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Part 3: What We Learned During the 2018 NFDA Convention Workshops

by | Oct 25, 2018 | Funeral Profession

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Weren’t able to attend this year’s NFDA Convention in Salt Lake City? Or weren’t able to attend all the workshops? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with these highlights from a few of our favorite workshops we attended.

This is part three of a four-part series about some of the educational and inspiring 2018 NFDA Convention workshops. Read part one and part two to learn about the other workshops.

50 Cards, 50 Questions

How well do you really know your loved ones? Have you heard their childhood stories? What about their first job? In their workshop, Mike Watkins and Theresa Wiederspahn talked about how important it is to have these conversations with your family members.

They presented the Have a Talk of a Lifetime cards and all the benefits of having these cards in your funeral home. The cards have a variety of questions on them. The idea is that families sit down and pull a card, and all take time to answer the question. Mike and Theresa found that answering these questions leads to meaningful conversations. Knowing more about your loved one helps you to honor their life after they eventually pass.

Mike talked about different events funeral directors had within their communities with the cards. For example, one funeral home hosted a wine, beer, and cheese event…of course, taking place in Wisconsin. Families were able to enjoy themselves and eventually sit down with the cards and learn more about each other.

Theresa also shared her experience with the cards. She found that they allowed families to break the ice about important topics. She also enjoyed getting her community together. She and Mike suggested the cards to be sent to funeral homes, assisted living, hospice, and hospitals.

Cemeteries Are Dying: A Bold Response

In this workshop presented by Dr. Lynn Gibson and Jason Troyer, they addressed the decline of cemeteries and solutions to this trend. Cemeteries have had a long successful past, but due to the recent popularity of disposition alternatives, their growth is dwindling. Some alternatives include cremation and green burials.

The duo offered a set of solutions for funeral homes that own a cemetery. Hosting special events could draw people to the cemetery. Some ideas were memorial gatherings or educational events. They also suggested making the cemetery a place people can go to besides the day of the funeral. Having gathering areas and places to reflect could bring in community members.

They presented their plans to build a legacy trail at the cemetery they own. Some of the features included a koi pond, engraved memorial bricks, sitting areas, and a pavilion. They wanted to give funeral directors ideas to revamp their own cemeteries.

Supporting Families After an Overdose Death

Since 2002, heroin deaths in the U.S. have increased by 533%. This is due to the increased use of prescription opioid use, how addictive opioids are, the heroin supply being plentiful and cheap, and the difficulty to treat opioid addiction. Oftentimes, people start on pain medications for an injury and get addicted. The prevalence of these deaths is why Marianne Schrom’s and Kelly Deitz’s workshop was so important for funeral directors.

In their presentation, they explained that overdose deaths tend to come with a stigma. This stigma can make it difficult for families to properly grieve. The families still love the person underneath the addiction, so it’s important that their lives beyond the addiction are honored. A short documentary about families that lost a loved one to heroin was shown. It was powerful to see the inner struggle these families faced and to understand their feelings of anger, sadness, and guilt.

Marianne and Kelly suggested some ways funeral directors working with these families can help. Foremost, it’s important to use appropriate language. Never refer to their loved one as a junkie or an addict, rather say they were using. Also, instead of saying they died of drug abuse, it is better to say substance use disorder. Funeral directors should also promote safety, calmness, connectedness, hope, and self-efficacy for family members.

Did you attend any of the NFDA Convention workshops? What did you learn? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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