Funeral Options While Maintaining Social Distancing

Published: April 3, 2020
by Shelagh Sweeney

Photo Credit: Noah Silliman

With many funerals and memorial services being canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, families are struggling to find ways to manage their grief and gain closure from the loss of their loved one. In a time where family and friends generally come together, they are forced to stay apart due to social distancing guidelines.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local governments are advising people to remain in groups of less than ten and stay a minimum six feet apart. This means that funeral homes are canceling services, removing chairs from their chapels, and holding virtual services instead. It’s difficult to accept that in a time where you just want to cry in a family member’s arms, you can’t even go within six feet of them.

While circumstances may not be ideal right now, here are a few alternative ideas for funeral services while maintaining social distancing.

1. Plan for the Future

Photo Credit: Andrew Neel

Take this time to accept that while you may not be able to plan an immediate memorial or funeral service, you can still plan for the future. Many local businesses will still make arrangements for a later date, so knowing that you have a florist, musician, or caterer in your back pocket can be relieving.

2. Consider Virtual Services

Photo Credit: Alexander Dummer

With increasing technology and the inability to hold in-person services, many funeral homes are holding funerals through web-based formats. Contact your local funeral home to see which platform they use. If you do not want a full service but still want your family “present” for a viewing, consider programs such as Facebook Live, FaceTime, and Zoom. These virtual programs allow for multiple users to connect through video chat and messenger platforms. Your preferred clergy member can even join in and give the eulogy virtually.

3. Hold a Virtual “Family Dinner”

Photo Credit: Kevin McCutcheon

Another way to utilize live streaming platforms as a method of connecting with your loved ones is through a virtual “family dinner”. Join a group video chat with your family on Zoom and pick out your loved one’s favorite recipe. Each person can make it, yet you will all still be making it “together”.

4. Write Letters

Photo Credit: Debby Hudson

While you may not be allowed to have a service for your loved one, ask your funeral director if they will put handwritten letters from the family into the casket or cremation tray for you. Set a time aside to write down your goodbyes and drop them off at the funeral home with other sentimental items.

5. Hold a Candle Lighting Ceremony

Photo Credit: Anne Nygård

Announce to your family and friends that instead of a traditional service, everyone will be lighting a candle at a certain date and time. This is a great way to maintain social distancing precautions, as nobody will have to leave their homes and you can still memorialize the loss of your loved one during the same time.

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