Funeral Mediation: When Families Disagree
Death and funeral planning have the tendency to bring out the best and the worst in people. While families might hope that the loss of a loved one will bring them together as a cohesive unit, it is often found that the reverse is true. From disagreements about money issues to the actual funeral planning process (including how the body is disposed of, what kind of funeral service is held, religious preferences, and even flower choices), it often comes to pass that individuals simply cannot agree on how to proceed.
Understandably, this can quickly make a bad situation even worse—especially if there are no pre-arranged funeral plans in place and there has not been an Executor to the Estate named.
What is Funeral Mediation?
In many cases, these types of disagreements can be resolved by the funeral director, by a religious official, or even by a family member willing to step up and help direct the proceedings. However, this doesn’t always solve the problem. In rarer instances, it may be necessary to call in a funeral mediator, a professional whose job it is to facilitate communication and ensure that compromises are made on all sides of the situation.
Professional mediators exist for a variety of legal reasons. Divorce, child custody cases, disagreements between business partners, business dissolution, and insurance settlements are just a few of the reasons some people turn to mediation. Cheaper than a lawyer and easier than the court system, mediation is a great way to get results in instances where both parties want an amicable outcome.
While funeral mediation isn’t common, it can and does occur—and most mediators are equipped to handle these types of situations. Choose one who is experienced with highly emotional conflicts and look for mediation certification. If you feel this approach is necessary for your family, be sure and contact a mediator early on in the process, since the timing will need to be worked out fairly quickly.
What Funeral Mediators Do
Funeral mediators aren’t going to sit down and tell you what to do. Instead, they will provide guidance, focus, and clarity as you move forward. Some of the key components of a funeral mediation session include:
- Laying out ground rules
- Discussing what must be done to honor the deceased
- Allowing people to be heard in a non-threatening environment
- Facilitating emotional closure for all those involved
- Beginning the grieving process for the entire family
- Making funeral plans that fit within budgetary restraints
- Settling financial disputes
- Putting next steps into action and ensuring follow-through
- Creating a written agreement
In many cases, the agreement that results from a mediation session can be legally binding, should the situation escalate that far. Hopefully, the act of sitting down to really talk and listen will be enough to settle disputes—otherwise, emotions can fester and become a problem later on in the grieving process.
While it’s no secret that funeral mediation can help solve a lot of tensions and problems, the best way to avoid this problem is to pre-plan a funeral or draft a will in a way that leaves no decisions to chance. If your family has a history of strife, it might be a good idea to contact a funeral home about funeral pre-plans to learn more about preventing this type of situation from occurring.
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By Amy Johnson