Bereavement Software & Innovative Grief Support Approaches

New innovations in memorialization, family bereavement software, and grief support are transforming the deathcare industry.

| Read time: 6 mins

The deathcare industry is experiencing something of a transformation in the way it approaches memorialization and support for families experiencing grief. For cemetery, crematory, and funeral home managers, this sea change represents something of a widening-world of grief care, with new opportunities in terms of the support and signposting they can provide, and in some cases - such as the emergence of AI-assisted tech - some bigger questions to be considered.

In this blog, we look into this evolving landscape of family bereavement software, memorialization and grief support and explore what it means for an industry with empathy at its very core. 

From the repositioning of cemeteries, to the impact of technology and the rise of innovative new approaches, the world of memorialization and grief support is expanding - redefining how we deathcare providers help families both commemorate and navigate grief.

The changing landscape of memorialization and grief support

For cemeteries, crematories or funeral homes, support for families has been typically associated with arrangements prior to, and the immediate aftermath of a passing - centered around the lead up to and day of the funeral itself. While this remains an essential aspect of the deathcare industry, there are signs of a growing recognition of supporting that grief journey beyond that single day.

And it’s this shift in perspective may just be prompting a reevaluation of the role played by deathcare providers.

Grief support and memorialization are of course not be conflated - where memorialization refers to creating a lasting tribute or memorial for the deceased to preserve their memory, grief support focuses on helping individuals and families cope with the emotional and psychological aspects of grief and loss - providing support, and resources to help navigate the grieving process.

But while they are essentially different, both play important roles in helping individuals and families navigate the challenging journey of dealing with loss and bereavement. With many deathcare providers offering a combination of these services to meet the diverse needs of their families, we’ll touch on both.

Repositioning of deathcare service providers

Cemeteries, in particular, traditionally associated with the final resting place of our loved ones, are also adapting to provide grief support in innovative ways, recognizing that their role has the potential to extend further.

Grief support groups or programs, provide a physical space for individuals to connect with others who share their experiences, offering understanding, and a sense of community during a difficult time.

But additionally, tech-driven solutions are helping cemeteries to extend this support, especially in cases where staffing or resources may be limited. Online resources, webinars, and virtual support groups provide options to make support more accessible to a wider audience.

In this way, they are evolving into what we might think of as ‘holistic centers’ for support and remembrance, acknowledging that their role in the grief journey doesn't end with the burial.

A differentiation from direct cremation

While the safety concerns, restricted gatherings, and the foregoing of traditional memorial services necessitated by COVID played a part in a rise of direct cremations, so too it may be argued, that cost, flexibility, simplicity and changing attitudes are some of the reasons for why it remains to be.

In response, some deathcare providers are responding by emphasizing the value in a more ‘holistic’ approach - one that provides a comprehensive memorialization and grief support - and in doing so differentiating themselves.

While recognizing that some families do want a service that provides the benefits of a direct cremation, one might suggest that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Technology, in many ways, provides options or alternatives for those wanting a meaningful experience that honors the memory of their loved ones.

Family bereavement software in memorialization and grief support

In today's digital age, technology is transforming every aspect of our lives, so it's not unsurprising that it continues to shape and evolve services within deathcare.

One increasingly common and notable development is that of digital memorials - what we might call a form of ‘family bereavement software’ - online platforms allowing families to create interactive and lasting tributes to their loved ones.

They can include photos, videos, stories, and even guest books where friends and family can share their condolences and memories. These digital memorials provide a space for healing and remembrance that extends beyond the physical.

Additionally, tech solutions are streamlining administrative processes, making it easier for deathcare service providers to improve their customer service. Scheduling services, managing resources, and connecting with families can all be enhanced through technology, improving the overall experience for both providers and those who use their services.

As technology continues to evolve, it opens up new possibilities for supporting grieving families in creative and meaningful ways. Which brings us to AI.

The Impact of AI

Artificial Intelligence is playing an increasingly prominent role in our lives - from personalized recommendations in retail, to chatbots in customer service, disease diagnosis in healthcare and predictive algorithms in finance - to name just a small few -  it’s somewhat inevitable that it would find its way into the deathcare space.

