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Observe social structures, interpersonal relationships, human thinking, feeling and behavior as it relates to funeral service.

Funeral service sociology


The name is derived from the Greek god of death: Thanatos. It is the study of death and dying.



- Not a synonym for social sciences
- Only one branch of the social sciences
- Greek philosophers of ancient times are credited as the founding fathers of social science.



A family's attitude towards death determines what type of funeral merchandise is purchased, their social behaviors and their needs. The needs are faced at the arrangement conference.
- Sociology for this begins with the arrangement conference and ends with the final disposition.

Funeral Service


The study of social groups, their modes of organization, the processes which tend to maintain or change those forms, and the relationships between the groups.
- The science of social groups, the processes that tend to maintain or change these forms of organization and the relations between groups.
- The science that deals wit the various social groups which we encounter in our world today.

Sociology (3 different definitions)


- We address ourselves specifically to the funeral and disposition of human remains with the various social groups that a funeral director will serve.
- Funeral service has evolved as changes have occurred throughout the country. We now do video tributes, post to social pages, etc. which wasn't heard of 10 years ago.
- Every family is unique and the funeral director must see their needs. He/she must be responsible to their tangible and intangible needs.

Funeral Service Sociology


Credited as the founding fathers of this field of social science in ancient times.

Greek Philosophers


- Every one of these is unique.
- Each will have its own individual wants and needs which a funeral director must meet.
- There are times these will have conflicting needs and the funeral director must be able to handle this type of situation.
- Requests cane be tangible or intangible



Can be seen or touched.

Tangible requests



Intangible requests


- Another branch of social sciences
- Closely related to sociology but not the same.
- Begins at the time of the death (and sometimes anticipated death) and ends with acceptance of the death.



Needs and wants of the families are based on the background and culture of the family.
- Mores
- Folkways
- Customs

Family background and culture


- Must behaviors
- Rules or behaviors which are considered vital to the welfare of the group and accompanied by relatively severe sanctions.
- The basic and most important patterns of ideas and acts of people as related to treatment of the dead which call for strong reaction from society if violated.



- Informal practices
- Behaviors which when violated carry only informal sanctions such as scolding or ridicule.
- Behaviors that are construed as somewhat less compulsive than mores of the same society, and do not call for strong reaction from the society if violated.



- Social behaviors
- A social behavior which is considered to be normal and is based on tradition.
- Social behavior is dictated by the tradition of the people.



True or false:

Mores, folkways and customs determine a family's funeral customs.



- Must be well versed in the mores, folkways and customs of the clientele he/she serves. He/she should have a basic idea of all the various religious clientele he/she might serve.
- Must be able to immediately put his/her hands on information regarding mores, folkways and customs if not totally familiar with such.
- Must understand the funeral customs of subcultures.
- Blended families can possibly mean one or several subcultures.

The funeral Director


- The learning process begins at this age - either direct or indirect.



The acquiring of the culture by a person through deliberate instruction by other members of that society.

Direct learning


A process by which a person learns the norms of the culture by observation of other.

Indirect learning


- A system of abstract patterns of and for both the living and dying which are learned directly or indirectly.
- Unique and distinctive way of life- a pattern for each individual within a particular one of these.
- Regulates the ideas and beliefs shared in common by members of one's society.
- Created by the group in which one is living and imposed on every member of the group.



- Divisions of the culture, but still associated with it.
- Distinctive traits
- Unique thoughts and ideas
- Still have some uniform beliefs
- A division of smaller identifiable unit of a culture, connected to that culture by common traits, having unique traits to itself.



- The funeral rite itself can be called a social function.
- It is a cultural universal because some type of response to death is found in every culture.
- The funeral director must examine and understand the social structure of the family's society.
- They reflect both modern and contemporary tendencies.

4 key points of the funeral rites


- Socialization
- The process by which each individual learns about the accepted social values and activities important to his/her culture.
- The method by which social values are internalized (learned)
- The process by which a person learns the social values of a society.
- Dictates what people can (and more importantly) cannot do in regards to death and the funeral rite.
- these dictates become custom.



- A social behavior concerning death as directed by the tradition of the people involved.
- A social behavior which is considered to be normal and is based on tradition.
- Decision to follow custom is let up to the family.



