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Saturday 25 May 2024

The Rise of Virtual Funerals: Navigating Loss in the Digital Age

 


In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, Jennifer sits down with Mandy Benoualid, co-founder of TalkDeath and Keeper. Mandy shares her journey of recognizing a need for educational content in the death care industry, which led to the creation of TalkDeath and their online memorial provider company Keeper. Jennifer and Mandy conversed about the impact of social media on death and grieving, normalizing conversations around death. They touch upon their social media presence across various platforms and their strategies for engaging with their audience. They talk about the almost mandatory live streaming that is a growing trend in the funeral space. Tune in for a fascinating exploration of unconventional approaches to death and grieving, along with the impact of social media on the funeral industry! Key Topics: -Crafting Heartfelt Online Memorials -Saying Goodbye in the Digital Age -Streamlining Farewell Services Online -Different Perspectives on Death and Healing Quotes From The Episode: It's not just black and white ….. It's also talking about who actually has access to a good death. - Mandy Benoualid I think at the end of the day, what anybody in this space on social media is trying to do is have the community talk about it, like literally talk about death. - Jennifer Muldowney
Connect with Mandy Benoualin: LinkedIn - linkedin.com/in/mandy-benoualid Website - https://www.talkdeath.com/ Instagram -   / talkdeathdaily   Twitter -   / talkdeathdaily  

Thursday 23 May 2024

Breaking the Silence: Understanding Modern Loss

 


In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, Jennifer sits down with Rebecca Soffer, Co-founder and CEO of Modern Loss. Rebecca opens up about her personal journey as a grief coach and author, sharing how Modern Loss has become a beacon of solace for countless individuals navigating the tumultuous seas of bereavement. Rebecca also emphasizes the significance of creating safe spaces for individuals to share their experiences and feel understood and Jennifer states the value of providing solace to those grappling with loss, underscoring the universal nature of grief and the need for greater societal understanding and support. Tune in now as we navigate the depths of grief and loss with Rebecca Soffer! Key Topics: -Starting the profound journey through sorrow and grief. -Creating strong connections amid modern experiences of sadness and loss. -Obliterating Stigma Around Grief -Creating Safe Spaces for Sharing -Importance of Being Heard in Grief Quotes From The Episode: There is no fix for grief, there is no fix for loss. - Rebecca Soffer We don't necessarily need somebody to solve all our problems, we just need to be seen, and heard, And that's it. - Jennifer Muldowney Connect with Rebecca Soffer Instagram -   / rebeccasoffer   LinkedIn -   / rebeccasoffer   Twitter - https://twitter.com/rebeccasoffer?lan... Website - https://modernloss.com/the-modern-los...

Because Saying Goodbye Should Be as Unique as Your Favorite Pair of Shoes

Louboutin.com


Welcome to Wake 2.0, where we blend the best of the old with a dash of the new, creating memorial experiences that are as unique and vibrant as the lives we celebrate.
You know, traditional Irish wakes have been around for centuries, and there’s a good reason for that. According to a fascinating study by Ulster University, these customs are pretty effective at helping folks cope with grief. The study found that only 10.9% of grieving people in Ireland experienced prolonged grief disorder (PGD), compared to a whopping 15.3% in the UK. The secret sauce? The communal nature of Irish wakes, where the whole community rallies together in support. 

What is Wake 2.0?
Wake 2.0 is our way of taking the cherished traditions of the Irish wake and giving them a modern, personalized twist. Think of it as a chic upgrade, like swapping out your old sneakers for a pair of Louboutins. 

Personalized Memorial Spaces: Gone are the days of cookie-cutter services. We create bespoke memorial spaces that reflect the personality and passions of your loved one. Whether they were a world traveller, an avid gardener, or fashionista, we’ll make sure their essence shines through.
  • Digital Legacy: Our digital memorials allow family and friends to share stories, photos, and videos online, creating a virtual scrapbook of memories that lasts forever. It’s like Instagram, but for the heart.
  • Sustainable Practices: For those who want to leave a lighter footprint on the earth, we offer eco-friendly options. Think biodegradable urns, green burials, and sustainable materials. Mother Earth will thank you!
  • Food and Beverage: Sharing grief and mourning a loss while celebrating a life with favorite foods and beverages of the deceased is another way we bring the old customs of the Irish Wake into the modern day. The sharing of food and drink fosters a sense of community and solidarity still to this day.
At Muldowney Memorials, we believe that saying goodbye shouldn’t be a hushed whisper—it should be a rallying cry of love, laughter, and shared memories. Our wakes are still a time for family, friends, and the community to come together, but we’ve added a few extra touches to make the experience even more special.

