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Funeral Options During the Pandemic

woman and son at grave

Funeral Options During the Pandemic

Your local funeral home is committed to helping families honor their loved ones in meaningful ways, while ensuring the safety of family and friends. If you’re unable to hold a funeral for your loved one, or if attendance is limited to immediate family, you do have options that can be explored with your funeral director.

  1. Have a private viewing for only immediate family and/or close friends.
  2. Have a private service with a public memorial at a later date. Speak with your funeral director about your options regarding casket burial or cremation if you choose this option.
  3. Have a private viewing for only immediate family and/or close friends and have a memorial service at a later date.
  4. Ask your funeral director if they have the ability to webcast the funeral so others can view from home.

If you are able to have a funeral, even if it’s on a smaller scale, note that your funeral director will need to follow very specific guidance regarding the number of attendees and social distancing as required by the local, state and/or federal government. While it may be difficult to accept these limitations, know that your funeral director is working hard to ensure your safety, the safety of any guests and the safety of the funeral home staff while still providing family and friends with the opportunity to say goodbye. These guidelines may include:

Social Distancing
Social distancing guidelines apply, regardless of the setting or circumstances. As such, seating for a service will be adjusted accordingly so guests are a safe distance from each other. Also, keep in mind that guests will likely be hesitant to hug each other or the family of the deceased. While it’s often our natural instinct to offer condolences through physical interaction, it’s important to be respectful of guests’ decision if they choose not to do so. Remember, it’s for the safety of everyone in attendance.

Gathering Limits
There are limits for the number of people who may gather for an event, based on local, state and/or federal guidelines. In order to follow these guidelines, your funeral director may have to limit the number of guests who are in the funeral home at one time. Rest assured, he or she will work to ensure each guest has the opportunity to be in the funeral home to pay their respects; however, this will require patience on behalf of you guests. Speak with your funeral director about gathering limits in your community.

Personal Effects
Talk to your funeral director about the return of personal effects that may have been on your loved one at the time of death. Depending on the circumstances, they may need to be disinfected before being returned to you.

Virtual Service Options

While an in-person service, where guests can freely mingle, hug and connect, will always be preferred, during the pandemic, there are many options for incorporating a virtual component into a service. This option provides you with the opportunity to have a gathering after the death of a loved one, even if an in-person service isn't immediately an option. It also gives out-of-town family and friends an opportunity to participate in the service without being concerned about travel.

Speak with your funeral director about the options available, whether live-streaming via a streaming service, having an interactive "visitation" via a platform such as Zoom or recording the service for later use. Your funeral director can also help you plan an in-person service at a later date when COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

Viewing by Vehicle Processional

(An Alternative to a Traditional In-person Viewing)

For many families, having an in-person viewing of their loved one’s body is an important part of the funeral or service. The viewing helps grieving family and friends acknowledge their loss and gives them the opportunity to see their loved one and say goodbye. During these unprecedented times, however, social distancing requirements prevent families from inviting an unlimited number of guests to attend an in-person visitation. Therefore, some funeral homes are offering families another option for having a viewing that ensures the safety of the family and guests – a viewing by vehicle processional. 

During this alternative to a traditional viewing, guests remain in their cars and form a processional through the parking lot of the funeral home. The casket is placed in a location (most likely just inside the front doors of the funeral home) where mourners will be able to see it and pay their respects as they proceed through the processional line in their vehicles. While not all funeral homes are equipped to provide this service, it is something you can inquire about or that may be offered to you. There are a few funeral homes that are specifically set up to offer this type of viewing year-round, with a viewing window incorporated into the funeral home.