Frazer Blog

Part 4: What We Learned During the 2018 NFDA Convention Workshops

by | Oct 26, 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 four of a four-part series about some of the educational and inspiring 2018 NFDA Convention workshops. Read part one, part two, or part three to learn about the other workshops.

Note, many of the workshops discussed in this blog covered some sensitive topics including mass shootings and trauma cases.

How End-of-Life Doulas are Changing the Face of Dying

In this workshop presented by Henry Fersko-Weiss, he discussed the benefits of having an end-of-life doula. Typically, doulas are associated with the beginning of life since they often help mothers through pregnancy and labor. However, Henry explained that having a doula to support your loved one in their final days is also beneficial.

Some of the benefits of end-of-life doulas are:

  • They give caregivers a break.
  • They help the person dying feel prepared and unafraid of death.
  • They help honor the person’s final wishes.
  • They help the person and their loved ones explore the legacy and meaning of their life.
  • They assist in basic physical care.

To learn more about the work end-of-life doulas do, read this article.

Serving the Family of a Perpetrator

This workshop presented by Martha Thayer was on quite a difficult subject, how to serve the family of someone who committed a mass shooting. Martha shared her personal experience of serving the family of Columbine shooter, Dylan Klebold.

Martha had known Dylan’s mother Sue and knew she did not deserve all the hate she was receiving from her son’s horrific crime. She knew that the family of Dylan Klebold needed special care to have a funeral for him.

When dealing with a case like this, a lot of planning is necessary. Martha had to keep the safety of the Klebold’s in mind since they were in hiding. Meetings had to be secretive, only select staff could care for the family, and oftentimes communication would be difficult. She also had to keep Sue and her husband’s feelings in mind. Their lives would never be the same, which is why her compassion was so important.

Overall, Martha explained that funeral directors in a similar position need to be conscientious of the logistics of planning a service for a perpetrator of a horrible crime to keep the family and funeral staff safe.

Restoration and Repair of Trauma Cases

The 2014 Oso Mudslide in Washington left 43 people dead. This traumatic case was heartbreaking to the community and left funeral homes with the difficult job of preparing the bodies. The presenters of this workshop, Amanda McElreath and Melissa Johnson, both served families of the victims of this natural disaster.

Amanda and Melissa discussed what is necessary when getting dismembered bodies ready for a funeral service. They went into detail about how difficult it was to wash the cemented mud off the bodies and that such a task can be draining. It’s important to choose staff members who can handle it. Make sure you and the staff are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and professionally prepared for it.

It is also vital to prepare the families of the victims. They said to always under promise and over deliver in such cases. Realize that these cases often require more patience and compassion due to families dealing with the trauma.

“Paws for Pause” Therapy Dog Session

One of our favorite parts of the 2018 NFDA convention was the adorable therapy dogs from Ultimate Canine. Staff member Kimberly Dolbeer held an expo hall campfire exchange session to talk about the benefits of having a therapy dog at your funeral home.

She said therapy dogs can help people cope with grief and distract them from the sadness they are feeling. Therapy dogs can bring a sense of calm to the room. She also talked about the extensive training services Ultimate Canine offers to get dogs ready to serve at funeral homes.

They brought in three of their own therapy dogs to the session, two of which were puppies. It sure was cute seeing the puppies fall in and out of sleep as Kimberly presented.

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


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