A must behavior that tells individuals to abstain from certain dealings with death.
- A social prohibition of certain actions; behavior which dictates that one must abstain from certain acts.



- The change from rural to urban areas.
- The change from rural to urban in character.
- Loss of identity of the individual.
- Decrease of the importance of an individual.



- Common traits or patterns within a culture.
- Abstract patterns for living and dying which are identifiable in all cultures.
- Rules and regulations for orderly living (government).
- Establishment of a family (marriage)
- Response to death of a member in the culture (funeral rites).

Cultural Universals


- The feeling that one's culture is superior to others.
- The emotional attitude that one's own race, nation, group, or culture is superior to all others.



- The funeral director must understand these values and make certain he/she provides a service that meets these needs.

- I.e.- Masonic services, fraternity/sorority services, knights of columbus, etc.
- The costumes/uniforms, symbolism, space for rite, time for rite, etc.

Ethnocentrism and funeral service


Any type of rite where the body of the deceased is present.



Any type of rite where the body of the deceased is not present.

Memorial Service


All inclusive term to describe either a funeral or memorial service coined by sociologists.

Funeral rite


- A well defined ritual or ceremony which is based on either religious beliefs or the social customs of the family involved.
- Those funeral rites that follow a prescribed ritual which may be dictated by religious beliefs or social customs.

Traditional Funeral Rites


- Any funeral rite devoid of any religious connotation.
- Oftentimes led by a family member or friend of the deceased.

Humanistic Funeral Service


- Non traditional funeral service.
- A rite adjusted to the needs of the family or the trends of the time.
- Honoring the deceased with an altered service that suits their needs or the trends of the time.
- A funeral rite that is adjusted to the needs and wants of those directly involved; one that has been altered to suit the trends of the times.

Adaptive Funeral Service


- Any funeral service devoid of any religious connotation.
- Oftentimes led by a family member or friend of the deceased.

Humanistic Funeral Service


- The disposition of the body of a deceased without any form of funeral rite at that time.
- Any disposition of human remains which is completely devoid of any form of funeral rite at the time of disposition.
- Any disposition of a head human body, either by means of burial or cremation, with no form of funeral rite at the time of disposition.

Immediate disposition


- A rite that can be identified with pre-literate (before the written word) society.
- A funeral rite which may be construed as being identifiable with a pre-literate society.

Primitive Funeral Rite


- Procedures involving death that are required by those who govern.
- A must behavior, not necessarily a basic or important pattern of people (related to death) but one which is enforced by those governing; a rule of action prescribed by an authority able to enforce its will.



- Specific step and regulations to carry out the law.
- A specific method or procedure used to comply with a folkway, mores and/or law.
- Specific methods of procedure.



- A system of patterns, other than customs and laws, which influence death in our society.
- A culturally entrenched pattern of behavior made up of sacred beliefs, emotional feelings accompanying the beliefs and overt conduct presumably implementing the beliefs and feelings.



- Any event performed in a solemn and prescribed manner.
- Any specific act or function dealing with death or funeral customs.



- Action performed during a rite which may or may not have symbolic meaning to the participants or observers of the action.
- An instrumental action dealing with death which is also expressional. Charged with symbolic content expressing the attitudes of the participants and possibly the onlookers who may be regarding as co-beneficiaries.



Your clients, all efforts to meet their needs is the goal of funeral directors.

Family Unit


- At least 20-25 identifiable types exist.
- Families take on ever changing make up.
- 5 Major systems to understand in funeral service sociology.

Family systems


- Patriarchal governing style
- Head of family passed from father to son.
- Women subservient to the dominant male.
- More self sufficient than other type of family systems.
- Strong religious faith.
- Usually conservative in thought, dress and actions.
- Very little mobility
- Usually large numbers.

Characteristics of the Extended (joint) Family


- One of the smallest possible family units.
- Governing factor not always clearly defined
- Can be patriarchal, matriarchal, or egalitarian.
- Often both parents work outside the home contributing to financial needs.
- More liberal in thought, dress and actions.
- More mobile
- Willing to relocate to another city or state for better climate, working conditions or opportunities.
- Affect of death has greater impact.
- Death of spouses leaves surviving spouse to raise the children.
- Half of household income lost.
- Less children so loss of one has greater impact.
- More child oriented

Nuclear Family Characteristics


- Unique challenge for funeral directors
- Surviving spouse making decisions which can be contrary to children or other relatives of the deceased spouse.
- Determining which customs and/or traditions to follow.
- Confusion in financial decisions.

