The High Cost of Skipping the Funeral

By Admin on June 19, 2018

Kevin Gaffney, Regional Sales Vice President, Funeral Directors Life

As a funeral professional, one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in our profession is a trend toward families choosing to skip the funeral and use cremation as a body disposition service. This is an alarming trend, not only because our profession is being commoditized and even replaced by direct cremation providers, but also because of concerns for the mental health of our society with an increase in “complicated grief” due to the lack of a healing event or understanding of the grieving process. For the last decade, I have worked with the funeral homes I serve to educate families in their communities, but until now, we haven’t been able to do much to turn the tide.

And then, I was introduced to a new training program offered through a partnership between Funeral Directors Life and renowned author, speaker, and grief educator, Dr. Alan Wolfelt. I was recently privileged to go through the “Wolfelt Experience” training twice back to back, and I have now received the certification (Certified Professional in Funeral Planning – CPFP) that comes with the training.  I have to say that in my 25 years in the industry, this has been the most impactful training I have ever received, which is quite an endorsement!

After attending this training, a funeral director friend of mine sat down with a family who asked for a direct cremation right out of the gate. He was skeptical about whether the training would work, but he decided to follow the process he had just learned. He asked the family if he could share a little bit of information with them about why we have had funerals since the beginning of time. Using Dr. Alan Wolfelt’s materials and graphics from the training program, he explained the needs of a family after a loss and how the elements of a meaningful funeral perfectly line up with those needs. To his surprise, the family changed their minds and decided to have a full service traditional funeral instead of a direct cremation!

This is powerful information that I wish I could put in the hands of every funeral director I know. As I sat through the training program a second time and just soaked the information in, I felt such a conviction that it is our job—no—our responsibility as funeral professionals to educate our society about the importance of having a meaningful and healing funeral. If I were to take a trip through the mountains with my family, I wouldn’t want the auto repair guy to put the cheapest brake lines on my car the week before the trip.  It’s easy to see the danger in a situation like that, yet many families don’t understand that disposing of the body of their loved one without a meaningful event or gathering can have painfully real consequences. Hopefully, as more and more funeral directors are trained to communicate this information, we can prevent more families from suffering the emotional “car wreck” that comes from circumventing the grieving process. Most families think they are doing the simple, easy, or cheapest thing, never realizing the very high cost of skipping the funeral.

The timing of this “Wolfelt Experience” training couldn’t be better. Over the last several years, the public has been inundated with negative messages about funeral service. So, it’s exciting to see other funeral professionals, on both the preneed and the at-need side, start to take this information and share it with their families. It truly is making a difference. The tides are turning!

If you would like to learn more about the Wolfelt Experience training, feel free to contact me at

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