Coronavirus has certainly turned our world upside down in more ways we could ever have imagined. One of those unforeseen ways has been the introduction of restrictions that now only permit 10 people to attend funerals.
For hundreds of years, across all traditions and cultures, funerals have been a beautiful way to acknowledge, celebrate and honour the life of a loved one who has passed away. They bring people together as a community, to show the grieving that they are not alone. They allow us to remember the dead, bring comfort to the living and are a very important part of the grieving process.
And when words are inadequate, it’s only natural that we would offer someone a hug or warm handshake; even just being present brings so much comfort to those who have lost a loved one.
But the impact of the Coronavirus is preventing these meaningful and important rituals around death from happening.
Families are having to make heartbreaking choices amidst their grief. Many families are having to choose to have a funeral with only 10 people in attendance and live stream it, or delay a memorial service to such time when more people can attend. This painful experience of trying to decide who will attend is causing extra anxiety for grieving families.
We understand these restrictions are absolutely necessary to keep everyone safe. But the untold cost of not being able to farewell a loved one in the way families imagined will be felt for many years to come.
Therefore the role of ritual and ceremony has become even more important.
Rituals are a series of actions carried out for a specific purpose. They give us familiarity and shared experiences, and they bring us comfort at a very difficult time.
Here are some of the ways that we can include others who are unable to attend and bring rituals to this unfamiliar changing landscape of funerals.
- Invite family and friends who are unable to attend to watch the service online. Even though they aren’t physically present, collective grieving still matters.
There are a number of companies available who can assist with this, including Belinda Jane Video Productions
- Ask those who are unable to attend to write a tribute to the person who died. This can be read by the celebrant or anyone else in attendance. This process can be quite cathartic for those who can’t attend.
- Invite everyone to send their favourite photos with their loved one so they can be included in the photo tribute. This acknowledges the relationship and the role they played in the lives of others.
- Place photographs of the deceased’s much-loved family and friends who can’t attend around the room where the funeral is being held. Although they aren’t physically there, the photos can be a reminder of the people that the deceased shared their life with.
- Invite others to contribute to some of the choices within the ceremony. This could include choosing music or a poem to be shared.
- Ask anyone who would like to write a letter or message that can be placed on the coffin.
- Ask everyone who can’t attend to light a candle at the time of the funeral.
The challenge is to find meaningful ways to create a beautiful and meaningful ceremony amongst the chaos.
I will certainly be encouraging any of my families I work with, to also have a memorial service at a later date.
Like funerals, memorial services give a wonderful sense of community, and offer an outpouring of support. Those who have suffered a loss can be surrounded by others to share memories together and acknowledge a life lived.
And after this is all over, we will be able to make up for lost time and give hugs freely to those we love, with a distant memory of a time we couldn’t do so.