others and it also begins the journey of engaging others with our feelings.

  3. Seeing: The seeing phase captures both the support received at a loved one’s death and when the surviving family sees the deceased loved one.

  4. Gathering: Family and loved ones come together and can seek to be present during this phase of loss.

  5. Connecting: This can be the most emotional, challenging, and rewarding phase of the farewell experience.

  6. Reflecting: You and those who gather and connect will naturally begin to reflect on the meaning and significance of the life shared with your loved one. This can be a transformational experience for many.

  7. Celebrating: We can make room for joy in the midst of sadness in this phase.

The seven phases-simplified here-have been designed to help people deal with their emotions, grow, heal, and continue to love. When they introduce it to a family, most people ask, “How come I’ve never heard this before?”

“We provide 27 healing support services which all fall into different categories for certain points along that healing experience,” explains Borek.

Helping the Living Cope with Loss

On the first day he opened his first funeral home-in 1992-Borek started offering a video tribute to every single family that came through the funeral home. More than 25 years later, they are still offering a video tribute to every single family.

It comes down to creating an experience that will help loved ones grieve, share, and celebrate the person who has passed.

“Now we’ve gone through families, generationally speaking. We’ve seen some families as much as 10 times over 25 years. They may not remember to bring dad’s clothing, but they will remember the photos for his tribute video,” says Borek.

From Grief to New Hope

A little more than a year ago, a man came up to Borek at the gym. He said to Borek, “I wanted you to know, I watched my dad’s video today for the 50th time.”

He continued, “The first 25 times, I cried like a baby. Today, I didn’t cry at all. I’ve been using that video to get better.”

“That was a memorable experience he had because we made it a priority to do things that will help the living,” says Borek. “Many funeral homes in our area do not do these videos. But we see it as an opportunity for the living to hold onto those memories after the service. I tell people that all the time, ‘This is a gift for you so that you can use this in the future.’”

How Information Changes Perceptions

“The competition today is not the neighboring funeral home, the competition today is the consumer that doesn’t believe that they need a funeral,” says Borek.

That’s why Borek helps families to see that planning a celebration of life or funeral service is about planning so that you can give your family what they need at the time of loss. It’s not about you-it’s about your loved ones’ needs.

Saying that directly to families can transform how a person approaches planning for their death and planning for their funeral service.

If that message doesn’t resonate with a family, Borek is comfortable with that, too. “If a family were to say to us, ‘I don’t want to hear about your acute loss period,’ we would have to tell them, ‘You probably need to find another funeral home.’ That’s just because we believe in this so much,” he says.

Driven By Passion & Purpose

Borek and his business partner have been able to connect passion and purpose through the work they do. “I love my job. I love doing what I do. And, you know, I’ve been blessed because [Jennings] and I became partners in 2000, and we get to help people begin their healing today. I’m still excited each day, and I’ve been [in this profession a total of] 29 years,” he says.

“I have a gift to give every family and it’s this acute loss information. It’s an authentic gift because we can give you this information, and you can leave with it, and we’ve given you the absolute best thing we can give you-and that’s an opportunity to take control of something that you probably would have felt totally out of control of.”

Spend More Time Serving Your Families Thanks to CRäKN

“CRäKN actually adds time to my day. It’s a world-class platform with all ways that we can communicate with vendors, with staff, and it’s so adaptable and time saving. It’s what we really needed.” -Todd Borek, Funeral Director, President, and Co-Owner at Borek Jennings Funeral Home

CRäKN can give you back at least 3 hours per case. With CRäKN, all your ongoing services are more organized than ever, and they’re made visible and accessible at any time. Finally, everyone can be on the same page and resources can be optimized, even across multiple locations! To see how CRäKN allows you to communicate across your funeral home- with notifications, the digital Whiteboard, and your synced calendar- request a demo today.

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