In terms of support, AI chatbots and virtual assistants, for example, can provide signposting to resources to those experiencing distress, with information on coping strategies, or even facilitating connections with grief support groups.

In terms of memorialization, AI tools can now assist families and service providers in writing obituaries, or generating written tributes based on life stories, and personal anecdotes - which can be especially helpful when crafting a heartfelt tribute during a difficult time.

Getting a little further out into the further reaches of AI capabilities, some technologies may even allow family members to interact with virtual versions or digital representations of their loved ones, or provide immersive experiences.

Those ‘outer realms’ of AI aren’t without their controversies of course, and your view of those sorts of more technologically advanced applications may be dependent on your view of AI in general, or your view on the implications as relating to deathcare - whether those are ethical or moral, or more pragmatic, in terms of ownership and control of data, or even individual differences in cultural or religious beliefs.

Few innovations come without a pushing of the envelope in some respect, whether with regards to the tech itself, or in perceptions towards it, nevertheless, it presents an interesting view on where we may be heading in the future as attitudes change and evolve.


The Rise of Apps and Handheld Tech

In 2009, Apple coined the phrase, “There’s an app for that”. Move forward a couple of decades and mobile technology has become so ubiquitous that arguably it has changed and shaped how we interact with each other and the world around us.

And with this prevalence of smartphones and handheld devices, comes new options and new opportunities to provide support for the grief journey - in effect acting as another practical tool that can provide support to those dealing with loss.

Apps designed to support grieving individuals can offer a wide range of resources. From guided meditation sessions and journaling tools to signposting to grief-specific social networks, these apps provide a personalized and accessible way for people to cope with their grief on their own terms.

For those who may not be ready to externalize their grief or engage in traditional forms of support, these handheld technologies offer a private and intimate way to process emotions and access help when they need it.

Of course no technology will ever supersede the need for traditional forms of grief support, but these apps can provide information about local grief support resources, including grief support groups and counseling services, making it easier for individuals to find the help they need.

New ‘Low-Tech’ Approaches to Memorialization

Not all new approaches to memorialization and grief support might be considered ‘hi-tech’, but in many ways are just as progressive. So while technology has transformed many aspects of the deathcare industry, ‘non-tech’ approaches to memorialization continue to hold significant meaning for many families. Examples include:

Ash memorializations, for example, where a portion of the cremated remains is incorporated into objects or art, offer a tangible and deeply personal way to keep a connection with a loved one;

Biodegradable memorials, such as tree plantings, or biodegradable urns, provide a sustainable and eco-conscious way to honor lives;

Healing gardens, also known as therapeutic gardens, in much the same way as traditional memorial gardens, offer serene, quiet spaces for contemplation and solace, allowing individuals to connect with nature as they navigate their grief;

Memory bears, crafted from clothing or fabrics belonging to the deceased, can now provide a comforting and tangible reminder of a loved one;

And of course, as well as these, leaflets and resources in physical form will always offer valuable information and signposting for grieving individuals and families.

These ‘non-tech’ (a misnomer in some cases) approaches can complement digital innovations, ensuring that families and service providers have a variety of options to choose from when it comes to memorializing loved ones and providing support in grief.

The future of tech in grief support and memorialization

As we reflect on the evolving landscape of memorialization, grief support and emerging family bereavement software in the deathcare industry, it's evident that technology will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the future. The fusion of innovation and empathy is poised to redefine how we commemorate loved ones and help families to navigate the complex journey of grief.

Advanced AI and ‘emotional companions’ will likely become even more sophisticated in understanding and responding to human emotions - they may even provide personalized support, adapting their responses based on an individual's unique grief journey. 

Blockchain technologies may be employed to create secure and immutable digital memorials, ensuring memories and stories preserved online remain intact and tamper-proof, offering a lasting legacy for future generations.

The future will bring even greater connectivity, allowing mourners from different corners of the world to come together virtually to remember and celebrate the lives of their loved ones, with online memorial services and gatherings becoming more common and accessible.

In this ever-evolving landscape, it's crucial for deathcare providers to remain adaptable and open to embracing technological advancements while also maintaining a compassionate, empathetic and human-centered approach. The future holds exciting possibilities for memorialization and grief support, where technology and tradition can coexist, ensuring that the legacy of our loved ones endures and that those who mourn find the support they need.

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