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PBS Rebroadcasting The Undertaking; Opportunity To Reach Out to Your Community

Posted: November 30, 2012

PBS television stations throughout the country will be rebroadcasting FRONTLINE's Emmy Award-winning documentary The Undertaking on December 11*. The documentary offers viewers an intimate, in-depth look at funeral service and, though it made its debut five years ago, it is still relevant today. The rebroadcast offers you an opportunity to reach out to local media, clergy, hospice workers, and others in your community to help them understand what it is that you do to serve the bereaved.

As you may recall, The Undertaking took television audiences behind the scenes of the Lynch & Sons Funeral Homes, in Clawson and Milford, Michigan, painting a powerful portrayal of the deep and profound commitment funeral service has for the families it serves. What made The Undertaking particularly poignant was seeing the funeral planning process through the eyes of grieving families. Through the experiences of the families featured in the documentary, viewers learn about the value of funerals and the tender ways that funeral directors care for the dying, the dead and the bereaved. You can watch The Undertaking at any time on the FRONTLINE website.

NFDA has several suggestions for how you use this rebroadcast of The Undertaking to educate your community about the value of funeral service and the work that you do:

  • Media.
    • Compose a letter to the editor encouraging people in your community to watch the The Undertaking on December 11. Urge them to use this documentary as an opportunity to reflect on the type of funeral or memorial service they might like to have. During the upcoming holiday season, many people will be spending a lot of time with family. There may be opportunities for them to share their wishes with loved ones. This letter to the editor need not be a sales pitch for your firm, but simply a reminder of the importance of discussing one's wishes before a need occurs.
    • If there are reporters with whom you have a good relationship, encourage them to watch the rebroadcast of The Undertaking on PBS or online at a time that is more convenient to them. Then, after they have watched the documentary, invite them to your funeral home for a tour and discussion about how your funeral home cares for people in your community.
  • Others who care for the dying, the dead and the bereaved. There are others in your community who may have contact with the dying, the dead and the bereaved but who may not know very much about what it is that you do. Reach out to these individuals and encourage them to watch the rebroadcast of The Undertaking on PBS or online. Then, after they have watched the documentary, invite them to your funeral home for a tour and discussion. This outreach effort could include: clergy, hospice workers, social workers, individuals who work in nursing homes or skilled care facilities, and other healthcare personnel who work with the dying.
  • Schools. If you have a mortuary science school in your community, or if a local high school or college has a death and dying class, tell the instructor about the upcoming rebroadcast (and the availability of The Undertaking online). The documentary could be used as an opportunity for an in-class discussion about the value of funerals and the work of funeral directors. You could offer to participate in the in-class discussion or invite the teacher to bring his or her class to your funeral home for a tour. Other types of classes for which viewing The Undertaking may also be appropriate include anthropology, psychology, nursing, religious studies, or sociology.
  • General Community. The letter to the editor is a great way to get the message out to your community in a broad way. There are likely a few other specific audiences you may wish to inform about The Undertaking:
    • Churches and other religious communities (local clergy may be willing to put a notice in their church bulletin).
    • Community groups specifically targeted at the aging population, such as the local AARP chapter, retirement communities, etc.
    • Service groups, such as the Elks, Rotary, etc.
  • Staff. Don't forget to inform your staff. If they haven't seen this documentary, they should. Encourage them to watch it with their family. Often times, funeral directors don't discuss their work with people who aren't in the profession. The Undertaking may help families understand the nature of their relative's work and why have to get up in the middle of the night or leave the dinner table when they receive a death call.

To help you write a letter or email to these individuals and groups in your community, here is sample text that you can use and adapt for each audience:

[Insert date]

[Insert recipient's address]

Dear [Insert recipient's name]:

I know that for many people, thinking about funerals and the work that I do to care for grieving families isn't easy. But I am very proud of the work that we do here at [Insert funeral home name], which is why I'd like to invite you to tune in to our local PBS station the evening of December 11, 2012, (check local listings for specific times) to view The Undertaking, a moving, hour-long documentary about funeral service produced by the award-winning PBS series, FRONTLINE.

In a unique and poignant way, The Undertaking offers you a glimpse into my world and depicts the care and compassion funeral directors everywhere provide every day. After watching this program, which is filled with intimate, personal stories of families dealing with grief, mortality and the rituals of a funeral, you may want to know more about the value of a funeral, the work I do, and the importance of honoring a loved one. If so, please call me or one of my colleagues at [Insert funeral home name]. We're here to help and we're available to answer any questions you have at any time.

[Insert additional information to customize letter for each recipient]

If you are unable to tune in on December 11, you can also watch The Undertaking on the FRONLINE website at no cost:


[Insert your name]

*Please check local listings for the dates and times that The Undertaking will be broadcast in your community.