How to plan an alternative funeral during Covid-19

alternative funerals | covid-19 | funerals during coronavirus | funerals during lockdown

We know that having to change your funeral plans because of Covid-19 can feel extremely hard. It may be comforting to remember that funerals can still be personal and meaningful, even if the experience is different than you’d originally imagined. We’ve put together a list of ideas that other families have found helpful, along with guidance on how to plan an alternative funeral that feels right for you.

What is an alternative funeral?

An alternative funeral is one that takes place while there are restrictions on large gatherings due to Covid-19. For now, the government is still letting funerals go ahead with a small number of close friends and family members present. Different crematoria are allowing ten to twenty-five people during the ceremony, though this number may go down as the situation changes.

We almost all have an idea of what a funeral should look like, and it usually involves other people. Alternative funerals are meant to help friends and family come together, even if you can’t all meet in person. Some questions you may want to think about while planning are:

  1. Will the ceremony be online, just those who can attend, or both?
  2. Do you want to work with a celebrant?
  3. Are you hoping for a structured service or something more informal?
  4. How many people do you want to include?
  5. Is there anything meaningful that you’d like to do later on?

Planning a funeral now may feel challenging, but there are still so many different choices about how to remember someone and say goodbye.

How to set up an online ceremony

As social distancing has become part of daily life, more people are choosing to hold online ceremonies. There are a few different versions of video conferencing software, each with their own pros and cons.

You can use Whereby, which lets up to four people participate for free. There’s also an option to pay for a period of time and have more people take part. Zoom is less expensive to use for one month and can include up to 100 people, but only allows one-to-one meetings for free. There are also other choices available that you may prefer. We’d advise giving whichever video conferencing software you choose a quick test run before the ceremony.

You’ll still need to set a date and time for an online ceremony. It may be helpful to email everyone the order of service, along with any specific instructions. If you’d like to personalise the order of service, you can use something like Canva — a user-friendly free design tool. Of course, a simple email will also be effective. Some order of service providers are now doing electronic copies as well.

As with every kind of funeral, the format of an online meeting really depends on what works best for you. You may want it to follow a formal order or just give people the opportunity to talk and share memories. If you’d like to include a celebrant, they can guide you through how best to organise the service. We can connect you with celebrants or ministers who will help to plan a flexible online ritual.

How to share a ceremony with people who can’t attend

Another possibility is to hold a small in-person ceremony and share it online afterwards. Some crematoria are offering a recording of the service forty-eight hours later and others have the capacity to do a live stream. This can be a really lovely way of sharing eulogies and poems with people who aren’t able to attend.

If the crematorium doesn’t offer live streaming you could also bring your own equipment — though do keep in mind that recording is probably the safest option, as live streaming isn’t always reliable. We’ve also had families FaceTime or record the ceremony on a tablet. Whichever method is easiest for you is a good option and we’re here to help with everything we can.

Ideas to help you say goodbye

There are so many different ways to commemorate someone, and they don’t have to be complicated to be meaningful. A light touch approach might just involve sharing a significant photo of the person who has died. You could also ask friends and family to light a candle or play someone’s favourite song at a specific time. Whether or not you can see them, knowing that other people are taking part can be very powerful.

Other ideas might be asking your funeral director to include messages or children’s drawings in someone’s coffin. Now that flower markets have closed, you could use flowers from your own garden or find other meaningful objects such as clothing, toys or books. Wool flowers from an online provider can also be a nice alternative.

If you’re planning to hold an in-person ceremony, you could read tributes and eulogies from absent friends and family members. A family that we worked with read out the names of people who wished they could be there.

Planning a memorial

Another thing to think about is whether you’d like to hold a memorial in the future. It’s possible to make the memorial feel more like a funeral by having a celebrant or religious minister involved. They could be there with you to scatter the ashes or help you to read eulogies and tributes.

You could also ask your family and friends how they would like to remember the person who has died. Once social distancing has ended, you could go to someone’s favourite restaurant or listen to music together at home.

While these are strange and often difficult times, the opportunity to share memories of someone isn’t lost. Whether you want to hold a funeral now or plan a memorial, there are still ways to make saying goodbye feel meaningful.

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