When Family Does Not Agree

Dear Funeral Director:

How are disputes handled between family members not agreeing on the services?

Thank you,

Bill C.,

Stamford, CT

Dear Bill,

From my perspective as a funeral director, the best answer to that question is “very, very gingerly”. Reading situations and being able to quickly determine roles are essential skills for any funeral director. At times, navigating intra familial conflicts can be akin to tip-toeing through a mine field. One false move or wrong word uttered can blow up the situation. In many cases, I feel that this is because there tends to be established relationship dynamics within families, dynamics that have been cemented from when these adults were children. The relationships may have changed due to the passage of time, change in circumstances or physical distance, but in times when the family unit comes back together, the family dynamic has a way of reverting back to earlier days. This reversion process can be more pronounced in times of stress – such as the death of a parent or close loved one. Taking this into consideration, when I’m dealing with arranging a funeral and making specific decisions regarding services, I feel the best way of handling disputes between family members is to provide them with all of the pertinent information at the beginning of the process and then allow them the time and space to hash it out amongst themselves. I believe that all participants need to feel that their thoughts and feelings are taken into consideration and that they have some say in what happens. This can be accomplished by assigning tasks to each individual within the family in an attempt to increase participation and decrease friction. Sometimes it’s necessary for the funeral director to step in and give what they feel is the most appropriate professional advice, but in the end what occurs is the ultimate decision of the family.

Thank you for asking this question.


Leonard W. Santora, LFD

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