Blended Family Implications


5. Self Actualization
4. Esteem needs
4. Social needs
2. Safety needs
1. Physiological Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs


- Oxygen
- Food
- Shelter
- Water
- Sleep
- Elimination
- Clothing

Physiological Needs


- Security
- Stability
- Order
- Physical safety
- Shelter for body warmth and protection
- Sensory or motor stimulation
- Stability and consistency in one's life

Safety Needs


- Affection
- Identification
- Companionship
- Love and belonging
- Love
- Approval and self esteem
- Importance
- Recognition and respect
- Identification
- Belonging
- Education or learning
- Religion or spiritual
- Recreation or play

Social Needs/ Love


- Self esteem
- Self recognition
- Prestige
- Success
- Esteem of others
- Recognition
- Self sufficiency
- Need to be wanted
- Need to be needed
- Productivity

Esteem Needs


- Self fulfillment
- Achieving one's capabilities
- Beauty
- Harmony
- Spiritual

Self- Actualization


- Discipline- includes attitudes toward death and dying
- Giving and receiving motivation
- Establishment and fulfillment of mental expectations.

Responsibilities of the family


When discipline, motivation, and mental expectations are not met:
- Anger or bad feelings toward the funeral director
- Funeral just another detail to be "handled"
- Funeral director a reminder of the trauma the family is experiencing
- Attitudes and values of two generations can clash
- Relative not as physically involved as relatives are dying in institutions.

Issues with the funeral director


- Burial of dead no longer simple process
- New laws and rules
- Licensing requirements for funeral directors
- Change in requirements for death certificates and permits
- Casket changes- i.e. third party caskets

Industrialization Changes


- Health regulations
- Licensing requirements
- National Board exam
- Internships
- State licensure

Bureaucratization Impact


Three areas of choice for a family when making arrangements
- freedom of choice
- Class or social level
- Economic position of the family

Socioeconomics of funeral service


- Based on custom and enculturation the family may choose to have a traditional funeral, to cremate- with or without a service, or any combination of things including two funerals in two different cities because of urbanization
- They may choose to get a casket from you, or through a third party provider.
- They have have the luxury to choose to spend a lot or very little money.

Freedom of Choice


- This factor may determine what a family chooses to do but it doesn't have to.
- Persons on a certain social level may feel the need to do more or "purchase up" based on what the public will expect of them.
- Class of social level is not defined in society today, but it is there nonetheless.

Class or Social Level


- Determines a lot!
- Oftentimes those that can least afford it necessary to have things that make it appear that they have what they don't.
- Can be a factor due to enculturation, custom, etc.
- Those that have a very strong economic position don't always use it towards a funeral

Economic position of the family


- Listen, listen, listen!
- Do not oversell- we are often accused of doing this
- Explain options available to the family
- Answer questions straightforward

Funeral Director's Responsibility


- Can Impact items chosen for a particular funeral based on region lived in.
- Ethnic concentrations and economic levels around various parts of the country make a difference in variations of the funeral rite.

Geographic Location


- Tendency to move away from the area a person was born and raised in.



- Where the family used one funeral director when they lived in the same town, now two funeral directors may be involved.
- Families may be unfamiliar with the funeral director in the new town, dependent upon how long they have been in the town and the occurrence of death in the family.
- Funeral director needs to be alert when serving unfamiliar clients. Cane of great aid to the family.

Neo-localism and funeral service


- Each person's grief pattern influences the experiences of others and the functioning of the family unit.
- Characteristics of the family system and how they influence the family's grief response
- There are a variety of family structures

The family


- Husband
- wife
- Their unmarried children
- All living together as a unit

Nuclear Family


- Created by marriage of one or both adults who have been married previously.
- Aka stepfamily, blended family
- Children in this family can be:
- Biological (same parents)
- Half siblings (one parent in common)
- Step siblings (Remarriage of biological parent)

Remarried Families


- Married couple, their children, relatives of other generations.
- Aunts, uncles, grandparents
- Members may be living together in one household.

