COVID-19 has impacted virtually every aspect of normal life, including death and how we process it. Social distancing has affected every end of life ritual from spending time with a loved one as their days grow short, to visitation and calling hours, funeral services, and burials. Like many services, funeral directors are required to abide by new guidelines set forth by state health departments and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
With families limited to small private services, normal rituals are changing. In many ways, in addition to “normal grief”, people are left grieving the funeral rituals they thought they would have. There is a sense of loss around not having the expected rituals. For anyone who has lost a loved one, you know that what is meaningful about a funeral is rarely people saying the “right” thing. It is more often about just people being there – seeing the impact our loved ones had in the world.
So what do we do when we can’t physically gather? What’s Your Grief has a few tips and ideas on how to still have a meaningful memorial during this time:
- Have a cremation or burial and small service now and have an in-person event later. Though these are tips for having a service, keep in mind that you don’t have to rush to have a service. Even in the best of circumstances, many families later say they wish they had taken more time before having a service. There is no reason you need to do something immediately. Or you can do something small and/or virtual now, and then something in person later. That may be when people are able to come together again, or you could plan it for your loved one’s birthday or another significant date.
- Stream the service. This is probably the most obvious. If people can’t be with you, you can at least bring the service or burial to them. Some funerals already offer this service and you can also check out our post on how to live-stream a funeral or memorial. Even if you’re a FaceTime pro, doing this in a way that ensures people at home can see, hear, and maybe even get involved, requires some pre-work. So make sure you plan.
- Include people in the service even if they aren’t AT the service. Just because people aren’t at the service, that doesn’t mean they can’t do a reading, sing a song, or give a eulogy. With the right preparation, you can allow participation through platforms like Zoom. You can also have people send in pre-recorded video to watch and stream as part of the service.
- Crowd-source a virtual photo slideshow. One of my favorite parts of the viewing or funeral is seeing so many wonderful old photographs. In an era when so many of our photos are now digital anyway, many of these slideshows would be on-screen even if you were all together in the funeral home or church. Whether just the immediate family, or by extending the invitation to extended family and friends, put together a digital slideshow that can be shared during the service/streaming service. If you use Zoom’s webinar feature, you can do a screen share of the computer playing the slideshow. This will allow anyone tuning in to see everything right on their screen.
- Create a slideshow of memories or other words of remembrance. So many fond memories and amazing stories are shared informally at services. And these days, many of those stories are shared in the comments on social media as well. Create a combination of this sharing by inviting people in advance, either by email or on social media, to share a memory or any other words of remembrance. Make these into their own slideshow, or include them in the photo slide show. You can use the screen share feature to share the slideshow with people at home during the service. You can also share the slideshow with others on social media or by email after the service.
- Sing and play music together (in real-time). Just because you are in different places it doesn’t mean you can’t all sing together from wherever you are – using Zoom, Facetime, etc. (pro-tip: it helps if you use earbuds or headsets, so the mic on your computer/phone isn’t picking up other people singing at the same time). This is what using technology to bring people together is all about!
- Record a song as a family to be played at the service. Now, this requires a family with some musical talent and a little time. But you can put together some pretty impressive songs and videos if you have people each record separately and then edit them together. This won’t be for everyone. You need some musically talented folks with some editing know-how. If you have that, these videos might be an inspiration! And there are plenty of tutorials on YouTube about how to gather the clips and do the editing. (Keep in mind, these are ambitious options, but we know some people have incredibly musically talented families so we set the bar high! And even if your family isn’t musically talented, this can still be a really fun and meaningful way to be part of planning for and participating in a service).
- Create a virtual-memorial book. If you use Zoom or any other streaming platform that has a chat feature, this can be easily accomplished. Ask people to type their answers to some specific questions. Certainly their name, so you know who was there, just like a regular guest book. But in the chat you can also ask people to write anything else you want. You can ask them to share how they met the person. You could ask a favorite memory, their favorite thing about them, something the person taught them, etc. Make sure someone is in charge of downloading the chat at the end. And check in advance to make sure you use a system that allows for a download!
- Have family members and friends all do their own small ritual at the same day/time. Even without sharing these by screen, just knowing everyone is doing something at the same time can bring connection. It could be as simple as all doing a toast, saying a specific prayer, or listening to a song they loved.
- Create a small memorial in your home or garden. Plant a tree, make a small display of photos, or create some other small space of remembrance in your home. The process of putting this together can be meaningful and symbolic. It is something you can do by yourself, or together others in your home. Set aside a specific time to do this. Especially with children, this is a great opportunity to share memories and say goodbyes. They may wish to draw pictures, write a letter, or make other artistic items to add to the shrine.
For more ideas and tips on grieving, visit whatsyourgrief.com.
[source: whatsyourgrief.com (Read the full article here.)]