Brookfield, Wis. – In the second edition of its “Value of a Funeral” Consumer Study, the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) learned that people who attended a funeral in person found the service meaningful and healing compared to those who attended a service virtually or did not attend a service because a direct disposition option was chosen for their loved one or friend. The study also showed that among the individuals who did not attend an in-person service, a significant portion would be willing to consider planning a funeral or memorial service for a loved one in the future.
“We first conducted the ‘Value of a Funeral’ Consumer Study in 2020 to measure how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Americans’ experiences with funeral and memorial services,” said NFDA Research Manager Deana Gillespie. “We wanted to gauge whether funerals helped people say goodbye to loved ones in meaningful ways, assess opinions of funeral service professionals and measure opinions on viewing the body of the decedent as part of a service. We also wanted to measure how in-person services, virtual services or not having a service impacts individuals’ experiences.”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 53.2% of people have planned or attended an in-person funeral or memorial service; 13.6% attended a service virtually; 8% experienced the death of someone close to them but there was no funeral or memorial service; and about one-quarter did not plan or attend a service.
Respondents whose loved one was immediately buried or cremated without a service were divided on their opinions and experiences. Most respondents in 2022 cited price as their main reason for not having a funeral/memorial service for their loved one (37.1%; up from 10.7% in 2020) – not surprising given recent economic challenges.
Despite not having a service for their loved one, more than one-third felt it is very important or important to hold a funeral or memorial service to commemorate the life of a loved one and 37.1% felt it is somewhat important.
Additionally, among those who did not hold a service for their loved one, 29% wish they would have held a service and 35.5% said they would be very likely or likely to plan a service if they experienced the death of loved one in the future; 37.1% would be somewhat likely to plan a service in the future.
“This group also experienced more difficulty moving forward in their grief compared to other groups,” said Gillespie. “They were significantly less likely to feel they adequately paid tribute, found meaning and were able to adequately say goodbye to their loved one. All of this data indicates a tremendous opportunity for funeral homes to educate their community about the value of meaningful memorialization in the healing process and persuade families to plan services in the future.”
Respondents who attended a funeral or memorial service since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic felt more favorably toward funerals than those who attended a service virtually or when no funeral was held for a loved one. The pandemic appears to have made this group’s respondents more aware of their own mortality and how difficult it can be when you can’t comfort others when grieving. This group was more likely to find the funeral/memorial service meaningful – 78.6% of in-person service attendees felt the service had meaning and value compared with 63.8% of virtual service attendees.
Respondents who attended an in-person service were more likely to think viewing their loved one is an important part of the service – 56% of people who attended an in-person service thought a viewing was important, compared with 44.1% of those who attended a virtual service and 17.8% who did not attend a service when a loved one died.
While sentiments about funeral service professionals were positive overall, those who attended an in-person service felt more positive about the work that funeral service professionals perform, including feeling that they are important in making funeral arrangements (76.7% for those who attended an in-person service compared with 64.5% who attended a virtual service and 67.8% who did not have a service for their loved one).
Interestingly, those who did not have a service for their loved one generally rated funeral directors higher than those who attended a virtual service.
Compared to 2020, significantly more people felt attending a funeral virtually is a good option, and almost as good as attending in person; 31.6% of those who attended virtually felt it was an “okay option” but not quite as good at attending in person (down from 48.3% in 2020).
The results of NFDA’s “Value of a Funeral” Consumer Study were highlighted in the association’s October 20 and November 3 issues of the Memorial Business Journal. NFDA will also explore the survey results and their implications for the funeral service profession in the January 2023 issue of The Director.
NFDA is the world’s leading and largest funeral service association, serving more than 20,000 individual members who represent nearly 11,000 funeral homes in the United States and 49 countries around the world. NFDA is the trusted leader, beacon for ethics and the strongest advocate for the profession. NFDA is the association of choice because it offers funeral professionals comprehensive educational resources, tools to manage successful businesses, guidance to become pillars in their communities and the expertise to foster future generations of funeral professionals. NFDA is headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., and has an office in Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.nfda.org.