Imagine a space filled with personal mementoes, vibrant photos, and digital screens playing videos of your loved one’s greatest moments. Picture a gathering where stories are shared, tears are shed, and laughter rings out over a delicious spread of food and drinks. And yes, we still embrace the beautiful tradition of the open coffin, allowing everyone to say their personal goodbyes in a way that feels right for them.

Remember, every farewell is unique—just like every heartbeat. At Muldowney Memorials, we’re here to ensure that your goodbye is as unforgettable as the life you’re celebrating. So, let’s raise a glass (or a cup of tea) to the ones we’ve loved and lost, and embrace the future of farewells with open arms and open hearts.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Parenthood and The Modern Funeral Director, the story of Little Miss Funeral

 


APPLE podcast

Spotify

In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, Jennifer welcomes Lauren Leroy, a Licensed Funeral Director and the creative mind behind the blog and YouTube channel "Little Miss Funeral." 

Lauren opens up about the inspiration behind her online platform and how it became a safe space for sharing her journey in the funeral industry.

Lauren talked about her decision to prioritize her role as a parent over her career as she explored the delicate balance between family obligations and professional pursuits.

Don't miss out on this episode as Jennifer and Lauren discuss prioritizing family over career obligations and the impact that can have on your career and your mental health within the death space. Tune in now!


Quotes  From The Episode: 

I just think that it's very difficult to be a devoted funeral director and a present parent at the same time.

- Lauren Leroy

I can sleep at night knowing I gave that family all that I could in whatever way I could.

- Jennifer Muldowney


Tuesday 2 April 2024

The Art of Ritual: Finding Solace and Connection in Personal Ceremonies with Megan Sheldon.

 In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, our host Jennifer sits down with Megan Sheldon, the CEO and founder of Be Ceremonial to talk about Megan’s journey with recurrent pregnancy loss and grief, which ultimately inspired her to create the Be Ceremonial app. 

As the conversation unfolds, Megan highlights the significance of marking life's significant moments, a sentiment that resonates deeply with Jennifer. Together, they explore the innate human inclination towards ceremony, reflecting on the ways in which rituals enrich our lives and offer comfort in times of need.

Don't miss out on this enlightening conversation that celebrates the human spirit and the transformative power of ceremony. Tune in now!



Connect with Megan Sheldon 
LinkedIn - linkedin.com/in/megansheldon 
Website - beceremonial.com / seekingceremony.com

Monday 1 April 2024

AI + Deathcare: Technology + Grief

My three pillars - the three things I have always been most interested in, within the deathcare realm, are digital legacy, environment, and preplanning/planning your own funeral. While I have largely focussed on the latter two in my 15 years in the space, the digital legacy, online, and the virtual world have always been in the background fascinating me with every new development. It has probably seem the most development in the last decade over the other two, although all three have come on ions since I began my journey back in 2008.

In an age where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, even death and grieving are not immune to its influence. Recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have sparked conversations about how technology intersects with death care, reshaping how we remember and interact with the departed.

One tragic example that underscores this is the case of a Belgian man who reportedly died by suicide after engaging with an AI chatbot named Eliza on the Chai platform. Over six weeks, he expressed increasing pessimism about climate change, receiving responses that his wife described as "confusing and harmful." This incident highlights the potential risks of relying on AI for emotional support without proper safeguards in place.

On a more positive note, AI has also been instrumental in preserving the legacies of beloved celebrities. Take, for instance, the posthumous release of a Beatles single featuring the digitally reconstructed voice of John Lennon. Filmmaker Peter Jackson utilized AI tools to isolate and enhance Lennon's vocals from a 1970s home demo, offering fans a glimpse of what could have been had Lennon been granted more time.

Similarly, the announcement that an AI model trained on archival footage will bring back the voice of French singer Edith Piaf for her own biopic demonstrates the remarkable capabilities of AI in recreating distinctive voices. Despite Piaf's passing six decades ago, the AI was able to capture the essence of her voice with remarkable fidelity, providing a poignant reminder of her enduring legacy.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian AI startup Respeecher has been at the forefront of reviving deceased celebrities' voices, including bringing back voice actor Miłogost Reczek for the video game Cyberpunk 2077 after his passing in 2021. Their work underscores the potential of AI to immortalize the voices of those we've lost, preserving their contributions for future generations to appreciate.

In the realm of visual resurrection, hologram technology has enabled the recreation of deceased celebrities for live performances. From Michael Jackson's posthumous appearance at the 2014 Billboard Awards to Kim Kardashian's hologram gift from Kanye West featuring her late father, Robert Kardashian, holograms offer a surreal yet poignant way of connecting with the departed. In another example, Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher were digitally resurrected for roles in the Star Wars franchise, while an upcoming film titled 'Return to Eden' reportedly features an AI reconstruction of James Dean's likeness. 

