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The Funeral Industry Talks About Death

Recently, Precoa (a company dedicated to prearranging funerals for all families), opened its doors and discussed the end-of-life experience.

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You've probably never heard of Precoa.

And you would probably never guess that Precoa stands for the Preneed Company of America. And you probably wouldn't believe that funeral homes across the nation have partnered with Precoa to run their preneed marketing and insurance program.

Nearly 200 individuals come to work every day at Precoa's Portland headquarters with the goal of prearranging funerals for thousands of families throughout America. Death is on their mind daily, whether they admit it or not, and the idea of exploring the experience of dying along with the OpenIDEO End-of-Life Challenge is intrinsic to the mission of the company. Wanting to be a part of the conversation, Precoa opened its doors to the community and its employees’ friends or family and held a Storytelling Event on May 26.

A circle of armchairs hosted 15 or so participants in a clean, white-walled, glass-enclosed room. The purpose of the challenge was explained. Partners were chosen at random. Interviews and vulnerability commenced. The group came back together to discuss their insights.

What came out of it was a watershed of connections that no one expected. 

One pairing wanted to discuss the positivity that came from their high school friends’ death. Think about that. Two different people wanted to talk about two different high school friendships that ended in death—this was a testament to the universality of the end-of-life experience. These connections were echoed when two gentleman both wanted to discuss the passing of a very important grandparent.

What’s more, these same two gentleman both were hit harder than others, both refused to go to the gravestone, and both found it easier to discuss the loss with a stranger than with a good friend.

Suicide was also explored. Through another unlikely connection, one pairing of people experienced suicide in two different ways.

One man confronted the suicide of a loved one, which now makes him wonder “How do we view a legacy when a suicide occurs?” Is the grief process the same? 

On the other hand, the other partner recently lost his stepfather through the assistance of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act. For all intents and purposes, this was technically a suicide — but one that ended suffering and avoided the pain of a lengthy, incurable disease. One that included his family and loved ones by his side. “It was hard to comprehend emotionally until you watch someone you care about say goodbye,” the partner said.

That was one of the large themes of this event — you don’t know how you’ll deal with it until you deal with it. But with proper planning and education, some pain can be eased. Some order can be restored. Some tears can be dried.

The group shared many insights and connections; it would be impossible to share them all in this post. Impossible to do them justice and honor the stories of those participants. If there was one takeaway, it was this: we are all needing to connect, striving for the sense of it all. 

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Connections to death are universal.
There is a division between the institutional way we memorialize (headstone, etc.) and the emotional way we memorialize.
We do not prepare our children for death.
The pain can last a lifetime.
In utero loss is a completely different kind of lonely.
Different situations call for different ways to grieve.
Spirituality greatly impacts the EOL experience.

Tell us about your work experience:

I'm the senior designer at Precoa who led this event. We partner with leading funeral homes and offer preplan insurance & marketing assistance.

If you participated in an End of Life Storytelling Event, tell us which Chapter or city you came from:

Portland, Oregon.

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