LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — At the National Funeral Directors Association convention, more than a thousand attendees came together under one roof to showcase what the funeral industry is all about.
“We have over 360 exhibitors here who have brought different information and options for families to be able to pay tribute to their loved one,” Kurt Soffe, an association member, said.
Soffe is a 4th generation funeral director and knows how difficult the topic of death can be.
“My own father died in Ukraine at a train station, completely unexpected,” Soffe explained. “I got on a plane and flew over there to help my mom come home and to bring him home. The first thing my mother said to me was that we didn’t talk about this.”
“I believe everyone knows they’re going to die, they just don’t believe it,” Soffe added. “So when it happens, sometimes people are caught off guard. The most important thing is that there is permission by family members to have that conversation of a lifetime.”
He suggests doing your own research about the different types of funeral planning for you and your loved ones and asking questions.
“You need to find a funeral director that has a good reputation for listening and creativity,” Soffe explained. “What’s most important is to find out how to pay tribute to that life before that disposition occurs.”
Gail Marquardt is the VP of consumer engagement for the association. “Remembering a life” is the association’s consumer initiative, to teach families what to expect.
“Our goal is to educate consumers about the value of a funeral, the value of a funeral director, and the importance of remembering loved ones after they die,” Marquardt explained. “People may say ‘Just cremate me and don’t have a service,’ but the conversation really needs to be with the entire family to say ‘What would be helpful for you after this person is gone? Would it be helpful for you to gather with family and friends and share stories with each other?'”
Breaking the stigma surrounding death is also key. Soffe said shifting the focus to honoring and celebrating your loved one can help.
“One of the best ways I have found is to start a conversation and ask about the generation that has gone already. Tell us about grandma or great-grandma. Tell us about their likes and dislikes. It is amazing how the connectivity between the older generations flows into the current generation,” added Soffe. “Videotape their conversations because to hear their voice and to hear their actual wishes and desires really can settle a family and their nerves.”
Soffe said advance funding is also widely available now so funerals can be prepaid without the hassle saving you time and money.
“Peace of mind is priceless because of 2 things: There isn’t a financial obligation and the decisions made are in conjunction with that loved one that is now gone,” said Soffe.
Funeral directors also strongly recommend you get your loved one’s funeral plans in writing, including special wishes and plans for the surviving spouse.