As exciting as these developments might seem, the use of AI in resurrecting celebrities raises ethical dilemmas regarding consent, authenticity, and the commodification of posthumous representation. Critics argue that digitally recreating deceased individuals without their explicit consent can distort their legacies and perpetuate exploitative practices. The controversy surrounding the recreation of voices, likenesses, and personas of public figures underscores the need for robust ethical frameworks and transparent governance in AI-driven death care.

While AI offers unprecedented ways of preserving legacies and immortalizing voices, it also requires careful consideration of ethical implications and the need for safeguards to prevent harm. As technology continues to evolve, it's essential to approach its integration with empathy, respect, and a deep understanding of the human experience of loss.

(More to come on this subject!)

Monday 18 March 2024

The Death Deck Chronicle: Stories of Openness, Reflection and Growth with Lisa Pahl

 In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, your host Jennifer engages in conversation with Lisa, co-creator of the “Death Deck.” Lisa unveils the inspiration behind her creation, the Death Deck, a tool designed to foster open conversations about the often-taboo topic of death.

Jennifer and Lisa openly discuss the challenges associated with entering the death-related industry, shedding light on the nuances and sensitivities involved. 

As the episode unfolds, Jennifer delves into the significance of early exposure to death, unraveling the layers of understanding and acceptance that come with confronting mortality from a young age.

Join them as they discuss headless chickens, drowned kittens, farm living, playing cards, talking death, challenging societal norms, and embracing the profound wisdom that these conversations bring!



Connect with Lisa Pahl: 
Instagram - / thedeathdeck

Tuesday 12 March 2024

What Truly Matters at the End of Life: Insights from Those Who Embraced Living Fully

In a world where the fear of death often overshadows the beauty of life, it's essential to pause and reflect on what truly matters as we approach the end of our journey. Recently, an article published by The Guardian shed light on the insights of 30 individuals who began truly living once they learned they were dying. Their stories not only inspire but also provide invaluable lessons for all of us, regardless of where we are in our life's journey. Their advice? As follows.....

Embrace Authentic Connections:

One recurring theme among those facing mortality was the importance of authentic connections. Whether it was spending quality time with loved ones, reconciling with estranged family members, or strengthening bonds with friends, these individuals emphasized the significance of human connection in their final days. As 'busy' as we always are, it's easy to overlook the importance of nurturing relationships. Yet, when faced with the reality of limited time, it becomes clear that nothing matters more than the people we hold dear.

Live with Purpose:

Another revelation shared by these folks was the importance of living with purpose. Many found solace and fulfillment in pursuing their passions, whether it was through creative endeavors, volunteering, or simply being present in each moment. The realization that life is finite served as a catalyst for aligning their actions with their values, resulting in a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment. Their stories serve as a reminder that true happiness stems from following our purpose, no matter how grand or humble it may seem.

Be Vulnerable:

Facing mortality also prompted a few of them to embrace vulnerability in their interactions with others. Instead of hiding behind masks or pretending to be someone they're not, these individuals found liberation in sharing their fears, hopes, and dreams openly. By embracing vulnerability, they cultivated deeper connections and forged genuine relationships based on trust and acceptance. In a society that often values stoicism over vulnerability, their courage serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty that lies in authenticity.

Letting Go of Regrets:

Perhaps one of the most poignant lessons shared by those nearing the end of their lives was the importance of letting go of regrets. Whether it was forgiving oneself for past mistakes or making amends with others, these individuals found peace in releasing the burden of regret. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, they focused on the present moment, cherishing each day as a gift. Their stories serve as a powerful reminder that it's never too late to make peace with our past and embrace the beauty of the present.

In the end, it's not the material possessions or achievements that define us, but rather the love we share and the lives we touch along the way.



Friday 1 March 2024

Eyes Included: Myths and Realities of Organ Donation

 

Heather Taylor of @BeforeTheCoffin 

In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, our host Jennifer sits down with Heather Taylor, a mortician with a wealth of experience in the funeral business. 

Heather shares her journey from Pittsburgh to Seattle and eventually settling in Michigan, recounting the pivotal moment that led her to make these life-changing moves. She also spills the tea on her experience with dating in deathcare!

Heather reflects on the versatility of a degree in the mortuary field, emphasizing the diverse interests and skills that draw individuals to the funeral industry. Jennifer adds her unique perspective on different aspects of deathcare, highlighting the importance of continuous learning and knowledge-sharing within the profession.

Tune in as they navigate the intricate world of dating, deathcare and beyond!

