What can I do if I can’t have a funeral service or if I cannot attend because of coronavirus?
There are no rules on when a memorial service can be held – this could happen at any point in the future, when restrictions have been lifted and could be a way for everyone who knew the deceased to come together and share their memories. It may even feel more fitting to you to remember them at a more positive time.
Even if you hope to do this, you may still want to mark the day of their cremation or burial in some way. If a small funeral service is happening, but you are unable to attend – ask those who are attending if they are able to help you experience it in some way. We have listed some ideas here.
We have also gathered together some ideas about how you could so this at home yourself.
Practicalities and connecting with others
When? Confirm the date and, if possible, the time of the cremation or burial with the funeral director or crematorium/cemetery. If they are not able to confirm the actual time, perhaps choose a time for yourself so you can carve out time dedicated to remembering the person who has died.
If you live with other people, especially people who did not know the deceased, tell them what you are planning for that day and at what time so they know to give you some quiet and space. Of course, if you wish, you could ask them to be with you for comfort and to have someone to talk to about the person who has died.
Connect with others - if you have contact with other friends or family of the deceased who also cannot attend, arrange a time to speak with them on the day. This could just be over the phone, or it could be a video call via WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.
If there is a small service happening, tell those who will be attending what you have planned. It could be a comfort to them to know that other people are thinking of them and remembering the person who died. You could even send them photos perhaps, for example if you choose to set up a table with mementos and photographs of the deceased.
If you are not in touch with anyone else who knew them, make contact with someone you are close to who can listen to you talk about the person who has died and offer you comfort.
For those who feel comfortable with technology, you could even have a virtual service this way as all of these apps have group call options too, either with just audio or video. Some are available through a web browser on a laptop or computer and some need you to download an app on a phone. Be aware that some may have call time limits if using them for free, like Zoom which is 40 minutes.
Where? Decide where in your property or garden you would like to be - somewhere you feel comfortable and which best allows you to remember that person.
What’s around you? Make your environment as helpful as possible for remembering them. Maybe have a clean and a tidy up.
Where is your focus? You may want to choose a spot to have as a focal point, like a table for example, to place any photos, mementos or candles.
What to wear? Consider dressing as you would if you were going to the funeral to help you mark it as a specific moment rather than any other day. If you would normally be arranging the service and would have asked everyone to dress in a particular way – some people choose for mourners to wear colour, possibly the deceased’s favourite one, instead of black – you could still ask everyone to do this as a way of connecting to each other on the day.
Marking the day and remembering the person who has died
Candle – you might want to light a candle, if you have one.
Mementos – get out objects that remind you of them: it could be photos, letters, cards or gifts they gave you.
Music – choose something that they liked. If you don’t own a particular, favourite piece of music and you have access to the internet you will probably be able to find it online – try Spotify or YouTube for free or buy it on iTunes. If they liked a particular radio programme or station you could play that instead.
Write a eulogy or a letter – eulogies are often delivered at funerals. Eulogy means ‘high praise’, and is the telling of someone’s life: values, interests and personality. You can still write one and you can still share it. When writing it, think about what that person meant to you, what they contributed to your life and the lives of those around them, and memories of them from throughout their life; funny memories can be very welcome on such a difficult day. Alternatively, you could do all of this as a letter to the person who has died.
Share these by reading them out to people you live with or over the phone / via video call or you could even just email it to other people who knew them. If it is a letter you could also read it to a photo of the person perhaps, if you have one.
Choose a reading – at funerals people often read poems, extracts of text or prayers that express how they feel, are reflective of the person who died or that meant something to them. You can still choose a reading and share it, in the same way as a eulogy or letter.
Drawings – another way of expressing how you feel or what the person meant to you, especially for young children in your household who knew the deceased.
Another way of saying ‘goodbye’ - writing a letter to the person who has died or doing a drawing for them can also be a way of saying ‘goodbye’ if you have not been able to do this.
If possible, you could also arrange for it to be placed in the coffin and even ask the funeral director if they can place it into the person’s hand, if you wish. Your loved one will then be touching what you have touched; this can be comforting if you have been unable to hold their hand while they were dying.
If you are not able to get a handwritten note to the funeral director, emailing it to them to print out is another option and will still mean your thoughts are with the person who has died.
You may also find this comforting if you are concerned that the person will be ‘alone’ at the committal or burial.
Give yourself time and space to remember them – you may not want to write something or to read out anything and that is absolutely fine. You can always just take some time to sit with your thoughts and memories, or even to talk to them in your head.
These are just some thoughts – you may think of others or have your own cultural rituals that you would like to follow. You must do whatever feels right for you – there are no rules.
The National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors has produced a futher set of ideas and tips for organising a funeral which can be downloaded here.