Planning a Virtual Funeral Service
September 1, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has upturned practically every aspect of our lives, and funerals are no exception. Since the pandemic’s arrival in the U.S. at the beginning of this year, funeral services had to be significantly restructured in order to align with the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. More than ever, virtual funerals are becoming the norm, with grieving family members and friends gathering on Zoom, or other digital platforms, to mourn the loss of their loved ones.
Connecting Virtually to Grieve
Virtual funerals may not be exactly the same as gathering with our family and friends in person to mourn the loss of someone we love, but they can still be a source of comfort. Even though we may not be able to perform all of the typical rituals, we can still use our words, prayers, scriptures, and songs to guide us through this trying time. Jennifer Kaluzny, a rabbi who recently officiated her first virtual funeral explained how the experience was surprisingly intimate: “The mourners could see my face clearly, and I was looking directly at theirs. There might have been a screen between us, but somehow that didn’t matter.”
An added benefit of virtual funerals aside from protecting us from the coronavirus is that they also allow more people to attend. Those who otherwise might not have been able to make it to the funeral service can now simply open up their laptop and celebrate the life of the friend or family member who has died. Thanks to technology, getting together to grieve has never been easier.
When dealing with funeral home staff, clergy, or officiants, be sure to ask about the digital resources that are available in order to facilitate a virtual funeral service. They may be able to offer a live online streaming, or a recorded video. If opting for a live streaming, Zoom is an especially useful platform since it allows you to see everyone who is participating at once. If you’re new to Zoom, this helpful guide covers all of the technical essentials for hosting a virtual wake or memorial service.
Many funeral homes also offer online memory books or guest books, where people can post theircondolences, along with photos, memories, or stories. Such digital resources can be a wonderful way to connect with friends and family members who are grieving. They can truly bring people together despite physical distance.
Connecting via technology doesn’t have to stop once the funeral service is over. In the current context of the pandemic, connecting online with our loved ones who are grieving can be comforting and therapeutic. Across the world, people are getting creative with the way they use digital tools to grieve by attending virtual support groups, planning online meetings to swap photos and share stories, and more. One family is even cooking their matriarch’s favorite recipes while video chatting to help them cope with their grief.
Of course, there is no replacement for physical presence: a love-filled embrace or hand squeeze can be an invaluable source of comfort while we are mourning and grieving. Although we may not be able to be physically together now, we know that we will gather together again sometime in the future. In the meantime, planning and preparing for an in-person memorial service can help us endure the rest of the pandemic.