Has COVID Changed our Grief Rituals?

“In the end, your death doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to anyone who has ever cared for, loved or shared life with you.” – Karl Jennings

Healthy grief and healthy funeral rituals go hand in hand. Remembering the person who died, accepting the reality of death, and receiving love and support from others are all part of a healthy grief cycle that leads to healing for those left behind. Put plainly, funeral rituals meet a human need to mourn by providing a time and a place for us to go through different stages of grief.

With limitations that prevent the spread of COVID-19, our social rituals have changed, and traditional funerals are no exception. From group sizes to service locations and physical contact, there are many factors to consider when planning for funeral and memorial services.

Here are a few of the ways the coronavirus pandemic has affected our grief rituals:

  • Limited group sizes
  • Postponed or canceled services
  • Services limited to the immediate family
  • Added grief or anxiety around immediate planning
  • Limited hugging and physical contact

But even with limitations, families that have faced loss are choosing new and different ways to mourn – and these, too, can ultimately lead to healing.

“The funeral is not about the dead, it is about the family who is left behind. Funeral services are needed during the mourning period in order for loved ones to rally around the family and show their support,” said David Storke, Owner and Director at Storke Funeral Home. “Since COVID has hit we have still been able to have powerful and successful funeral services through more innovative methods. Families can have what has been taken away from them, which is support from their friends and family.”

Authentic mourning can take place regardless of COVID related limitations. Let’s take a look at a few things that people who are facing loss need to experience during the mourning period:

  • Remembering the person who died
  • Receiving love and support from others
  • Making an emotional connection with a loved one
  • Reflecting on and celebrating their life

Grief Rituals that Outshine COVID Limitations

Not everyone’s grief rituals look the same. There is no formula because each person, each relationship and each circumstance is different. Some families want to see their loved one for the last time with an open casket, and some want to scatter the body’s cremains in a way that was meaningful to their memory.
Grief rituals can be as special as the honor and love you feel for your loved one and as unique as the life that they lived. From live-streamed indoor services to drive-thru casket viewings, there is no lack of creative and personalized options for funeral and memorial services.

Here are a handful of alternative service ideas that other families have used since COVID has impacted our’ ability to be together in the traditional funeral setting:

  • Live streaming or recorded services
  • “Parking lot” services through FM transmitters
  • Drive by and drive through funeral processions and viewings
  • Alternative Outdoor gatherings
  • Virtual Visitations

The Virtual Silver Lining in Funeral Planning

Technology has opened the door to many new opportunities that enable families from all over the world to connect virtually from anywhere – even from the safety of our own homes. Families are celebrating life right ceremonies like birthdays and anniversaries through live group meetings on Zoom or BlueJeans apps. And funerals all over the world are being broadcast live on Facebook, Vimeo, and being permanently stored on the web for later viewing.

“Virtual services are not going to go away,” Storke explained. “Even before the coronavirus not everyone was able to attend services for health reasons or sheer distance. Now anyone with internet or cell service can watch a live ceremony or in some cases even interact with the immediate family, see the casket, and mourn from a distance.”

Opportunities to connect are greater than they ever have been, even if it looks and feels different than before. Families should consider taking advantage of technology to celebrate the life of those who have passed, and help each other through the healing journey.

Virtual Tributes

Virtual opportunities go beyond video – giving us the ability to share photos, recordings and video of our loved ones and create an everlasting tribute of their life. Here are some places that other families have taken advantage of technology to create virtual tributes:

  • The Guestbook of their loved one’s obituary
  • Memorialized Facebook accounts
  • Virtual services and viewings

Are Changes to Grief Rituals Permanent?

Although grief rituals may not be what they once were, it is important to remember why we have them: to recognize and celebrate life, and ultimately to begin healing. And although some of our traditions may have changed and evolved permanently, the experience can be deeply meaningful and unforgettable.

The compassionate Planning Directors at Storke Funeral Home can help you and your family to begin the healing process through meaningful and dignified experiences, even during a time of social distancing. Please contact us today to pre-plan or to make immediate arrangements for burial, cremation, and full-service funeral options.

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