Grieving the loss of a loved one is a normal response to losing someone important to you and it’s important to be able to share stories and memories with family and friends. Unfortunately, the way we grieve has been affected by COVID-19, where gatherings are considered high risk. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended virtual funerals, services, and gatherings as the lowest risk events for spreading the virus. Slowly and sadly, online funeral services are becoming accepted as a substitute to in-person memorials and funeral services.
How to Plan an Online Funeral
Thankfully, with the growth of live streaming platforms, loved ones and family members are able to easily gather virtually during tough times. Since each state has different regulations concerning the pandemic, there are many ways a virtual funeral can take place. Let’s look at some options.
Some funeral homes are allowing a limited and socially distant gathering to take place with the option of live streaming the event for attendees that could not travel or attend due to restrictions. These live-streamed online funeral options can include a virtual memorial service, burial, or wake.
Other services include a virtual funeral procession or even one where family members stand outside their homes as a loved one is transported past. You can even live stream outdoor burials, which may allow more attendees to gather in a socially distanced space.
Knowing that there are various options for virtual funerals and events should hopefully help make decision-making easier during a difficult time. Let’s look at the step-by-step plans needed to create a special virtual memorial.
Planning a Virtual Memorial Service
- Live stream location – Will you be planning a memorial service, funeral, or wake at a funeral home? Will you be at your or a loved ones’ home for a virtual event? Make sure you have a strong internet connection and discuss options with the funeral home for approval and guidance to hosting your virtual occasion.
- Live stream service – Choosing a live streaming service such as Zoom, or others, will require creating an account, setting up an event, and sending out a virtual invitation to loved ones. You may need a pro account in order to host a long event for the required length of time. With Zoom, there is a free basic membership that will allow 40-minute virtual meetings for up to 100 people.
- Online funeral services – Making decisions while grieving and during the anxiety of a pandemic can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are companies who can help plan a virtual funeral and guide you through the entire process. You may want to request the option to record a service so invited members can view the funeral service at their convenience if they can’t attend a virtual live stream.
- Other online memorial options – Technology has given us the ability to create memorial websites, and doing so could be as simple as turning a person’s Facebook page into a memorial page. You can include photo albums, and store a video of your recorded funeral service or memorial on your website for family members and friends to watch. A virtual keepsake can last forever and is an online place to visit for those unable to stop by a loved one’s final resting place.
- Include your loved ones – Allow your friends and family to participate in a virtual event by having speakers read poems, share stories, quotes, and tributes. Although COVID-19 has affected the ability of friends and family to come together in person, you can still gather virtually to connect, support each other, and grieve or celebrate the life of a loved one.
While virtual funerals may be new, in light of the pandemic, they’ve gained popularity and may be here to stay. Although some people feel that virtual funerals are impersonal and wrong, what’s worse is not being able to grieve and give condolences in person. While a virtual funeral can’t replace the hugs and embraces of in-person service, virtual options can incorporate most aspects of a traditional funeral and are effective for those who can’t be together in the moment.
Tips for Attending a Virtual Funeral
- Dress for the occasion – Although many people have adapted to working from home in loungewear, treat an online memorial service as if it were a real event. Take the time to dress nicely and set aside time to attend. It can be seen as disrespectful to attend in your pajamas or while eating a meal.
- Allow yourself to grieve – Just because you’re virtual, don’t feel that you can’t express your emotions. Everyone grieves in different ways. Allow yourself to feel grief in the moment, especially if the event is being live-streamed and not recorded. You might not have the chance to mourn or celebrate your loved one later on, and the worst emotion to feel afterward is regret.
- Be Prepared – If you’re planning on speaking, reading, or presenting to your loved ones during a virtual event, make sure you are prepared with anything you may need. Check your technological devices, prepare your notes, and compose yourself before sitting down to share with others. If you need inspiration for what to say, look at some speaking examples.
- Maintain or create traditions – If you’re attending a planned funeral that close family will be attending, allow yourself to incorporate traditions. It may not feel “real” but virtual attendees will find value and comfort in seeing and being able to participate in the moment.
- Offer sympathy and condolences – Funeral etiquette includes paying respects to the bereaved family. Make sure you send a sympathy message – through email, during your virtual event, or send a card. Although it may not be your or the host’s desired goodbye, your presence at a remote funeral will be appreciated and is the most important way to simply pay your respect.
Although virtual funerals may not be here to stay long term, they may become more widely accepted post-pandemic. Many have found solace and comfort in being able to virtually connect to people when social distancing measures and lockdowns prevented travel. In the future, they may become common practice for family and friends who live far away from a departed loved one.
Not attending a funeral or memorial doesn’t mean you can’t participate in honoring and preserving memories. For those that seek a more physical token, memorial jewelry can be personalized and dedicated to the special memories you hold.