Funeral Ceremonies During the Corona Virus Pandemic
These are obviously distressing times for anyone suffering a bereavement. There are many uncertainties to contend with, constantly changing guidelines, emotions heightened by the restrictions and perhaps not having been able to see the person who died in the last days of their life if they were in hospital or isolation at home. We know that the strain is great, causing anxiety and a deep level of sadness.
Currently most crematoria are allowing up to 30 close family members to attend a crematorium service, and we are allowing 8 at our Riverstone Hall. Many crematoria have streaming services for others who cannot attend to watch the ceremony as it happens, and we can do this at Riverstone too.
But understandably some people are feeling it too risky to attend a funeral with others. They are choosing direct cremation with a memorial service sometime in the future.
We now have the possibility of ‘on-line’ funerals, using the most amazing technologies for bringing people together without physical contact. Now we know this may be difficult for some of the elderly living alone, but if they have a younger person around as carer, or if they can use a telephone, they can be included to be able to at least listen. Also Zoom can easily be used both for the meetings to decide the content of a funeral ceremony and for the delivery of the funeral itself. You just to click on a link and you are in a room with your celebrant, whether living locally or in Australia.
Using Zoom or a similar platform, a funeral can be watched by all those who normally would have gone to the funeral. They can see each other when wanted so, for example, they can meet and talk before and after the ceremony. When the ceremony begins they can choose not to be seen, allowing privacy, with the focus on the speaker.
Family and friends can be included in the service, by reading a poem or talking about the person who has died – perhaps even have an open space where memories can be shared by anyone there. Live music can be played. Also a photograph or slideshow of photos can be shown. The link can even be left open after the service is over so they can have their ‘gathering after’, perhaps all having the same food or drink, their favourite. Also the ceremony can be recorded and shared to those who can’t be there at the time, both as a audio and a video file.
Example of a photograph of the person who has died being shown with a thumbnail of someone talking about them.
Everyone is shown on the screen for a toast.
Advantages of having a funeral immediately after a death
We have funerals for various reasons – to honour and celebrate a life; acknowledge a loss; bring a community together; provide hope and comfort; to say a final farewell and send off the person to whatever lies beyond; and of course to crem
ate or bury a body. A direct cremation only satisfies the last of these.
One important factor is the preparation of the funeral service during that period immediately after the death. It gives an opportunity to talk about the person who has died to a minister or celebrant, to tell stories, describe them, be proud of them, make a summation of their life, a biographical narrative to take into the future. This can be a therapeutic and cathartic act which helps at the beginning of the grieving process.
Delivered to a good camera, it can feel live and intimate. In some circumstances it can even be possible to have the coffin present. Otherwise the person can be represented with a photo, and there can be candles and flowers to enhance the beauty. You will be surprised how effective this can be.
The celebrant would give the family time and attention in the normal way. The family will have a funeral service they can cherish and remember, ‘attended’ by as many people as they like, so bringing the community together at this important time. You can feel you have done your very best for the person who has died. We believe this is a better solution than facing the vacuum of a direct cremation.
How it works
Everyone coming to the funeral is sent a Zoom link by the main funeral organiser which has come from the celebrant or funeral director. All the recipients have to do is to click on the link and allow the URL and they will be there. You don’t need to buy Zoom or download it.
For smooth running this is a typical set of instructions we would send out with the invitation.
- Start time and date of the ceremony. Ask everyone to arrive 15 minutes before so that any technical problems can be sorted.
- Please print out the PDF of the ceremony sheet we are sending you so you can refer to it – there may still be a hymn or song to sing.
- If you are speaking, reading or playing music, you will be invited at the time you are required to speak or read.
- If you are playing music please arrive at least 30 minutes before the starting time of the service so this can be set up properly (or this may be done the day before).
- As people arrive you will be able to see other people and chat if you wish.
- You need to ‘Join the meeting with audio’ and ‘start video’. You will find these at the bottom left hand corner of the screen.
- If you do not want to be seen by others, you can click on ‘Stop Video’. You will still be able to see and hear everything.
- When the ceremony is ready to begin everyone will be muted centrally while the ceremony takes place. Please do not ‘unmute’ yourself unless you are scheduled to speak, as background noise is easily picked up.
- We recommend you only see the Speakers during the ceremony. For that, click onto ‘Speaker View’ in the top right corner. This may avoid a lot of distractions. If you are on a tablet or phone you can move to single ‘Speaker View’ or ‘Gallery View’ by swiping the screen left or right.
- After the ceremony, the Zoom link will be left open and everyone unmuted so you can talk to each other for an hour or so.
- Other instructions can be given, such as would everyone have a candle in the room with them; perhaps have a glass of ##’s favourite tipple for a toast.