Extended family


- Heterosexual
- Same sex

Unmarried partners living together


- Basic task is food, clothing, shelter and security
- Teach
- Maintain Discipline
- Give Direction
- Motivation

Families exist to do these things


- Patriarchal
- Matriarchal
- Egalitarian

Family Governance


- Calls for reorganization
- breadwinner
- Nurturer/peacekeeper
- The greater the roll, the greater the loss
- Family will respond differently to
- The loss of young adult parent than of an elderly grandparent
- The loss of a troublemaker vs a caretaker

Death in the family


- Open family structures
- Closed family structures
- Random family structures

Kantor and Lehr 3 Basic Family Types


- Democratic
- Allow honest exchange
- Sense of order
- Flexibility
- Adaptation through consensus
- Individual Rights are respected
- Loyalty to self and family is expected

In grief: Provide tolerance

Open Family Structures


- Rules and hierarchical power structure
- Individuals are subordinate their needs to the good of the group
- Rigid daily schedules are likely
- Seek stability through tradition

In grief: Rigidity and loyalty may dialog feelings as they relate to grief and may block communication.

Closed Family Structures


- More likely to do their own thing
- Few rules if any
- Fosters exploration though intuition

In grief: Inhibit the sharing of the reality of the death and the experience of loss.

Random Family Structures


- Through values, behavior and styles of living often are passed through generations to have acceptable emotions and ways of expressing them.
- Men:
- Most find it easier to mourn by themselves
- They won't show fear or insecurity
- They see crying as falling apart
- Can experience a range of feelings depending on each person's relationship with the deceased and the implications of the death for the family unit.
- Feelings can vary among families
- One person may be angry
- Another person may only be sad
- Another person may be numb

Family Emotions


- Healthy families have a shared religious core
- Faith in God plays a functional role in daily family life and strengthens the family support system.
- Parents feel a strong responsibility for passing on the faith in positive, meaningful ways.
- Healthy families abound in rituals and traditions.
- These religious rituals can be clues as to how well the family deals with death and how they function together.

Family Spirituality, Religious Beliefs


- Family finances may dictate decisions about funeral options and burial places.
- Connection and status in the community may be significant.
- A family with close ties with friends, church, neighborhood, will have resources to help with emotional and physical needs.
- A family closed off won't have that kind of support
- Cultural norms regarding bereavement also dictates resources and responses.
- These norms are guidelines for what is expected and acceptable.

Family Resources


More stoic approach to loss.



Families may be more expressive.



May prefer a no muss no fuss approach.

British Ancestry


- Consider death the most significant life cycle transition.
- They go to great lengths to give the deceased a good send off, openly grieving and viewing the wake as a kind of party.



Look at death as another phase of the life cycle, bringing about the rebirth of a human being.



- Like the Irish, place great importance on going out in style with the funeral.
- It's the final opportunity to let the deceased to have dignity and status.
- They emphasize funeral attendance.

African Americans


- Feel there are more important events than the funeral.
- People may not attend the funeral but pay a visit to the home (shivah)



- Norm is a moderate level of emotional expression required.
- May include depression but it should only last for a "reasonable" period of time. - a year or two for the death of a close relative.



- Will be different if the deceased in a young parent, midlife, or elderly.
- Grieving a spouse will differ if it is a new marriage, long term marriage, or remarriage.
- Sibling loss can be affected by the age of the deceased, age of the sibling, and birth order.
- In general, experts believe the farther along in the life cycle, the less the degree of family stress associated with serious illness and death.
- Death at any older age is seen as a natural process.

Family life cycle and loss


- Depleting emotionally, especially for the primary caregivers
- Financial issues
- Dilemma on life support efforts
- Organ donation

Terminal Illness


- Accidental or violent
- Family must deal with:
- Shock
- Disbelief
- Unanticipated abrupt changes in lifestyle
- no time to prepare for loss
- No time to deal with unfinished business
- No time to say goodbye

Sudden Death


Trauma possible from body disfiguration.

Violent death


- Time consuming court cases
- Believe justice has not been served



- Insecurity
- Feelings of vulnerability

Major Disaster


- Suicide
- Drug Overdose
- Alcohol related deaths

Deaths not grieved openly


- Miscarriage
- Stillbirth
- Infant Death

Minimized Deaths