Monday, July 7, 2014

How to add value and personalization to cremation services

This article originally appeared in the May issue of Catholic Cemetery.

By Jeff Miller, CFSP, Trigard Vice President of Business Development

While many Catholic families still prefer to honor their loved ones with a traditional burial, cremation continues to rise in popularity. As younger generations become more involved in funeral planning, they’re often searching for ways to express the unique passions of their loved ones while still upholding Catholic traditions. Interring cremated remains during a graveside ceremony presents a key opportunity to satisfy both of these requests.

Families who have chosen cremation care about their loved ones just as much as families who choose traditional burial. The healing process is the same. Do you already provide personalization options to families who have chosen a traditional burial? Then you’re already on your way to adding value for the families who choose cremation.

Military honors
Few funeral traditions are as touching and emotional as the honors presented for our service men and women. The demonstration of military honors during a graveside service is a way to show gratitude to those who have faithfully defended our country and to their families who also made sacrifices.

You likely already have experience marrying military honors with Catholic customs during traditional burial services. But do you incorporate these honors into cremation services? Whether the family chooses a 21 gun salute, has a trumpeter play “Taps” or simply flies an American flag, you can create a meaningful and memorable service by honoring both their loved one’s service and their faith..

Lasting memento
Are you already handing out prayer cards during graveside services? Have you ever customized them for a family? That is a great first step, but what if we take a step beyond customized prayer cards and offer something specifically tailored for families who choose cremation?

As you know, many families leave flowers at the graveside as a token for their lost loved one; however, this leaves them with nothing to take with them to help keep their loved one’s memory alive. Companies around the globe offer many unique ways to incorporate keepsakes and mementos into the graveside services. The options are limited only by the imagination and wishes of the heart.

As funeral professionals, it is our job to know the options. If you attend any funeral service convention, you’ll find many suppliers offering keepsake products, memory tokens that are incorporated into graveside ceremonies and other pocket-sized mementos. It’s a lot of information to take in. But if you’re overwhelmed by the options, imagine how the families you serve feel. That’s why it’s so important that we suggest options to the families we serve.

Dove release
In addition to flowers, a white dove release is one of the most loving and inspirational gifts to give a loved one. When a family releases a white dove, it helps to begin the healing process and creates a lasting memory for years to come. It is said that when the flock of doves ascend into the sky, they are awaiting the spirit of a loved one to join them. Often times, a family releases a single white dove separately to represent a loved one’s spirit. This dove joins the flock and together they fly home.

If not doves, what about releasing balloons or butterflies? While we usually think of these with traditional burial ceremonies, adding this to a cremation graveside ceremony can serve as a visual expression of love. It can become a source of comfort and inspiration, especially when paired with traditional graveside readings.

Communicate to families
Maybe you’re ahead of the curve and you already see cremation services as important as burial services. Maybe you’re already an expert in incorporating personal touches into Catholic traditions. But, are you letting families know all of their options? Or do you wait for them to ask?

As a resource for families, we have to be bold enough to step outside the box and commit to providing suggestions and education as a family makes arrangements. 

Jeff Miller, CFSP, is the Vice President of Business Development at Trigard. He is a licensed funeral director and embalmer in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois and has practiced since 1980. You can email him at

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