Between travel concerns and restrictions on group gatherings, holding a traditional funeral can be challenging. Many families are turning to “virtual funerals” using video conferencing programs, such as Zoom.
About 20% of funeral homes offer virtual services. And there are online companies that specialize in funerals. They assist with everything from sending out invitations and designing the ceremony to recording the event and providing tech support if needed.
If you are planning a virtual ceremony, consider:
- How formal a gathering do you want? Will there be an opening and closing? A eulogy? Music? Or do you want something more like a wake with attendees sharing fond memories? Perhaps a combination.
- Do you want to have a slide show or videos? Family members can contribute what they have. Photos can be compiled into a PowerPoint presentation. Or consider free online memorial scrapbooks, such as LifeWeb360.com.
- Do you want to include special activities, such as a toast, a prayer, or moments of silent reflection?
- Group singing does not work well in video conferencing. Instead, have one person sing while all others are muted. Send out the lyrics ahead of time and invite attendees to sing along at home.
- Ways to create a group feeling:
- Plan for everyone to light a pillar candle at the same time. Or ask each person to light a candle before they speak.
- Encourage group gestures during parts of the ceremony (hands on heart, hands in prayer, hands making a heart).
Some family members may need help with the technology. Get them set up and practice in advance. Also be sure to record the session for those who couldn’t attend in “real time.”
Many families say that a virtual service is surprisingly meaningful. It’s not the same as in person. But it does create feelings of support and connection that help ease the pain of loss.