I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been reflecting on the last six months and wondering “What in the world just happened?” In what has been a whirlwind like none we’ve ever known, our world has been turned upside down, masks have become the new way to make a fashion statement, and we in deathcare have been thrust (in large part unwillingly) into a world of change that we could have never imagined. In a profession that has historically been steeped in tradition and oftentimes a “this is the way we’ve always done it” mentality, many of our comfort levels have been pushed to the brink, and quickly. But, as we in the funeral business have always done, we’ve adapted (whether we like it or not) and ended up better for it.
Many have commented on how the pandemic has changed how we look at life, and as it turns out it’s also changed the way we look at deathcare. In years past, as fall begins to creep in, we begin to put our plans together for attending the National Funeral Directors Association’s Convention & Expo and many of us were looking forward to this year’s event in New Orleans. But as I write this, I’m instead planning on grabbing my best pajama bottoms, an appropriate business casual shirt and making sure my laptop is charged up and ready for the first ever NFDA Virtual International Convention & Expo, coming to a kitchen countertop or dining room table near you!
This year’s event will surely pack all of the excitement, education, and networking opportunities as usual, while also keeping everyone safe as we navigate the uncertainty we continue to face. Regardless of whether you consider yourself to be progressive, this is certainly a very different funeral service world we are living in and this will be a convention unlike any before it. And to that I say, “It’s about time!” In many ways our profession has been overdue for a reset, refocus, and the chance to paint a new picture of how we serve our client families.
The pandemic has certainly been an unexpected and unwelcome adventure but it’s time that we take stock of what it has taught us. Perhaps it’s shown some of us that technology in funeral service isn’t as scary as we thought. For others, it’s opened our eyes to how the families we serve are more open to new ways of meeting their needs. Perhaps they’ve been waiting on us to change things up for years! And, in some cases, the unchartered territory of making funeral arrangements remotely has proven that many of the decisions our families have made during this time have, by and large, been very different when they have the time and liberty to review all options at their own pace.
These are just a few examples of the learning curve that we have crushed as our world has strived to flatten another very important curve along the way. Perhaps it's a silver lining on what has been one of the darkest times our profession has ever known. While we’ve evolved in ways that haven’t been all bad, we’ve also faced some of the most unpleasant challenges we could have never imagined. We’ve had to offer compassion only through electronic means or from a distance in lieu of the human touch. We’ve had to determine the best way to delicately let a family know that they can’t have the funeral or gathering they envisioned and we’ve listened as countless families shared with us how they couldn’t be with their loved one in the final moments of their life.
All of this has taken its toll on us both professionally and emotionally. It is necessary now more than ever that we have this opportunity to decompress, gather (albeit virtually) with our fellow funeral service professionals, and together begin to construct the vision of where we go from here. The NFDA convention has always been the best place to network and learn new ways to be the best that we can be. This year we can still do that and this virtual gathering will help us reconnect with one another and learn how our friends and colleagues have dealt with the barrage of profound changes that have so abruptly fallen into our laps.
While the pandemic will certainly be a focal point of many conversations, this year’s convention will once again offer a variety of educational opportunities from which we can learn and grow, many of which you’ll find cover new and innovative topics. It’s the perfect time to attend a workshop on a subject you may not have given much thought while still making sure to catch all of your favorites.
Although we are sad to not physically be together, this format will still offer tremendous opportunities for growth. I’m personally honored to be a part of this year's educational offerings, along with my co-presenter, Dr. Sara Murphy, PhD, CT. We will be presenting our workshop “Connecting with the LGBTQ Community” where we hope to shed light on a subject not often discussed in funeral service. As a member of the LGBTQ community and a funeral director & celebrant, I’ve seen firsthand over the course of my career the need for this topic to be brought into the fold in our profession. I’ve experienced that it can be problematic being openly queer in funeral service and have seen the challenges that our community faces when it comes to being served by the deathcare profession. Sara and I will cover workplace discrimination, disenfranchised grief within the LGBTQ community, and discuss why embracing the queer community should be important to you and your business.
And so, it truly is about time. It’s time we got the chance to be with each other (though virtually) for another NFDA blowout event; time that we continued our voyage outside the box and into the future of a new world of funeral service and that we continue to embrace change and not shy away from it. Don’t you think it’s about the time to start putting your agenda together for this year’s virtual event? I know I will and I look forward to “seeing” you there!
About the Author
Timothy McLoone is a Licensed Funeral Director & Certified Celebrant for the Joseph A. Fluehr III Funeral Home in Pennsylvania. Licensed in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Tim has cultivated high levels of knowledge and expertise through his extensive work in all facets of the business while working in both corporate and family-owned business settings. He earned his BA in Communications from York College of Pennsylvania and his AAS in Funeral Service Education from Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, PA where he serves as a Member of the department’s Advisory Board.