From May 18-20, 2017, CANA staff members were privileged to participate in the InSight Institute’s Celebrant Training presented by Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury.
As association staff, we're responsible not only for responding to the needs of our members and the industry, but also monitoring the changing winds of consumer preference and practitioner trends and understanding the difference between fads and forward thinking. InSight’s excellent celebrant training spoke to all of these concerns, describing new consumer preferences in an increasingly secular world and illuminating what the role of a funeral director is and can be.
Taking the class with industry professionals allowed us to hear stories about their work with families outside of their crematory operations and their perspective on the role of the funeral director. The thoughtful class lectures, case studies, and the final project assignment challenged preconceived notions of how our members interact with families, what consumers want, and the heart of real service to communities. We've all gained an understanding we did not have before.
Personalization Isn't Product.
I once read an unintentionally humorous article about the right number of accessories to wear based on a codified point system where certain items were worth certain points and you weren't ready to leave the house until you'd scored well. I think we can all see that, while well-intentioned, this method is ridiculous. And, like something as personal as style, you can't codify quality and sell keepsakes and products to add up points and score something as personal as memorialization. It's about knowing your audience—your own style in the case of accessorizing—and listening to a family's wants and needs in end-of-life planning.
The funeral director is the expert in options, but listening and guiding is the next step to making personalization a matter of course. Families can't be coded and assigned urns, keepsakes, and options based on assumptions about their spending, love for the deceased, or style. And it's only when consumers trust that they're being heard without judgment that they will talk and share. From there, the right products, like the right accessories, will come.
— Brie Bingham, Membership Coordinator
Watching Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury present this workshop was a revelation. It was evident that they’ve spent many years thinking about people and grief and a meaningful way to help families and friends work through the deaths of the significant individuals in their lives—and find deeply personalized ways to remember them. Amidst the current revolution in consumer interaction with the death care industry, Doug and Glenda have developed a powerful response that was inspiring to witness. They’ve truly brought the art of listening to a new level and they lay out clear strategies to incorporate listening into interactions with those that seek their assistance.
The wealth of information and the creative and insightful approach shared by these experts has broad applications to the issues we consider as we work to serve CANA’s members and their best interests. CANA’s staff does not include any funeral directors or cremationists, so we benefit from hearing real-world experiences. Such stories helps us to see the through the eyes of the people who belong to CANA.
— Sara Corkery, Communications Manager
As the education director, I was excited to participate in Celebrant training to make sure CANA education incorporates best practices and well-rounded perspectives. But I got more than I was expecting. My father died when I was 19. He was cremated and we had a memorial service for him. During the celebrant training, we talked a lot about the importance of a funeral or memorial service in beginning the healing process. As I thought back to my father’s service, I began to appreciate what my step-mother did, instead of resent it. She had taken control of planning my father’s service and what resulted was far different than anything the rest of the family was expecting. In other words, a traditional service. What we attended instead was a highly personalized celebration. Various people told stories about my father that I hadn’t heard before, and we played his favorite music. It was exactly what it should have been, but twenty years ago I didn’t understand that and still didn’t until I attended the celebrant training. And once that understanding took root, I was overcome by a desire to make sure everyone I know gets to experience that kind of funeral or memorial service when they lose someone they love.
At the same time I was experiencing a personal healing, I was also learning a lot about the funeral industry. As someone with no training in funeral service, I was shocked to learn that funeral directors aren’t the ones leading funeral or memorial services, and they aren’t the ones helping families plan them either. It’s usually a clergy person who may or may not know the family or the deceased. That explains why my step-mother did most of the service planning. The concept of a celebrant was almost non-existent in the US in 1996. Now I’m excited whenever I talk to funeral directors who have been through celebrant training or incorporate them into their business models. But I also see a huge missed opportunity for those who have not.
— Jennifer Head, Education Director
I'd rather be ignored for $2,000 than $10,000.
I found celebrant training to be a transformative experience. I didn't expect to relive every funeral and grief experience of my life on day one, but that is exactly what happened. At the end of the session I was emotionally drained, but also exhilarated. Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury provided the language to describe so many of my negative and positive experiences.
In response to a question about the increase in direct cremation, he told an anecdote when he was told, "I paid $10,000 for my father's funeral and my grief was ignored. The funeral director didn't direct anything, just took my order. I'd rather be ignored for $2000."
This story struck me profoundly. I thought about the behaviors of funeral directors that made the most impact on me, such as anticipating my need for a tissue or water, hugging or touching me when I needed comfort and saying my family member or friend's name. I have never been ignored, thankfully, but no one deserves to be ignored.
— Barbara Kemmis, Executive Director
CANA Staff send our warmest thanks to Doug Manning and Glenda Stansbury of the Insight Institute for sharing their passion and professional expertise during the Celebrant Training course. We congratulate our fellow new Certified Celebrants who joined us for this course!