How memorial societies can help with funeral planning

4 min read

If your loved one was part of a memorial society

  • A memorial society is an organization your loved one may have joined before they died to help you and your family with funeral arrangements.

  • They can provide recommendations and members-only discounts, and can even serve as an advocate for you if needed.

  • Memorial societies often urge members to clearly outline their wishes, which makes planning easier.

  • Contact them as soon as your loved one dies so that they can start providing logistical and emotional support as you plan the service.

In the immediate days after the death of a loved one, your grief can be intense and all-consuming. Funeral planning—and all the budgeting, decision-making, and negotiating that go with it—can be a massive headache at a time when you already feel overwhelmed by emotion and may want to focus instead on your loss, your family, and your memories. However, it’s a task that usually cannot wait until you are more ready to handle it.

If you feel like you’re drowning in major decisions, expensive bills, and complex logistics while trying to manage your emotional wellbeing, you aren’t alone. Planning a service, be it a traditional funeral or a more casual memorial, is a lot for anyone to take on, particularly when they are in grief. This is why memorial societies were created: to be a resource for families in this situation.

A memorial society is a local nonprofit organization designed to help advise you and your family as you plan a funeral or other memorial service. Typically, these groups are connected to the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a group dedicated to protecting the rights of consumers in the funeral industry.

In general, a person will have signed up for their local memorial society sometime before their passing in order to provide their loved ones with the help they need during this tough time. While these societies charge a membership fee (which varies depending on your area), it’s typically nominal compared with the hassle they can save the family when it comes to planning.

How memorial societies work

The Funeral Consumers Alliance was formed to safeguard and improve the end-of-life industry, and memorial societies are the consumer-facing arm of that mission. A person can become a member of their local affiliate by paying a lifetime membership fee, and then the society provides them with annual updates on the average funeral costs in their area, members-only discounts, and opportunities to advocate on the behalf of other consumers.

They strongly suggest that their members educate themselves on their end-of-life options, create a plan to share with their loved ones, and clearly outline their wishes. 

How your local society can help

Memorial societies primarily act as an information resource and are often the best place to gain knowledge about the local funeral industry. Some even have ties to funeral homes and event spaces and give discounted rates for members.

In most cases, the society will have helped your loved one draft a final wishes document. Thus the major decisions have already been made for you, with a clear roadmap to honoring your loved one’s intentions. Many memorial societies also sell “plans” with discounted rates for the services in your loved one’s final wishes.

After your loved one has passed, get in touch with their society. They’ll be able to walk you through the plan, impart further advice they have for your family, and answer questions you might have for the next steps in the process. 

It’s important to note that memorial societies are usually run by volunteers. They can point you in the right direction for your budget and your needs, but they aren’t funeral directors or event coordinators.

How to find out if your loved one was a member

If you think your loved one was a member of a memorial society but aren’t certain, look through their paperwork and personal records. Typically, a member is given a membership wallet card, and may also have kept a copy of their final wishes that names the society. 

In the event that you can’t find this information but think they were a member, look up your local FCA chapter and contact them directly. Their volunteers will help you figure out if your loved one had a membership, and if so, with which society.

It is also possible that they were a member of a memorial society that isn’t affiliated with the FCA (there aren’t many, but a few exist). In this case, try to find information on them by looking up the organizations in your area. 

When you’re grieving someone important to you, you want to be able to focus on honoring their memory and being there for your friends and family. Memorial societies are just one more source of support you can access to make this difficult time as uncomplicated as possible.

You may be eligible for free bereavement support. Empathy can help with everything from funeral planning to estate administration, with step-by-step guidance and real-time expert support. Many people get free premium access to Empathy as a benefit with their life insurance claim. We partner with New York Life, Guardian Life Insurance Company, Bestow, Lemonade, and other leading carriers. When you make your life insurance claim, talk to your representative about whether Empathy is a benefit they offer.