October 30, Create a Great Funeral Day, first appeared on the media’s go-to holiday guide, Chase’s Calendar of Events, in 2000. Over 15 years, Create a Great Funeral Day founder Stephanie West Allen’s approach to funeral planning has evolved.
Allen, the author of Creating Your Own Funeral or Memorial Service: A Workbook, originally viewed funeral planning as an autonomous, solo activity. She wrote the book in response to seeing her husband’s reaction to the death of his mother.
Her husband struggled to pull together a meaningful funeral for his mother, who had left no directions. Allen observed her husband’s grief and heard him ask frequently, “What would Mom have wanted?”
Allen came to believe that knowing her mother-in-law’s wishes would have made holding her funeral so much easier. Allen’s husband would not have been left wondering in the midst of his grieving.
The idea behind Create a Great Funeral Day is to help people consider how they would like to be remembered. It is similar to FAMIC’s Have the Talk of a Lifetime™ campaign in discussing values and experiences. When we all let each other know how to celebrate our lives, the survivors’ experience can be so much easier.
Ironically, even though Allen’s book helps people plan their own funerals in a thoughtful way, she was left without guidance from her own parents. Neither parent undertook any pre-planning and left it to the two daughters to decide what to do.
Allen and her sister were left to negotiate their very different styles of decision-making about their parents’ funerals. “One of the things that’s happened over the fifteen years since I wrote the book is that I understand how much more of a group effort [funeral planning] is,” she said.
Create a Great Funeral Day prompts people to be mindful of mortality and plan reflectively in advance. Families aren’t left disorganized and stressed after a loved one’s death.
Allen suggests one way families can start advance funeral planning conversations is sharing “Never Again” stories. “Never Again” stories focus on things you have done that you would never do again and what you learned from the experiences. These stories highlight cherished values and reinforce the lessons learned after going astray from those values.
People planning a memorial service could discuss other funerals they’ve attended and what they “Never Again” want to have happen in a service. These discussions can prompt laughter and tears as the horror stories of services are recalled. The value of these discussions emerges as individuals hammer out what is appropriate for their particular family.
So the day before the ghosts of Halloween go haunting, have a conversation with your family about funerals. It’s a group effort!