LINKS:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmNr1ev9qYg 

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-glam-reaper-podcast/id1572382989?i=1000647641639  

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4hhtqfbOcs4jmHjV4Awrk6?si=fba6f0bf15ab4bb1

Saturday 24 February 2024

63 creative ideas for memorial planning or funeral arrangements

 Here are 63 creative ideas we have curated for memorial planning or funeral arrangements:

  1. Release balloons in their favorite color or with messages attached.
  2. Arrange for a dove release ceremony.
  3. Write and share personal letters or notes in a memory jar.
  4. Set up a memory wall with notes and letters from friends and family.
  5. Hold a candle lighting ceremony where attendees each light a candle in memory.
  6. Create a scrapbook with memories and stories from friends and family.
  7. Organize a memorial walk or run for a cause in their honor.
  8. Arrange for a sand ceremony where participants pour sand (maybe from different locations?) into a vessel to symbolize unity.
  9. Conduct a memorial service at a meaningful location, such as a park or beach.
  10. Arrange for a fireworks display in their favorite colors or at a special location.
  11. Create a memorial video game or board game based on their interests.
  12. Have a themed memorial where attendees dress in the person's favorite colors or attire.
  13. Host a cooking or baking event with their favorite recipes.
  14. Create a time capsule filled with memories, letters, and items to be opened in the future.
  15. Arrange for a skywriting tribute with a message in their honor.
  16. Organize a group activity or game they enjoyed, such as a sports tournament or trivia night.
  17. Display their artwork or creative projects in an exhibition.
  18. Create a charitable foundation or scholarship in their name.
  19. Commission a piece of sculpture in their memory.
  20. Create a digital memorial website or blog where people can share memories and stories.
  21. Hold a memorial poetry reading or storytelling event.
  22. Create a personalized memorial bench at a favorite spot.
  23. Host a movie night featuring their favorite films or documentaries.
  24. Organize a book drive or library donation in their honor.
  25. Arrange for a hot air balloon ride in their memory.
  26. Create a memorial puzzle with a favorite photo or image.
  27. Organize a picnic or outdoor gathering in their favorite park.
  28. Host a themed dinner party with their favorite foods and drinks.
  29. Set up a memorial art installation or sculpture in a public space.
  30. Hold a remembrance ceremony at sunrise or sunset.
  31. Hold an ash scattering ceremony in their favorite park/beach.
  32. Organize a talent show or open mic night showcasing the deceased talents and interests.
  33. Arrange for a sky lantern release at dusk.
  34. Host a beach or lakefront memorial with a floating candle ceremony.
  35. Create a personalized memory bracelet or jewelry for attendees.
  36. Organize a community service project or volunteer day in their memory.
  37. Host a charity auction or fundraiser to support causes they cared about.
  38. Arrange for a star-naming ceremony in their honor.
  39. Hold a meditation or mindfulness session in their memory.
  40. Organize a memorial bike ride or hike at a scenic location.
  41. Arrange for a mural painting or street art project dedicated to their memory.
  42. Host a scavenger hunt featuring locations or items related to their life.
  43. Create a podcast series featuring stories and memories shared by friends and family.
  44. Arrange for a musical tribute concert with performers playing their favorite songs
  45. Arrange for a butterfly release ceremony.
  46. Create a memorial recipe book featuring their favorite dishes and family recipes.
  47. Organize a community cleanup or beautification project in their honor.
  48. Host a grief writing workshop.
  49. Arrange for a memorial fishing trip or boat ride.
  50. Host a sports tournament in their honor with their favorite games or activities.
  51. Arrange for a star-gazing event or visit to an observatory.
  52. Hold a storytelling circle where people share their favorite memories.
  53. Organize a themed photo booth with props related to their interests.
  54. Arrange for a special performance by a choir or musical group.
  55. Host a craft-making event where attendees create items in memory of the person.
  56. Host a memorial bonfire where attendees share stories and memories.
  57. Create a custom-designed memorial flag or banner.
  58. Host a poetry slam event with poems inspired by their life.
  59. Host a film screening of movies that held special meaning to them.
  60. Arrange for a personalized bench swing at a favorite spot.
  61. Host a nature walk or wildlife tour in their memory.
  62. Host a karaoke night featuring their favorite songs and music.
  63. Arrange for a custom-made memorial sculpture or statue. 
These ideas can be adapted and combined to create a meaningful and personalized memorial or funeral service to honor the life and legacy of your loved one. You can do some if not most of them yourself or you can hire any of our incredible vendors (or us) to help you implement them so you can work on yourself, your family and your grief. Sending warmth to you in this journey. 

Monday 19 February 2024

Mindful Transcendence: Embracing Life's Realities Through Meditation of Death

Embarking on a journey of meditation often leads us to profound realizations about life and our existence. 

