How to Put Some ‘Fun’ Into Funeral Planning

Posted August 23, 2017

6 min read

“Even though we have a 100 percent mortality rate as humans, less than 30 percent of us make any end-of-life plans,” says Gail Rubin, CT.

Also known as the The Doyenne of Death®, Rubin is a pioneering death educator, award-winning author, and TED speaker. She works to help initiate end-of-life and funeral planning conversations. Three ways in which she does this include popular speaking engagements, her books, and through unconventional events held across the nation.

So what will get families to discuss—and take some action—for their inevitable passing?

Rubin says it’s about putting “some ‘fun’ in funeral planning,” which is part of why she’s already written books addressing the topic and hosts the award-winning TV/DVD series, “A Good Goodbye” as well as an Internet radio program.

But Rubin is now launching another event that will help bring attention to the subject: the inaugural “Before I Die” Albuquerque Festival, to be held Friday, October 20, 2017 through October 25, 2017. (Last week we talked about festivals held around the world celebrating death, and this is one you can join that’s located here in the states.)

“The six-day festival offers multiple activities for people to openly think about, to talk about, and to do something about our mortality,” says Rubin.

The “Before I Die” festivals are also a part of a growing social movement to foster reflection about how people manage death and dying. The festivals have already drawn thousands to events in the UK, Indianapolis, Indiana, and in Louisville, Kentucky. This will be the first such festival west of the Mississippi, says Rubin.

Just a few highlights from the schedule of events include:

• “Prelude to Eternity” festival kick-off party • A panel of local funeral directors discussing “What You Need to Know Before You Go” • Yoga class “From Child Pose to Corpse Pose: Life, Death, Yoga and Spirituality” • Day of the Dead educational events

“We’re looking to provide multiple, upbeat activities for people to openly think about, talk about, and do something about our mortality. This evolving schedule will help us to do so,” adds Rubin.

“By providing space and opportunities to openly discuss end-of-life issues, we can improve the percentage of those who plan ahead and take actions to address our mortality… and we can have a good time doing it,” she says.

“As so many funeral directors know or can attest to, more than 70 percent of our loved ones will scramble to pull together information and make expensive decisions under duress of grief. We know it doesn’t have to be that way.”

While attending events like the “Before I Die” festival helps to encourage families to think and take action about planning for their death, Rubin shares two other tips for funeral professionals to help them shed light on planning for death with families in their community:

1. Remember that people are afraid of the unknown.

Change can be viewed as positive or negative, says Rubin—and while change, and death, may be inevitable—people simply fear what they don’t know much about. But if it’s the unknown that people are afraid of with death and dying, it’s up to funeral professionals to offer resources to help communicate and shed light on what families can do and what they should know before they die.

Consider making books, resources, blogs, videos, articles, podcasts and more on death, dying, and planning for death readily available on your website and at your funeral home. You can also be proactive in making these resources available throughout your community, not just at your physical location or on your website.

While some families might not be ready for this information, the first step is making it available for those who will consider consuming this content.

As much as people may shy away from planning their own funerals, there is incredible interest in what goes on at funeral homes, which is proof people want to know more information, if it can be easily accessed. “After I did my TEDx Albuquerque talk about planning ahead, we did a TEDx adventure, where we had a group of people tour a funeral home and have a Death Café conversation,” says Rubin. Rubin explains she recorded that tour and shared the 50-minute video on her YouTube Channel. The video now has more than 150,000 views, and many people watch the entire video, which shows their level of interest and intrigue when it comes to funerals.

Instead of assuming families don’t want to know anything about funerals and funeral planning—assume that many do want the information, they just don’t always know where to look.

2. Injecting a little lightheartedness can go a long way.

Part of the secret to Rubin’s success is that she utilizes humor to get people to talk about and think about death and dying in a whole new way. She knows that people really are afraid of death, so using a lighthearted approach—one that puts a bit of “fun” into “funeral planning” is one of the quickest ways to jumpstart dialogue.

“Shop before you drop,” is one of the phrases you can hear her say—immediately drawing laughs from any crowd she’s in front of because it can be so unexpected. She also uses funny films that help to bring up serious topics around death and dying.

For funeral directors looking to apply this with their families, timing has to be taken into consideration. Humor is best used long before there is any death. “You have to be very careful with humor after someone’s died,” she adds.

Rubin has found success in the use of comedy to bring up death and dying at a variety of venues: at conferences and conventions, at colleges, businesses, hospices, hospitals, and beyond. She’s even used comedies at funeral homes where people from the local community came and watched funny films together. “Again, timing is very important with this approach. The reason marketing with funny films works is because death seems like a distant possibility,” she explains.

Another example that is effective for Rubin is combining funny clips about death with a more informative or educational speech about death and pre-planning—something she does with people who are around 55 and up. The content she talks about may vary from audience to audience, but it’s always critical to know your audience’s demographics and psychographics before implementing any kind of unconventional death education program, especially one that relies on humor.

For More Information on the “Before I Die” Festival, visit: and

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