by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the critical thing you must consider is that a loss will impact everyone involved. Grief affects everyone’s ability to function.
People normally have differing communication styles, but when under the duress of grief, even with the best of intentions, this can make things stressful. When people are faced with a loss and don’t have a memorial plan in place, this can make handling the memorial a complicated and difficult ordeal for everyone.
Bearing this in mind, preparing a basic plan in advance will absolutely lessen the burden of stress. People will be much more able to follow your pre-decided structure and wishes when you have a plan ready.
People are comforted and feel supported when there’s a memorial plan with structure to follow. The plan can be somewhat flexible for remaining loved ones. But having something as a guideline can be enormously helpful in reducing stress from those already under emotional turmoil.
For a memorial agenda, there’s plenty to consider. In this blog, I’ll cover some things I’ve used in previous memorials. You may want to exclude some things, change or add something personally meaningful to you or loved ones.
Memorial services may be as distinctive and unique as the people in the world. When planning your memorial agenda, think about what is meaningful both to you and surviving loved ones.
MEMORIAL SETUP CONSIDERATIONS
In my blog, How To Ease Burden By Your Loving Preparation, I offer examples of how my father’s memorial plan gave each of our remaining family members a role we could manage. Further, he discussed this plan with each of us multiple times before he died, so we had an idea about our part ahead of time.
Even though no one is ever ready for the death of a loved one, my father’s diligence and communication allowed each of us to prepare ourselves to a degree for his memorial. Knowing anything about what to expect is useful to those in a stressful situation.
As I offer things to consider for a memorial agenda, I take the perspective of not relying on a funeral home or religious staff, to allow for more variety of spiritual and religious preferences as well as financial situations.
However, even if you’re paying for funeral services, some things may not be automatically included, or you may need to specify your preferences. Particularly if you’re not paying a funeral service or relying on the staff of a religious facility, you (or surviving loved ones) are the only one who can decide what you’d like included in the service.
The following ideas are in no particular order, are not inclusive, and there may be things you’d like omitted. But these will at least give you an idea of things that go on behind a smoothly run memorial. I hope this will prompt your personal thoughts about the situation.
CONSIDER ASSIGNING ROLES & TEAMWORK
You may want to consider assigning each person a function and/or teams, to assure that no single person is overburdened by tasks. Think about the personalities and skillsets of your surviving loved ones to coordinate memorial tasks appropriately within each person’s wheelhouse.
Someone whose job involves public speaking or facilitating others may be more comfortable giving a eulogy than a shy, introverted person. Perhaps that quiet person is good at crafts, and would be more comfortable placed in charge of creating a photo display board for the lobby or front of the room.
Giving attention to these details may be significant and meaningful to those grieving the loss of a loved one. Involving each person with a task or role suitable to them and their relationship to the deceased gives a sense of closure and comfort for all involved.
HOW TO SETUP THE ROOM
You will need to sort out how to setup the room for the memorial. Pending the place of the memorial, you’ll need to estimate how many chairs will be needed. Decide whether a row of space between chairs will be necessary to accommodate people sharing eulogies, performances, for observing flower and/or photo displays, or an open casket viewing, and so on.
Since my father opted for cremation, we didn’t have (nor pay for) an open casket for viewing. That meant we also didn't need pallbearers, or to arrange a trip (or provide directions) from the service to a cemetery for the burial (another potential cost). Instead, his ashes were in a box at the front of the room, next to a large photo of him.
For my friend’s memorial, since she practiced Buddhism, her Buddhist friends desired to setup a traditional incense-burning ritual at the front of the room. For that, the setup required two tables on either side of the row or chairs, two tablecloths, flowers in vases displayed next to her framed large photos, and incense containers.
The tables were setup in front of the Buddhist prayer altar (which was provided by the Buddhist community center). We cleared a row between the chairs so people could more easily come and go to offer their prayers and incense to my friend’s eternal peace and happiness.
Since my father’s service was held in my parent’s church, we didn't have to setup or provide anything other than his photo and program agenda. The seating, a podium and microphone for those sharing eulogies, a built-in sound system for recorded music, and a grand piano were already available.
These are two examples to show the need to contemplate things like:
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC & SOUND SYSTEM?
Determine what space will be used and whether there needs to be a sound system, the proper cords to play recorded music (if used), a microphone, microphone stand, podium, and any musical instruments available.
If there are musicians involved, ask them what they need. Often, musicians come prepared with whatever electronic gadgets, cords or instruments are needed for their performance.
But pending the performer’s experience, some do not come prepared. If they run into obstacles due to travel or time issues, they may not be able to provide these items. Plan ahead so that any performers attending have to focus only on their creative tribute to the loved one.
The most common things necessary for a musical performance, recorded or live, are:
In some cases, there may be helpful people available who know how to setup the sound system, video, smartphone, laptop or musical instruments. But not always.
If having a musical performance, recorded music, or microphone available for people to offer words at the memorial, the technical side is one of the most overlooked aspects of memorial planning. When or if something goes wrong with the sound system, this can add delays, and/or undue stress to those involved.
Going back to assigning proper functions to each person, think about having someone good at technology or music in charge of these issues. Make sure to let them know ahead of time so they may be more prepared. Technology and musical instruments take more preparation and have more potential for glitches than anything else in the memorial service.
If no one you know is qualified to handle these aspects, reach out well in advance to any staff or volunteers who may be available at the location for the memorial service. Alleviate stress for loved ones by having the names of these volunteers or staff, and the address clearly labeled in your memorial plan.
In my next blogs, I’ll go over more suggestions to include in a memorial agenda, including different areas of need for people behind the scenes and in front, more items for setup, memorial program design options, a memorial agenda checklist and a memorial program planning template.
I’d love to hear from you. It means a lot to me that my content is helpful and empowers you. Please take a moment to join the conversation below to let me know if this blog is helpful or if you have questions or suggestions!
Also coming soon: My Memorial Pack including: easy-to-use templates for writing an obituary, memorial programs, downloadable memorial agenda checklist, music tracks and poetry (suitable for memorials/loss).
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In my Caregiver blogs, you'll find I understand the internal struggles and daily stress as a caregiver juggling entrepreneurial life.