A Tibetan Buddhist tradition contains an effective meditation called the nine-point meditation on death. It is presented with three root truths, three reasons for each truth, and three conclusions that follow from them:

Root: Death is certain.
1. No being has ever escaped death].
2. I am constantly becoming closer to death.
3. There is not much time to practice Dharma*
Conclusion: I must practice Dharma

Root: The time of death is uncertain.
4. The lifespan of the human being is not fixed.
5. More conditions endanger life than support it.
6. This body is extremely fragile.
Conclusion: I must practice Dharma now.

Root: Nothing can help at the time of death except my Dharma practice.
7. Wealth can't help.
8. Friends and relatives can't help.
9. Your body can't help.
Conclusion: I must practice Dharma purely.

In the realm of mindfulness and self-discovery, this framework guides practitioners through a profound contemplation on life, death, and the essence of being. 

Each of these nine points offers a pathway to introspection, inviting individuals to explore the inevitability of death, the uncertainty of its timing, and the transformative power of spiritual practice. 

Understanding the Structure
There are different approaches to meditating on the nine points, each offering its own insights and depth of understanding. One method involves meditating on all nine points in a single session. Alternatively, one might choose to dedicate one session to each point detailed above. Another option is to focus on the 3 points in 3 separate sessions: acknowledging the inevitability of death, recognizing the uncertainty of its timing, and understanding the role of spiritual practice in facing it.

Preparing for Meditation
Before delving into the meditation itself, it's crucial to create a conducive environment. Find a comfortable position, straighten your back, and allow your body to relax. Take a few moments to ground yourself in the present, shedding thoughts of the past and future. Settle your mind on the chosen topic for the meditation session.

Cultivating Motivation
As your mind settles into the present moment, cultivate a positive motivation for your meditation practice. Reflect on the aspiration for greater peace and happiness for all beings. Consider how your meditation can contribute to your own enlightenment and the well-being of others.

Exploring the Nine Points

The Inevitability of Death
  • Contemplate the certainty of death, a reality often overlooked amidst life's distractions. 
  • Reflect on the lives of those who have passed before us, recognizing that death is an inevitable part of the human experience.
  • Consider the fleeting nature of life and the urgency to engage in spiritual practice.

The Uncertainty of the Time of Death
  • Acknowledge the unpredictable nature of death's timing. 
  • Life's brevity reminds us of its preciousness. 
  • Reflect on the myriad causes of death and the fragility of the human body. 
  • Embrace the uncertainty as a catalyst for living with intention and purpose.

The Role of Spiritual Practice
  • Recognize that worldly possessions and relationships cannot accompany us beyond death. 
  • Only our mind, enriched with positive imprints, transcends the boundaries of mortality. 
  • Cultivate virtues such as compassion, patience, and wisdom, laying the foundation for a peaceful transition.

Reflection and Dedication

As the meditation draws to a close, reflect on the insights gained and the potential for personal growth. Dedicate the merit of your practice to the well-being of all sentient beings, fostering a sense of interconnectedness and compassion.

In conclusion, the meditation on the nine points offers an opportunity for introspection. By embracing the inevitability of death, acknowledging its uncertainty, and cultivating spiritual practice, we can navigate life's journey with wisdom and compassion, ultimately finding peace in the face of mortality.


*Dharma is a concept with deep roots in Eastern philosophy, particularly in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. While its interpretation varies among these traditions, at its core, dharma embodies the principles of duty, righteousness, and cosmic order.

Overall, dharma transcends religious boundaries and serves as a guiding principle for righteous living, moral conduct, and spiritual fulfillment across diverse cultural and philosophical contexts. It embodies the harmony between individual duties, societal responsibilities, and cosmic order, aiming to foster a sense of unity, balance, and interconnectedness in the world.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Candles in the Dark: Shedding Light on Mental Health in the Funeral Community

 

In this episode, Jennifer sits down with Kim Zavrotny of Funeral Peer Support to explore the world of global (peer) support for funeral professionals. The conversation kicks off with Jennifer expressing her admiration for their podcast "Stronger Together" and delving into her personal journey of discovering and connecting with the tight-knit funeral peer support community.

The discussion takes an insightful turn as Jennifer opens up about facing resistance to unconventional attitudes within the funeral profession.

Kim, the driving force behind the peer support group, shares the origin story of this vital community. As they delve into the volunteer nature of the organization, Kim sheds light on the heartfelt commitment that fuels this network. 

Tune in to gain valuable insights into the impactful work of this volunteer-driven global community!

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubSCyl3H-sQ&t=716s

Apple: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-glam-reaper-podcast/id1572382989?i=1000645419792

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/2tPJMgDuix68nLSMa8QLHj?si=a7609caf54e842c5


Wednesday 31 January 2024

Aqua Transformation: The Metamorphosis of Bones in Water Cremation

 

In this episode of The Glam Reaper Podcast, our host Jennifer sits down with Emily Nelson, Founder & CEO at Be a Tree Cremation, to delve into a unique and eco-friendly approach to end-of-life disposition – also known as water cremation, resomation or alkaline hydrolysis.

