Funeral Planning and Decision Fatigue
It’s no secret that planning a funeral is a mentally exhausting task. Most people charged with the task of burying a loved one are already reeling from an overflow of emotion, and when you add the need to make dozens of financial and burial decisions, the results can tear a person down.
According to recent studies about the process of making decisions, there might be some science behind the difficulties we face when planning a funeral (above and beyond mere loss). Decision fatigue, or the emotional toll that an abundance of decision making has on the human brain, can impact the way you think about your choices. And in many cases, the results will be vastly different than if you’d made that decision a few hours earlier (or later).
What is Decision Fatigue?
Although it’s still a fairly new theory, decision fatigue is the process by which the human brain shuts down when confronted with too many pressing decisions in a short amount of time. It happens in almost every type of situation (a judge might be stricter or more lenient as a day of sentencing wears on, a football quarterback might make poorer decisions later in the game), although few people are aware of it at the time. Like physical fatigue, it’s the result of overusing one particular part of your body, and the result is that your energy levels flag and you make shortcuts you wouldn’t normally choose.
These shortcuts can be a problem—especially in the funeral planning industry. After spending hours picking out pictures and hymns and Biblical passages and embalming options, you might then be asked to select a casket. Your brain, already tired of making decisions, will urge you to go for the easy route. And in this case, the easy route is often the most expensive package deal—and usually it’s purchased with money you don’t have to spare.
How to Handle Decision Fatigue at the Funeral Home
In the funeral industry, decisions are a necessity. As you plan the funeral of a loved one, you’ll be asked to choose:
- Funeral Home
- Cremation or Burial
- Casket or Urn
- Time and Place
- Memorial Service
- Post-Funeral Reception
- Funeral Flowers
- Printed Materials
As you can imagine, after a few hours of making these kinds of choices, this list can start to become overwhelming and decision fatigue will set in. However, because these are decisions that have to be made—and usually within a short period of time—what can you do to prevent it?
Here are a few tips:
- Eat before the decision making process or take a lunch break halfway through.
- Make the most important (and expensive) decisions first.
- Bring someone else with you.
- Have the largest decisions (body disposition and type of funeral service) made ahead of time.
- Take a break when you need one, going out to get some fresh air or take a walk.
- Ask for more time—if you feel fatigue setting in, come back the next day to make the decisions.
Decision fatigue is also a strong point in favor of pre-planning a funeral. When you take the time to make these decisions well in advance of death occurring, there are no obstacles to you taking your time and avoiding overexertion.