Five Misconceptions About the Funeral Industry

The funeral industry is vital in supporting individuals and families during one of the most challenging times in their lives. However, like any other industry, it is surrounded by misconceptions and myths that often overshadow its true purpose and services. 

We will delve into the top five misconceptions about the funeral industry in New Zealand and shed light on its crucial role in supporting individuals and families during tough times and the compassionate professionals dedicated to serving our community.

Misconception 1: Funerals are always solemn and depressing affairs.

The notion that funerals are always solemn and depressing affairs is a myth. While funerals are typically sad due to the loss of a loved one, they can also serve as meaningful and celebratory events that honour and remember the deceased’s life.

  1. Celebration of Life: Many modern funerals celebrate the deceased’s life and accomplishments. Instead of solely emphasizing grief and sorrow, these ceremonies often include uplifting and positive elements that highlight the person’s unique qualities, achievements, and cherished memories. This shift in perspective can help create a more celebratory atmosphere.
  2. Personalization and Individuality: Funerals today allow for greater personalization and reflect the deceased’s individuality. Families can choose the elements and rituals that align with their loved one’s personality and preferences, and this can include incorporating music, readings, stories, and even specific themes that evoke a sense of joy and remembrance rather than solely focusing on sadness.
  3. Sharing and Support: Funerals allow family and friends to come together, share their memories, and support one another. While there may be moments of grief and reflection, the collective presence of loved ones can also foster a sense of unity and comfort. Funerals can be a time for shared stories, laughter, and the rekindling of relationships, which can bring solace and a more positive atmosphere.
  4. Cultural and Religious Traditions: Cultural and religious traditions often play a significant role in funerals. Some practices incorporate celebration elements, such as live music, dance, or communal feasts, uplifting the mood and creating a more joyful atmosphere. These customs vary across different cultures and religions, demonstrating that funerals can be unique expressions of cultural heritage and beliefs.
  5. Healing and Closure: Funerals provide a virtual space for the grieving process and facilitate healing and closure. While there may be sadness, expressing emotions and acknowledging the loss can lead to peace and acceptance. The presence of support networks, memorial rituals, and the opportunity to say goodbye can contribute to a more cathartic and uplifting experience.

It’s important to remember that funerals can take different forms, and each one is influenced by the wishes and traditions of the family and the culture to which they belong. By embracing the idea of celebrating a life and finding moments of joy and connection amidst the grieving process, funerals can become more meaningful and less solely focused on sadness and solemnity.

Misconception 2: Funeral costs are exorbitant and exploitative.

The myth that funeral costs are exorbitant and exploitative is not entirely accurate. While it is true that funerals can be expensive, it is crucial to understand the factors contributing to the overall cost and recognize that funeral homes provide valuable services and support to grieving families. 

Here are some points to consider:

  1. Service and Expertise: Funeral homes employ trained professionals who guide families through the funeral planning process. These experts handle various tasks, including coordinating with cemeteries, obtaining necessary permits and certificates, preparing the body, organizing visitations or viewings, and arranging transportation. The fees charged by funeral homes often reflect the level of service and expertise provided.
  2. Facilities and Equipment: Funeral homes maintain facilities and equipment to ensure that funeral services are conducted dignifiedly. These facilities often include chapels, viewing rooms, reception areas, and preparation rooms. The costs associated with maintaining these facilities and acquiring specialized equipment contribute to the overall expenses.
  3. Legal and Administrative Requirements: Funeral homes are responsible for complying with various legal and administrative requirements associated with funeral services. These can include obtaining death certificates, burial permits, cremation permits and coordinating with local authorities. These processes involve time, effort, and expenses.
  4. Staff and Operations: Funeral homes employ staff members such as funeral directors, embalmers, administrative staff, and support personnel. The cost of salaries, training, benefits, and other operational expenses are reflected in the overall pricing structure.
  5. Additional Services: Funeral homes offer services beyond the basic funeral, such as memorialization options, funeral notices, transportation, floral arrangements, and catering. These optional services contribute to the overall cost but provide families with choices and customization to honour their loved ones appropriately.

While it is essential to be mindful of the expenses involved in funeral arrangements, it is also important to recognize the value of funeral homes in helping families navigate a complex and emotionally challenging time. Funeral costs can vary depending on location, specific services chosen, and personal preferences. Individuals should research and compare prices and discuss their budgets and needs with funeral directors to ensure they receive the benefits they desire within their means.

Misconception 3: Cremation is the cheapest option available.

Cremation is often considered more affordable than traditional burial but is not always the cheapest option. While cremation can be a cost-effective choice in many cases, it’s essential to consider several factors impacting the overall cost.

  1. Funeral Home Charges: Funeral homes typically charge fees for cremation services, including transportation of the body, necessary permits, professional staff assistance, and the use of their facilities. These fees can vary depending on the funeral home and the specific services chosen. Therefore, the cost of cremation may not solely rely on the cremation process itself.
  2. Additional Services: Families often opt for other services or ceremonies before or after the cremation, such as memorial services, viewings, or religious rituals. These additional services can incur extra costs and may be similar to those associated with traditional burial. Choosing to have a memorial service or other ceremonies can add to the overall cost of cremation.
  3. Urn Selection and Memorialization: After cremation, families may keep the ashes in an urn and scatter them in a designated area. The cost of urns can vary significantly depending on the materials, design, and customization options. Additional expenses may be involved if families decide on a permanent memorialization option, such as a plaque or headstone.
  4. Pre-Planning and Pre-Paid Arrangements: Some people opt for pre-planning or pre-paid cremation arrangements to alleviate the financial burden on their loved ones. These arrangements typically involve paying for the cremation services in advance, locking in prices at the time of purchase. While pre-planning can provide cost savings, it’s essential to carefully review the terms and conditions of such agreements to ensure they meet specific needs and preferences.
  5. Geographic Factors: The cremation cost can vary depending on the location. Prices may differ between urban and rural areas and between different funeral homes within the same region. Researching and comparing prices from various providers is advisable to find the most affordable options in a specific area.

