James, K., Hawley, B., McCoy, C.R., & Lindley, L.C. (2021). Challenges and opportunities of providing pediatric funeral services: A national survey of funeral professionals. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, epub.
Funeral professionals offer a unique opportunity to support, educate, and advocate for grieving families after the death of a child. From the initial point of contact to the burial, funeral professionals shape the final moments and memories of a family and a community. And yet, little is known about the needs of funeral professionals to provide high quality services when a child dies.
Active National Funeral Directors Association members were surveyed on their experience and needs in providing pediatric funeral services. The survey contained 41 questions about experience, skills, and knowledge in providing pediatric funerals. The survey included multiple choice, yes/no, and open-ended questions. Descriptive statistics were generated from the survey items and comments/open-ended questions were coded and assessed for themes.
More than 200 responses were received. The respondents conducted 43 pediatric funeral services in a 5-year period (approx. 8 services/year). The top 5 self-identified training needs included grieving parents, grieving siblings, memorials, comforting the community, and outreach. Themes from the open-ended questions were (a) maintaining professionalism, (b) managing emotions and experiences, (c) assessing family dynamics, (d) managing professional skills, and (e) building collaborative networks.
Specific training needs were identified that will inform the development of targeted training for funeral professionals to improve their skills and knowledge of pediatric funeral services.