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Eat, sleep, breathe, DIY funerals?

My family is frugal and I was raised to be frugal. The mention of funerals to either of my parents causes them to recoil in horror. Not because they hate funerals (they know that’s blaspheme to me), but because just like everyone else, there is the thought that funerals are expensive.

The price is always on the forefront of peoples minds when they come in for arrangements. When the time comes, people have to use a funeral director. Families come in for arrangements and the first thing they say is, “how much is this going to cost?” There are loads of shoppers who call and ask, “how much is a funeral?” They’re calling because they have to, they don’t have a choice. They have a problem, their family member is dead and they need someone to take care of business.

I used to date a lawyer. When discussing the publics perception of our careers he would say “being a lawyer is similar to being a funeral director. Everyone thinks their lawyer is good, kind and helpful, and all other lawyers are money hungry, scheming, mongrels who want to take advantage of the public.” Same is true in funeral service.

In a weird way, this stigma helps to keep the doors open, because if we do our jobs, we get heritage families, who use the same home, time and time again. The public is thinks, “my funeral director is amazing, and other funeral directors are just waiting to prey on us during our time of need.

Ultimately, the importance of how much a funeral costs and the lack of value people are finding in it is outweighing the service. There are families who think we’re great, until they get the funeral estimate at the end of arrangements. The people who get most upset, are those in charge of the household budget. There is an increasing number of people, who are choosing to do it on their own. This means calling for a direct cremation, picking up the ashes and sometimes delaying the service to the point, where they never have one. If funerals were free, I’m pretty sure the percentage of direct cremations would decrease.

The funny thing is, the number of people who have expensive weddings is increasing. Receptions, beautiful churches, fancy hotels, and wedding planners are culturally expected. At the very least, people elope to Vegas and get married in the Elvis chapel to save money. How many people are having a direct marriage? Where they go to the courthouse, have the justice of the peace sign the paperwork, go home, and hide the marriage certificate in the back of the closet and avoid telling their friends and colleagues? (This sounds like something I would do)

We need to really examine why people feel one way about a momentous event like marriage, and the exact opposite about funerals, which are equally impactful in our lives. As a funeral director, are you as excited about the ceremony surrounding your own death, or the death of your parent; as you are or were when you got married? Are you as excited about honoring the life and the ceremony of your family members as when your kid got married? If not, you should be.

I know a lot of people are saying “uh, Kari, someone died, and you shouldn’t be excited, that’s weird.” Or “marriage is a happy occasion, someone dying is not.” You are correct. But frankly, how excited is everyone in the office about Crystal getting married? Most people don’t actually give a shit, other than her mom. But the more elaborate and creative the ceremony and reception the more excited everyone gets. The first thing that comes to mind isn’t, how much did you pay? People aren’t pulling out the bill from 1995 to find out the cost for the justice of the peace to see if they got a good deal. People are excited about weddings because of the ceremony and the party.

When it comes to weddings, the sky is the limit. You can get married on a hot air balloon, in the jungle, at the beach, have fireworks, cheese plates, drinks, and play baseball. As funeral directors we know that these things are possible for funerals. Yet even we choose to have the service even for our own family members in a dark stuffy place. We choose this outdated traditionalist model which we have always done. We invite our friends and families to funerals for our loved ones which are not our best work. And were leading by example that funerals need to be performed at a church or hall. That they need to have little sandwiches and that they’re all the same. Some funeral directors say funeral service is their calling. How can something be your calling, if you’re not excited about it?

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a funeral at the beach in a giant tent with a BBQ and a DJ? What about organizing a block party on the person’s street that they lived and had the ceremony in front of their house with bonfires? Wouldn’t that be exciting?

Would people get excited about a funeral, like the way they do with a wedding, if they didn’t feel like they had only about 3 options? Immediate cremation, memorial service, or traditional. All held in a church, hall or funeral home. No wonder the first thing people think of is the bill. Because those services don’t make them excited!!!!

I’m excited for almost every funeral. I think about the services I will have for my family members and I get this rush. I get weepy when I think about the ways I can honor their lives because they mean so much to me. I want my mom’s funeral to be held in a barn and have a petting zoo for the kids, a potluck pick-nic, and a guitar player and it will blow my mind even though I am planning it, because it will be amazing. And will cost the same or less than a traditional funeral. My mom is young, alive and in good health and one of my best friends, but I dream of her funeral. Because funeral service is my is passion.

If this is our calling, we need to teach people and lead by example of what is possible. We need to get people excited for the service, and when Crystal comes into the office and announces that her dad passed away. She has the mix of sorrow and excitement, about how she can share his memory, which impacted her world. That is how we break the stigma, that funerals are expensive and a waste of money.

People come to us when they feel absolutely powerless. We are offering them the same 3 options on our price list. The caskets all look the same, the urns are all conventional. The public doesn’t feel like they have creative control. I want to plant these ideas and give people options and give back their power. I want to make crazy alternative products and services to the families I serve, which gets them excited. On Saturday I am launching my DIY YouTube funeral channel, called Kari Peters Passing. Teaching people that there are other options and projects where they have creative control, because too many funeral directors are not educating or asking the right questions to their families. And too many are not practicing what they preach. I am dying with excitement to share all of my ideas and transform the industry and the stigma around death.

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