While cremation can be more cost-effective than traditional burial, it’s essential to consider all the associated costs and factors specific to individual circumstances. By discussing preferences and budget constraints with funeral professionals, individuals can make informed decisions that align with their needs while considering the overall cost implications.

Misconception 4: Funeral directors are solely focused on financial gain.

The idea that funeral directors are solely focused on financial gain is a misconception that paints an inaccurate picture of their role and intentions. While funeral directors operate businesses and must consider financial aspects, their primary focus is to provide compassionate and professional support to grieving families during difficult times. 

  1. Compassion and Care: Funeral directors are trained professionals who have chosen a career path that involves providing care and support to bereaved families. They understand the sensitive nature of their work and are dedicated to guiding families through the funeral process with empathy, sensitivity, and respect. Funeral directors often develop long-lasting relationships with families, demonstrating their commitment to serving their needs beyond financial considerations.
  2. Expert Guidance: Funeral directors possess expertise and knowledge about funeral practices, local regulations, and options available to families. They use this expertise to assist families in making informed decisions about funeral arrangements based on their preferences, cultural or religious customs, and budgetary constraints. Funeral directors often go the extra mile to ensure families have a meaningful and personalized experience, reflecting the extraordinary life of the deceased.
  3. Transparency and Communication: Reputable funeral directors prioritize openness in their family dealings. They provide clear explanations of services, itemized pricing, and options available, ensuring that families thoroughly understand the costs involved. Funeral directors are typically open to discussing budgetary concerns and finding solutions that meet families’ needs without compromising on the quality of service.
  4. Support beyond Financial Matters: Funeral directors provide emotional and practical assistance throughout funeral planning. They help families navigate administrative tasks, obtain necessary permits and certificates, coordinate with cemeteries or crematories, and handle logistics. Funeral directors often work closely with families to ensure their wishes are met and that the funeral service honours the deceased’s life meaningfully.
  5. Professional Standards and Regulations: Funeral directors are subject to professional standards and regulations that govern their practices. These standards ensure ethical conduct, transparency, and fair business practices. Professional organizations and licensing boards exist to uphold these standards and provide oversight, promoting the best interests of both funeral directors and the families they serve.

While funeral homes are businesses that require financial sustainability, reputable funeral directors understand the importance of their role in providing support and care during a loss. They strive to balance the financial aspects with the emotional needs of families, emphasizing compassionate service above mere profit. It’s essential to approach funeral directors with open communication and trust, recognizing their dedication to assisting families in their time of need.

Misconception 5: Preplanning funerals is unnecessary and morbid.

Contrary to belief, the idea that preplanning funerals is unnecessary and morbid is a misconception that overlooks the practical and emotional benefits of preplanning. Preplanning funerals can be a thoughtful and responsible decision that provides peace of mind for individuals and their loved ones. 

  1. Relieves Emotional Burden: Preplanning funerals can alleviate a significant emotional burden on loved ones during grief and loss. By making decisions in advance, individuals can ensure their wishes are known and documented, reducing the stress and uncertainty faced by family members who might otherwise have to make difficult choices while mourning.
  2. Personalization and Fulfillment of Wishes: Preplanning allows individuals to personalize their funerals and ensure their final wishes are honoured. It provides an opportunity to make specific requests regarding religious or cultural traditions, choice of burial or cremation, selection of music, readings, or even the inclusion of personal mementos. Preplanning empowers individuals to shape their funerals to reflect their values and preferences.
  3. Financial Considerations: Preplanning can help individuals consider and manage the financial aspects of their funerals. By discussing pricing and options with funeral professionals in advance, individuals can make informed budgeting decisions and explore opportunities for prepayment or funeral insurance, which can potentially save loved ones from financial burdens and unexpected expenses in the future.
  4. Reduces Family Conflicts: Preplanning funerals can help prevent conflicts and disagreements among family members regarding funeral arrangements. When individuals clearly outline their preferences and make their decisions known, it minimizes the chances of differences among surviving family members with differing opinions or expectations. Preplanning can contribute to a smoother and more harmonious process for all involved.
  5. Celebrating Life and Legacy: Preplanning allows individuals to focus on celebrating their life and legacy. By actively participating in the planning process, individuals can ensure that their funerals become meaningful events that reflect their values, accomplishments, and the impact they had on their loved ones’ lives. Preplanning can shift the focus from morbid thoughts to creating a positive and uplifting experience for those left behind.

It’s important to note that preplanning funerals does not mean dwelling on death or inviting negativity. Instead, it allows individuals to take control of their arrangements, alleviate stress on their loved ones, and ensure their final wishes are respected. Preplanning can be a proactive and empowering act that promotes peace of mind and allows individuals to leave a lasting positive legacy.

The funeral industry is dedicated to providing compassionate support and guidance to individuals and families during their most vulnerable moments. By dispelling these misconceptions, we hope to understand better the industry’s essential functions and the compassionate professionals who serve the community.