During a time when non-essential travel is discouraged and social distancing measures are in place, families who have recently lost a loved one are wondering how to hold a funeral or memorial service? How can they honor a loved one? Can they still involve family and friends?

Families can hold meaningful memorials in these times although they may need to adapt their plans and/or reimagine traditional funeral activities. From live streaming to planting sunflowers, new ideas are emerging to allow you to share comforting and powerful rituals in honor of your loved one. Here are some ideas for your family to consider:

1. Hold A Traditional Funeral

A funeral or memorial service with family and friends present may still be an option. With the guidance of your funeral director or church, you can hold a service while following best practices for social distancing.

Here are a few things to consider:
  • Check with your funeral home about current restrictions such as capacity limits.
  • While it is natural to want to shake hands or give hugs to all your friends and family, notify everyone in advance and with signs that these gestures will be welcomed at a later and safer time.
  • Provide multiple hand sanitizer stations.
  • Designate one person to write names in the guestbook to avoid sharing a pen.
  • Space chairs at least six feet apart.
  • Limit attendees to close family and friends and indicate the small gathering size in obituaries or service announcements.
  • Encourage vulnerable people such as the elderly to attend via livestream (see below).
  • Invite people who cannot attend to share personal memories via the funeral home website or an online memorial site like Forever Missed or Memories.net.

2. Consider Live Streaming

Live streaming technology can bring a memorial service to family and friends wherever they may be. With video cameras readily available on cell phones and tablets, a funeral or memorial service can be live streamed on YouTube, Facebook, or on other online services (that are free) such as Zoom or LiveStream.com. Check first to see if your funeral home or religious institution already has this capability. If not, you can contact a local videographer to see if he/she might be able to video the service for you and also present it live online.

3. Postpone the Memorial Service

You can always choose to have a memorial service at a later date. Families with far-flung relatives and friends or who have had a loved one pass under unusual death circumstances have been doing this practice for years. You can focus your energies on planning a beautiful celebration of life at a later date and share with family an estimated time and place for this event.

4. Share Photos or Videos

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and sharing them can be powerful. Collect videos and photos of your loved one. Consider creating a memory video or simply post them on social media where your friends and family can interact or even contribute. If privacy is a concern, consider creating a private group on Facebook -- limiting your posts to just the individuals you invite. Or you can create a shared Google Drive folder. Memorial websites often have a photo album feature as well.

5. Do What They Loved

Did your loved one love enjoy a certain movie? What was their favorite meal? Did they garden or love nature? An alternative to an immediate service is to have all family and friends participate in your loved one’s favorite activity -- perhaps even at a designated day and time? Take a hike, cook his/her favorite dish, or plant some flowers. Take photos or videos doing the special activity and share amongst friends and family. You can even invite others to take part in the “Susan Johnson Memorial Hike with Your Family Day” or the “John Smith Memorial BBQ & Slaw Challenge.”

6. Scatter the Ashes

If your loved one was cremated, you can either choose to do a service when you’re able to come together or divide the ashes for several people to scatter on their own. A few close family members can scatter a small amount of ashes in memorable or meaningful places. Mailing ashes is fairly easy to do (see blog post).

Cremation urns that are designed to assist with scattering ashes are available. Scattering tubes ease the process by providing a secure way to transport the ashes to a desired location as well as a respectful way to disperse them. Biodegradable urns are designed with materials that will gradually break down over a period of time--providing a very eco-friendly service. Specific biodegradable urns are designed for water burial or ground burial.

7. Plant a Memorial Tree

A popular option to memorialize a loved one is to plant a tree, shrub, or flowers in their memory. A memorial tree is a wonderful way to express a love that has not ended with your loved one's passing. You can choose to bury an eco-friendly urn or the ashes under the tree or not. Beautiful flowers we have seen include sunflowers, daisies, and wildflower mixes. You might consider his/her favorite flower or a flower that blooms near a birthday or anniversary. Popular memorial shrubs include lilacs, pagoda dogwoods, and hydrangeas. A memorial tree should be chosen to match your climate for best outcomes. Any natural memorial can be marked with a discreet stone or plaque engraved with a name and/or short message. 

Giving and receiving hugs, crying in someone’s arms, talking over shared times, having loved ones all in the same place...these experiences that make funerals cathartic are sadly not possible at this time. But at the end of the day, love is about giving. You are showing love and care to those who want to pay their respects by not risking their health at this time and vice versa. Paying tribute to your loved one can still be powerful and meaningful in new rituals and/or at a later date.

For more resources or ideas of how to plan a unique service, check out some of our other blog posts below. At Stardust Memorials, we are dedicated to helping you navigate this difficult time in any way that we can.

If you have any questions, caring staff are available Monday through Friday from 8 am - 7 pm EST and Saturday from 9 am - 4 pm Eastern Time. Call us! (888) 872-0228

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