A funeral or memorial service is an opportunity to come together with your friends and family after a loss. During the service, loved ones share stories, offer sympathy, and remember someone’s legacy.
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Unfortunately, funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis are more of a challenge. Gathering in large groups, especially indoors, is prohibited in many places. In addition, it’s not considered safe to get too close to those outside of your household.
Many people are choosing to hold two funeral services, one during COVID-19 and one after. However, many people are still wondering if there’s such a thing as a safe funeral or memorial service during the pandemic. In this guide, we’ll share insight into funeral planning to identify some COVID-friendly funeral or memorial service ideas so you can honor the memory of your loved one.
Funeral Ideas for If You Can Gather
A private funeral or more intimate funeral might be possible if you’re allowed to gather in person where you live. While this isn’t allowed everywhere, there are some situations where it’s possible and safe to gather with your loved ones in person.
1. Outdoor funeral
The safest option for a funeral or memorial gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic is an outdoor funeral. Hosting a funeral outside can be a source of peace, and there are so many great places to hold your service. Some ideas include:
- Church garden
- Local park
- National or state park
- Family member’s backyard
All of these ideas are a comforting return to nature. Because the risk of spreading the virus outdoors is lower than indoors, you can feel more comfortable inviting a larger guest list to an outdoor funeral. Just be sure to social distance and wear masks when appropriate.
2. Hold a graveside service
An alternative to holding an outdoor funeral is to hold a graveside service. This is when you join with friends and family members at the grave.
In many cultures and religions, a graveside service is something that’s commonplace. Though simpler than a larger funeral, this is a great opportunity to come together and say goodbye.
3. Gather in a larger space
If gathering outdoors isn’t an option, perhaps due to weather or the nature of the service, there’s still another option. You can gather in a larger space. Many funeral homes offer space for services, but these can be smaller, making it difficult to social distance.
Hosting your service in a larger event space like a community center, school, or large church. A larger event space makes it possible to distance from those that live outside of your household, so it’s a safer alternative.
4. Host a scattering ceremony
For an outdoor ceremony that’s a bit different from a funeral, host a scattering ceremony. If your loved one is cremated, scattering the ashes can bring peace and comfort.
Gather together with loved ones outdoors, keeping adequate space between parties. From there, scatter the ashes and say a few words for a final farewell you won’t forget.
5. Volunteer together
If an outdoor funeral doesn’t feel right to you at the moment, that’s not the only reason to gather in honor of someone’s memory. You can also join with friends and family to volunteer.
You can volunteer for a cause that’s meaningful to the deceased or do some good for the COVID-19 relief efforts. Doing good is always a powerful legacy.
Funeral Ideas for If You Can’t Gather
If you can’t gather in person, there are still so many ways to come together virtually or in spirit. Honoring the life of your loved one doesn’t have to happen in a “traditional” funeral or memorial service. These funeral ideas below are COVID-19 friendly and safe.
6. Stream the service
If you’re hosting a smaller, intimate service in person, you can stream the service online for those who cannot attend. Many places allow the immediate family of the deceased to visit the funeral home for a formal service, though other guests are not allowed.
Streaming the service allows those who aren’t able to be there to still take part. They can leave comments, record the event, and honor their loved ones from the safety of their home.
7. Postpone the service
If you’re not comfortable hosting an in-person service, another option is to postpone it altogether. While there is an assumption that the funeral or memorial should be held within a few days of death, there are really no rules.
There are no limits to saying goodbye. Whether you hold the funeral a few months or even a year later, it’s important to make safe choices to protect the ones you love. If that means postponing the service, that’s nothing to feel bad about.
8. Host a Zoom funeral or memorial
After the rise in COVID-19 cases during the first wave, Zoom funerals quickly became the norm. As the name implies, a Zoom funeral is when friends and family gather virtually over Zoom or another video conferencing service.
During the virtual funeral, the same traditions and customs you know from in-person funerals take place. You can have speakers, share stories, include visual elements, and offer condolences all online. Even after the pandemic passes, Zoom funerals are likely here to stay.
If you do plan a virtual funeral, we recommend using a service like GatheringUs to help you plan, set up, and host the event.
9. Create a slideshow
A slideshow is another virtual option to grieve digitally. Putting together a slideshow with photos of the deceased from friends and family is a touching tribute. Upload the slideshow to social media, a memorial page, or a video streaming service to enjoy these memories together.
11. Make an online memorial page
Similar to Zoom memorials, online memorial pages are also taking off in terms of popularity. There are so many tools that help you build a memorial page for free or for a low cost.
These pages are a digital, shareable option for creating a legacy that lasts. Online memorial pages have features like:
- Guestbooks for friends and family to leave messages
- Photo albums
- Video features
- Donation capability for gifting to the family or a cause
This is a digital option for telling your loved one’s story. Not only that, but it’s possible for friends and family to visit the page from anywhere in the world to share memories, sympathy, and say goodbye.
12. Hold a small vigil separately
For something less digital-focused, you can also hold a small vigil separately. To do this, choose a date and time for the vigil. Encourage friends and family to hold small tributes in their own ways at this time and date. Together, you’ll say goodbye on your own terms.
How can you each hold your own vigils? It can be as simple as lighting a candle or as complex as holding a mini-service at home.
13. Visit the funeral home or cemetery separately
If you’re located near the funeral home or cemetery, you can welcome guests to visit on their own time. Having everyone arrive at their own designated time avoids people from different households interacting face-to-face.
This gives everyone a chance to say goodbye without the risk of exposure. People can bring flowers, gifts for the family, or just themselves.
14. Make a memorial at home
For those who want to do something more hands-on, it’s always possible to make your own memorial at home. You don’t need to visit the cemetery or the funeral home to have an effective memorial.
Putting together some favorite photos, the obituary, and mementos of the deceased are all it takes to make a small memorial. This is something you can keep at home for as long as you’d like.
15. Recognize the loved one in a new way
Last but not least, there are no rules when it comes to how you honor the ones you love. Taking some time to recognize them in a new way, whether it’s by writing them a letter, sharing stories, or investing time in a hobby they love, is sure to bring you peace after a loss.
Honoring a Loved One During COVID-19
Losing a loved one during a global pandemic presents many unique challenges. Not only is it difficult to come together with those you love, but the typical sharing of food and memories is a bit more complicated. Luckily, a bit of creativity goes a long way.
Whether you choose an outdoor service or you go online, feel confident honoring your loved one in a way that feels right to you. There are no rules when it comes to paying tribute to those that matter in your life. As long as you’re keeping their memory in your thoughts while staying safe, you’re doing everything right. Be kind to yourself during this time and do the best you can.