Take a listen as Jennifer and Emily explore the emotional and sometimes perplexing choices people make when it comes to end-of-life disposition. From the initial care of the deceased to the actual water cremation procedure, Emily provides insights into the thoughtful process they follow at their facility.

In addition, Jennifer and Emily discuss the legal aspects and regulations surrounding water cremation, acknowledging the challenges and variations in state regulations across the United States.

Tune into this insightful conversation as they navigate the waters of water cremation and its impact on the funeral industry!

LINKS:

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EvwQlN51lE&t=105s

APPLE: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-glam-reaper-podcast/id1572382989?i=1000643631917

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6DDPoiGY9I0JuKDGZLqnZR?si=6f62d74230894643


Wednesday 24 January 2024

Outsider’s perspective of the funeral industry

Hi everyone 👋! I'm Anna, a guest writer on Jennifer’s blog 💫! I’m here to provide an outsider’s perspective on the funeral industry. My professional journey has been in finance & strategy at tech startups (very different, I know!); but, after I lost my mom in 2016, I’ve become fascinated with the deathcare space and passionate about making the end-of-life process easier for families. Now in 2024, I find myself in the process of discovering my path within the industry and also serendipitously crossing paths with Jennifer! 

Last week, Jennifer & I hit up the Trend ReCON conference hosted by Tribute Tech. Tribute is a leading tech company in the funeral space that builds websites, case management software, and other tools for funeral homes. This was Tribute’s second year hosting Trend ReCON, a small conference where they invited speakers and hosted fireside chats to review & present new technology. Lecture topics ranged from reminding funeral directors of the importance of digital marketing to providing a crash course on how to use ChatGPT. 

As an outsider, I found the conference really helpful in understanding a unique & niche industry a little bit better. Here are some of my key takeaways:

  • Confirmed, the funeral industry appears to be very technologically behind.
  • Many funeral homes still don’t have a website and rely on word-of-mouth and community referrals. To put it into perspective, Google and SEO activity exploded ~20 years ago. 
  • For the funeral homes that are tech savvy, they will at the very least have a website, maybe Quickbooks, and maybe case management software. 
  • The pandemic forced funeral homes to become more tech savvy. 
  • It was a necessary change that is here to stay. 
  • The pandemic pressured funeral homes to create websites and offer virtual live streaming. Even now post-pandemic, virtual attendance is increasing while physical attendance & visitations are decreasing.
  • Although the landing page is important for funeral homes to advertise their business, the obituary page is their goldmine.
  • On average, an obituary receives 200 views. 60% are 45+ years old, 60% are female, and the majority are within 15 miles. This means that obituary viewers should be funeral homes’ target leads for at-need and pre-need.
  • The funeral industry is very short-staffed. This is an acute & persistent problem across the industry.
  • The funeral industry has shifted from an employer’s market to an employee’s market. The space is paying employees more than ever, but there is just not enough supply to meet demand. 
  • What’s interesting though is that in 2021, overall enrollment in mortuary school jumped by 24% indicating an increasing interest in the space.
  • Succession planning will be a problem. I predict more consolidation over the next few years.
  • 60% of funeral directors will retire in the next 5 years. Most will have issues finding a successor and will probably get acquired.
  • The fragmented industry has just started getting consolidated in the last few years (20% of funeral homes are owned by consolidators). Right now, consolidators are focused on scaling their portfolio, but more consolidation will come in the next few years. 

I hope you found this post interesting. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts, questions, or input into what you think the future of tech is for the funeral industry!


~ Anna






Saturday 20 January 2024

A Cinematic Odyssey: Saltburn's Grief Scene and a Wuthering Heights connection

If you haven't seen it then STOP, go and watch it! 

Diving into the heart-wrenching yet beautifully crafted world of Saltburn, with a special focus on the soul-stirring grief scene that unfolds at the graveside. 

Saltburn, a cinematic masterpiece, takes us on an incredibly boundary pushing and profound journey through life, love, and, inevitably, loss. 

As the characters gather around the graveside, the scene is bathed in a soft, melancholic light, and the weight of loss hangs heavily in the air. The filmmakers' attention to detail is palpable, capturing the essence of grief in its rawest form. But once the family leave Oliver, it becomes no typical movie grief scene – it's a moment that challenges the boundaries of expression.

Barry Keoghan's portrayal of Oliver in this scene is nothing short of masterful. In the aftermath of Felix's funeral, Oliver grapples with the heaviness of the situation. The weight of loss becomes overwhelming, and in a moment of profound vulnerability, Oliver removes his shirt and collapses onto the freshly filled grave unbuttoning his trousers to relieve himself of the pent-up sexual tension he's been holding on to.

