Planning a funeral for someone you love is never easy. If you are in that position now, during the global pandemic, we know that it’s overwhelming and may even seem impossible. First and foremost, our hearts go out to you and your family. Next, we’re here to help with everything you need to know about planning for funerals during COVID, and how to make it a beautiful tribute, even despite the enormous difficulties of the current moment.
The Basics: Funerals During COVID
There is a lot to know about hosting a funeral during Coronavirus. First and foremost, just like at any other time, you’ll still need to go through the basic steps of gathering information, contacting friends, family and colleagues, and other planning elements.
Funeral Planning During COVID: What to Know Now
- Your loved one will be well cared for, even if they died from Covid-19. Good funeral providers will always treat your loved one with respect and kindness. With all the unfortunate experience they’ve gained since this Spring, industry pros have developed and fine-tuned protocols, and they will do their very best to help you honor the one you’ve lost in the most personal way possible, while still respecting everyone’s health and safety.
- Your loved one can still be buried or cremated, but there may be additional restrictions around these processes to protect public health. These may vary from place to place, so when you contact your funeral provider, ask them to let you know anything you need to understand or take into consideration about these elements.
- Due to COVID-19, you may or may not be able to have an in-person funeral or memorial gathering right now. Regulations vary from state to state in the U.S., so depending on your current local situation, the size of your group may be very limited or a gathering may be prohibited altogether. When regulations are put in place by local governments, funeral providers are notified, so they can help you understand what’s possible if you’d like to have a remembrance in the funeral home itself. If you want to honor your special person with a religious service in a house of worship, you’ll want to call your faith leader to find out what might be permitted before making plans, as churches, temples, mosques and other religious gathering spaces may or may not be open, or may have strict limits on how many people can be in the space at a given time.
- Since travel is limited by the realities of the pandemic, you’ll probably want to include a virtual element in your planning. Whether you host a small in-real-life service or opt to wait on a gathering until things are safer, adding a virtual component to the tribute such as a Zoom Family Tribute Hour or a professionally produced live-streamed memorial service is a really good way to bring people together, and can actually be more intimate and personal than you’d think.
- There are things you can do to create a personalized tribute to someone special, even during COVID-19. Our editors have put together some inspirations and ideas to help you celebrate the life of someone you love, even now.
Three Types of Funerals During Coronavirus
There are a number of ways to pay tribute to a dear one, even despite the current situation. Most important is, if you will have any in-person aspect to your celebration, please follow local safety guidelines to protect yourself and all those you love who may attend.
- Small In-Person Gathering, with an In-Person or Virtual Memorial Service On Another Date. If permitted, you may choose to hold a Covid-safe small funeral or memorial service for close family, in a funeral home, at graveside, in a house of worship, or at another location, such as a backyard or garden. Then a larger memorial service or beautifully personalized celebration of life can be planned for a date in the future, with an in-real-life component or simply as a larger online event that you can organize more fully with more time.
- Hybrid Event: Combination IRL (In-Person) Service with Livestreamed Service. The idea here is that a service takes place with a smaller number of people in attendance, while a funeral provider or production company sets up camera equipment to capture the moment and let others who can’t travel “be there” to witness the ceremony, speeches, music, and readings. This can be a good way to offer closure to a larger group during these restrictive pandemic times.
- 100% Virtual Memorial Celebration. If preferred, or if necessity dictates due to COVID restrictions, you might choose to have a direct cremation or a timely burial without a formal in-person service. Instead you may choose to host a fully virtual memorial, where friends and family join you for an hour or two. This can be an informal open house style gathering on Zoom, or a more programmed event with music, a slideshow, speeches, and other personalized elements.
CDC Guidelines for COVID Funerals and In-Person Events
Here are some highlights of the most important notes and guidelines provided by the CDC for funerals during COVID-19.
- Be mindful: if your community currently has a high level of transmission, there is a higher risk of transmission at any gathering, including a funeral or celebration of life
- Wear a mask, and ask that all attendees do so as well
- Maintain a distance of at least six feet from others
- Wash hands often with soap and water
- If possible, gather outdoors or in a larger, well-ventilated area
- Limit group singing and chanting to reduce risk
Attending a Funeral During COVID
If you’ll attend a funeral or memorial service during the pandemic, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
- If attendees are limited by regulations, you may be part of a very small group of participants. If you’re invited, make sure to let the family know if you do or do not plan to attend, so they can finalize arrangements or invite someone else if you won’t be able to be there.
- Do not attend a funeral or memorial if you have any COVID symptoms, have a positive Coronavirus test result, or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive or has symptoms even without a positive test. Even without attending in person, you can find another way to share your condolences during COVID-19, such as sending a sympathy gift, calling, and writing a personal note with a loving memory about the individual being honored.
- Read any instructions or invitation information carefully beforehand to understand requirements or protocols for a funeral during COVID. You’ll want to be respectful of any guidelines at the venue where the event will take place, and it is a kindness to the family to make sure you are prepared in advance.
- Practice virtual etiquette. If you’ll attend a virtual remembrance, sign on at least five minutes early in case of any technical issues, and make sure your microphone is on mute for any opening remarks. Dress respectfully, even if it’s a simple Zoom gathering.
- Offer assistance if you can. In these difficult pandemic times, planning a funeral is even more difficult. If you have time and are willing to help, let those who are hosting know. Maybe you could volunteer to set up a memorial website to share stories, photos, and information about any events, or offer to select readings or help with other details. Or maybe it’s just making phone calls or dropping off a home-cooked meal to bring comfort and sustenance.
We know that planning a funeral during COVID is a very difficult process, and we’re here if you’d like a helping hand. Email us at bespoke@myfarewelling if you might like an expert to guide you in personalizing a celebration for your dear one. We’d be honored.