Virtual funerals, here’s what you need to know for the new normal

Like most of you, I have never been advised to “stay home” and the term “social distancing” was not part of my vernacular. But the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed all that, and many of our loved ones, especially our elders or those with compromised immune systems, are in danger.

How are we going to celebrate their lives if they succumb to the virus in the coming days, weeks and months? How are we going to honor those who will die of natural causes, or sadly, of tragedy in these times when it is not possible to meet? The populations that are likely to die in the greatest proportion will be the elderly. Therefore, the people who would have attended the funeral or celebration of life will also be 60 years of age or older. The elderly population with underlying health problems is more susceptible to this virus. Clearly, the last thing we need is to band together and put people at risk. At the same time, surrounding each other is exactly what we need in times of grief. It is crucial to give ourselves, as well as the family and friends of the deceased, a time and place to grieve. Experts say that this virus can exist for months. Where is the best place to do this to ensure everyone’s safety? The answer is virtually on your phone, tablet, or computer.

As we have seen in Italy, celebrations can happen by coordination, and suddenly everyone opens their windows and sings at the same time. A virtual funeral can be organized in the same way. As with planning a typical funeral, you’ll want to let people know the date your celebration of life will take place through a standard newspaper obituary, Facebook ad, email, text, phone calls, and even handwritten invitations. .

Family and friends will find an added benefit that a virtual funeral will take the rush out of making plane reservations, hotel reservations, and spending lots of money that probably wasn’t in their budget. If you have commitments prior to the time of the virtual funeral, almost all platforms allow you to record it and share the link to watch it later.

If you think you may lose a loved one soon, why not make the most of your time at home? Why not go through our boxes of old photos and check out all those pictures on our computers and phones? Scanning your loved one’s photos, adding images from your favorite memories, and downloading your favorite music will not only personalize the event, but can also add much-needed warmth during times of loss.

You can also familiarize yourself with the many platforms you might be using to bring loved ones together virtually, such as, Google Hangouts, Facebook Live, Skype, and YouTube Live.

There’s a lot to do when planning a funeral, and planning a virtual one is no different. The following checklist will give you a head start. If you think you may need to host a virtual funeral, here are some things you can do to get started:


• Try out various platforms with a friend to see which one you prefer. I recommend If you’re not familiar with video conferencing, you’ll want to go to their website’s zoom website and click on meetings and watch the video showing how it works.

• Start collecting emails and phone numbers of friends and family who are likely to want to attend the funeral. Sending a text message with the link to the service is also an option.

• Gather photos, and if they’re not digital, you’ll want to start scanning or taking photos of the photos and putting them in a folder. When the time comes, you can also ask your friends and family to share their photos.

• Plan to have a Power Point presentation of the photos. You can ask a friend or family member to help you with your PowerPoint presentation if you are not familiar with the program. The video conferencing system allows you to post a power point presentation, videos, photos or any file from your computer.

• Put together a music playlist of your loved one’s favorite songs. Consider having a musician or singer present.

• Plan to put together a memory chart of items that were important to the person (I’d like a pickle popsicle and a box or two of See’s candy on my table). The table can be in the background of the screen and be displayed in a photo that is displayed in the Power Point presentation.

• It is important to allow attendees to tune in so they can share their memories live during the event or in advance. You’ll want to capture those memories and archive them. Most platforms allow attendees to post memories they’d like to share.

• Think about who you would like to have in your small group. These would be friends and family who would be giving compliments and perhaps a musician or vocalist. Keep in mind that you’ll want to social distance, so keep the group very small (at this time, the limit is 10 attendees).

• Do you have a quiet room without the interruption of barking dogs or crying children where you could hold the service? A funeral home can still be the ideal place to meet. Many funeral directors are familiar with technology that allows people to view the service without being present, so check with funeral homes when making arrangements.

• Plan to have a printed service order that you can share before the service and display it behind you at the service.

• The most important thing is to have a test before the service, maybe even the day before, so people can get familiar with the technology before the service. At the drill, you could have a virtual toast online where everyone joins in for a glass of the departed’s favorite beverage the night before the service to help everyone get their phone, tablet, or computer ready.

• Plan to record the service and share it with everyone so they don’t panic because they missed it. Computers can shut down, the internet can crash, and batteries can die, so registering for service is a must.

• Pay attention to sound. Some of your audience may be hard of hearing, so be sure to test the microphone and make sure everyone speaking can be understood.

If you think you might be invited to attend a virtual funeral, here’s how you can prepare. If you’re not tech savvy, now would be a good time to ask someone you know is for help.

• Download the application that the host has chosen well in advance.

• If you have an old-fashioned desktop computer, you’ll want access to a computer, camera, or tablet with a camera and microphone.

• Go through your photo albums and your phone to collect your favorite photos of the deceased so you can share them with the host.

• Spread the word about the service to friends of the deceased and offer help via phone call to get their electronic device working in time for the service.

As with in-person funerals, where a favor or token of remembrance is offered, it would also be nice to send attendees something to keep the memory of the deceased alive. It is always comforting to have something to physically touch in memory of those who are no longer with us. A seedling with a personalized note inviting people to plant the tree to remember the departed would be a nice touch and great for our environment. A personalized plantable butterfly bookmark would also give them something to hold on to and remember their friend or family member would be a good fit too. You can find both products at Next Generation Memorials.

This virus is forever changing the way we socialize, shop, learn, work, and receive healthcare. Will this pandemic change the way we celebrate the lives of the deceased? Absolutely. The bottom line is, prepare now so you’re not stressed with the details of putting something together when you’re emotionally drained from the loss.

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