The scene takes an unexpected turn as Oliver, consumed by grief and obsession, engages in an unsettling ritual to bid farewell to his beloved Felix. Instead of conventional tributes, Oliver fully undresses and lies face down on the freshly-laid gravesoil. This disturbing yet intriguing act serves as an unconventional expression of love, loss, and extreme hopelessness. But is it so 'out there'? I don't think so. I think people who have seen grief and lived in it know how dark, how bizarre, how weird your thoughts and actions can get (or feel). To see this on screen, in a popular medium with great actors was incredible. Grief is UNIQUE.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Barry Keoghan sheds light on the scene's evolution. Originally meant to stop at touching the dirt, Keoghan and writer/director Emerald Fennell decided to push the boundaries further. Keoghan explains, "It wasn’t about f@%king the grave, it was more about I don’t know what to do with this obsession; it’s making me confused and making me unhuman in a way. It was a total discovery for him, I think. And it was sad. It was very, very sad."

Emerald Fennell describes “It is troubling, it’s about grief, it is about the horror of grief and the horror of love. It comes directly from the Gothic tradition because there’s a scene in Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books of all time, where Heathcliff digs down to get to Cathy’s coffin and the subtext is very much to do a similar thing. So what we have in the film is not completely outlandish given the genre. So much of Oliver’s desire cannot be sated, what he really wants is not possible, and even in the end it’s not possible.”

While Saltburn's grief scene transcends traditional movie boundaries, it invites audiences to explore the multifaceted nature of human emotions which is something we have previously kept closeted away when it comes to grief. Another movie that came to our screens in a similar timing was Good Grief and for me that did less for grieving in the modern day than Saltburn who showed is grief in its raw form - the only form there is.

BUT I will say, any movie or popular medium that deals with grief, loss, death, funerals and bereavement is a winner in. my book because it is being TALKED about and that is all we can ask for. Grief is unique for us all.


As a side note, has anyone read Alix Strauss Joy of Funerals? More on this to come. Rereading it again but it gave me Saltburn grief vibes!

Monday 15 January 2024

SEASON 4! Breaking the Silence: Insights into Preventing Self-Harm

 

In this first episode for Season 4 of The Glam Reaper podcast, Jennifer sits down with Dr. Sara Murphy—a death educator, certified thanatologist, bereavement consultant, and suicide expert and disenfranchised grief with an unconventional journey into the field. 

During the discussion, Jennifer and Dr. Murphy touch on their convention sessions, including the groundbreaking launch of safe zone training and a candid exploration of suicide risk in the death care professions.

The conversation takes an emotional turn as Jennifer delves into the challenges of addressing societal issues in the field of death care. 

Tune in to this episode for a human perspective on the intersection of psychology, death care, and the intricate threads that bind them together.

LINKS:

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Akpvvyu4Qg&t=298s

APPLE: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-glam-reaper-podcast/id1572382989?i=1000641678664

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/episode/3LscRT1rwcUw6RyhGhKnrQ?si=6b248034c1954c15


Friday 12 January 2024

Embracing Life's Journey: A Positive Perspective on Death

As someone deeply involved in the world of memorial planning (and therefore death), I want to share thoughts on how we can approach death with a positive mindset, drawing from my experiences and the unique pillars of my company Muldowney Memorials.


The Rollercoaster of Farewell

Death – it's something we all face in one way or another, shaping our lives in profound ways. In my journey within the funeral industry, I've witnessed a spectrum of attitudes towards death. Some see it as a chance for transformation, while others navigate it with coping mechanisms. Dying, at its core, is transformative and profound. To make it a positive transition, acceptance of death before it comes becomes crucial.


Dealing with the Dreads

Coping with the anxiety surrounding death involves recognizing the different stages of grief, as proposed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and further developed by many more incredible authors, researchers and grief experiencers. Additionally, there are various approaches to death acceptance – from staying neutral to taking it head-on or seeking an escape. It's like a rollercoaster ride, with ups and downs, twists and turns.


Finding Peace in Acceptance

Acceptance is the key, my friends. It's about letting go of attachments and finding that spiritual connection. Whether it's reflecting on life, embracing your true self, or diving into your spiritual beliefs – there are different paths to acceptance. It's like the Buddhist perspective that says to solve the problem of death; we must live a fulfilling life.


Unpacking the Fears of Death Anxiety

Let's be real; death can be a scary thought. The fear of the unknown, the finality of it all, and the worries about pain and loneliness can weigh heavily on our minds. Our society tends to shy away from facing mortality, opting instead to prolong life through various means. But what if we flipped the script and embraced the inevitable?


