Mourning in the Virtual Space

In these unprecedented pandemic times, funeral homes and families have needed to adapt to a new method of mourning. Families and friends are not always able to mourn via traditional funeral services. Currently, many loved ones do not feel comfortable traveling to or attending in-person funerals (especially those that are immuno-compromised or elderly). This has prompted many funeral homes to forgo services entirely—or offer virtual options to the bereaved. It is important to note that many funeral homes can work with families almost exclusively over the phone and via email, for those that feel uncomfortable or hesitant about meeting in person (at least one in-person meeting may be required to view the deceased, sign documents, or complete death benefits paperwork in the presence of a notary).  

Virtual funeral services can be live-streamed (via Zoom) or recorded and shared with loved ones or posted on social media. If funeral homes don’t offer live-stream services, family members can record the service (or ask the funeral home to do so) and have the funeral home post it online with the obituary. Services could also be saved to USB drives or burned to discs. Websites such as Gathering Us allow for seamless remote funeral service planning and delivery. Guests are able to share and celebrate together online with an online host serving as a virtual usher of sorts.  

Many funeral homes do offer memorial/tribute DVD’s—or families can create their own tribute slideshows through free websites like Canva and Renderforest. Canva can also be used to generate free (or printable) memorial folders and programs. These can be shared through email or social media.  

Memorial pages can be created online through websites like the following: 

Find a Grave is run by unpaid volunteers who create virtual gravesites and upload cemetery photos. Loved ones and friends can leave virtual flowers and messages on each memorial page (and upload photos of the deceased). 

Virtual funeral services are relatively new, but they allow for a great deal of creativity. If traditional options are not available, it is still important to memorialize the deceased in some way (studies have shown that this helps with the grief process). Online memorials offer an outlet for loved ones to remember the deceased, share their memories with others, and start the healing process on their own terms. 

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