Adding Some Positive Spice

Let's sprinkle in some positive psychology with the meaning management model. We all crave meaning, especially when faced with the tough stuff like death. Engaging in meaning management deepens our faith and spirituality, creating a robust framework that shields us from the fear of death. It's not just reframing; it's a total reconstruction of our values and beliefs.


Embracing Life and Death

In the memorial planning world, embracing a life of meaning echoes in our dying moments. It's about leaving behind a legacy that truly means something. By living a life of significance, we set the stage for a departure that's not just an end but a celebration of what we've created. Faith, hope, and courage – they pave the way for a life well-lived and a death embraced.


A Paradox Worth Exploring

Our attitudes toward death don't just shape our individual lives; they influence the future of our society. Whether we choose to face death with fear or hope significantly impacts how we live. So, let's ponder the essence of life and death – what truly matters is living a life of meaning. Embracing death with faith gives us courage and an enduring sense of hope. 

In accepting and understanding death's significance, we gain wisdom, courage, and an unyielding hope. After all, life is a paradox – seizing each day like it's our last while striving to do good for a hundred years. 🌟

~Jennifer

Friday 5 January 2024

The Surge in Demand for Celebrants in Funeral Services

Celebrants are becoming an increasingly sought-after presence in funeral services. But what's driving this noticeable rise in demand?

Primarily, the surge is in the category of families who lack church affiliation and seek a non-religious funeral experience also known as 'none'. The nones account for a large portion of Americans, 30% of U.S. adults who claim no religious affiliation in a survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Additionally, the burgeoning popularity of cremation has reshaped expectations. Families are no longer satisfied with traditional services. Opting for cremation grants them liberty to design a personalized tribute using (or not) the remains in an urn. Funeral professionals often hear that for cremation families, their presence is deemed optional. Funeral homes offering Celebrants witness a retention of these families within their fold. Celebrants cater precisely to a families unique needs while maintaining a connection to the funeral home. 

Moreover, an increasing number of funeral homes, particularly larger corporations, have embraced Celebrants as a standard service option for all families, integrating it into their General Price List (GPL). This integration has resulted in a noticeable uptick in revenue and heightened client satisfaction. 

Testimonial from a real life celebrant consumer

"I can not tell you what a Godsend Muldowney Memorials was to my family when my cousin unexpectedly passed away. I was from the West Coast, and knew nothing about how to do a funeral that was zoomed from the funeral home in New York to 3 different time zones to people from all over the country. Jennifer, Mikey and Siobhan were just incredible. They were so kind and professional. The service turned out beautifully, the sound and visual presentation were spot on (thanks, Mikey) and Siobahn did a beautiful eulogy. I felt like they really honored my cousin. I am truly touched at what wonderful human beings they all were. Best money I ever spent, but more importantly, they took a huge burden off my shoulders in a kind, honest, and professional way. Muldowney Memorials has my highest recommendations."

Positive experiences shared among business owners have further fueled the acceptance and interest in incorporating Celebrants into their firms. Beyond simply officiating funerals, Muldowney Memorial Celebrants offer families additional services like:

Collaborative Creation: Celebrants view their role as a collaborative and creative process shared with the family. Each word spoken is 100% approved by the family before the service and each script is meticulously crafted by the celebrant based on the family's shared experiences. 

Family Meetings: These gatherings are pivotal and healing. Spanning one to three hours, they serve as an opportunity to collect stories, allowing for the design of a personalized service for the departed. Beyond that, these meetings provide families with a platform to collectively share stories, commence the grieving process, and cultivate safe spaces for cherished memories.

Access to Expertise: Not only are Muldowney Memorial Celebrants trained and experienced celebrants who love their job but they also have access (thanks to the MM Events Team) to a wide range of expertise including AudioVisual Support, Catering, a wide variety of Venues, Florists, Funeral Directors and more.

The role of a Muldowney Memorial Celebrant involves providing a personalized funeral service, memorial service, or tribute tailored to reflect the personality and lifestyle of the departed. This is achieved through consultations with the family and coordination with the funeral home.

A Problem: Serving as both a funeral director and a Celebrant for the same family presents an immense challenge. Both roles demand substantial time and attention to distinct responsibilities. Celebrants, on average, invest 8-10 hours in preparing a service, encompassing meetings with the family, crafting the service, and conducting the service itself. Simultaneously, funeral directors juggle numerous tasks related to the service while managing calls and tending to other families in need. Given these demands, it is nearly always better for everyone involved if the work of a Celebrant is outsourced.

In conclusion, Celebrants are devoted to the fundamental principle of crafting a tribute that resonates with the unique lifestyle and convictions of the individual, ensuring that the service is a meaningful reflection of their life and values.