Over the past few weeks, two friends of my teenage daughter each lost their fathers unexpectedly. Our family has felt the heartbreak on many different levels. We are heartbroken for those families. We are heartbroken that we have lost friends. But most of all, we are heartbroken because we are not able to show our support in person with a hug or a few words of support at their funeral services. Our hearts ache knowing these families are not able to be surrounded by the army of friends and relatives they’ve each had supporting them through other, less painful life events.
During these days of social distancing, funeral services look a lot different than they did just a month ago. Gatherings are limited to 10 people or less, leaving some family members, friends, co-workers and neighbors searching for ways to show their support and celebrate the life of their loved one.
Funeral professionals have stepped up with creativity and compassion to help their communities show love and support from a distance. The list below is just a sampling of some of the ways funeral directors can care for families and conduct meaningful funeral services during this crisis.
Live Stream Services
Funeral homes are using platforms like Facebook Live or YouTube to stream funeral services. This typically doesn’t require much technical equipment other than the camera on a smartphone or tablet set up on a tripod. Viewers can also send their condolences in the comments during the service. Be sure to include a link to the service in the deceased’s online obituary and encourage the family to share it as well. This is a simple and effective way to connect friends and family who want to pay their respects, while also building your social media audience.
Host a drive-through visitation. Invite friends and family to pass through your funeral home’s parking lot to greet immediate family members of the deceased and express their condolences without leaving their vehicles. The family can be comfortably situated just outside the front door, with tissues and snacks nearby, while still maintaining social distancing guidelines.
Line the Procession Route
Encourage family and friends to stand sentry along the route from the funeral home to the graveside service, maintaining the recommended social distance while still showing support for the family and respect for the deceased. In the obituary, be sure to share the route you will be taking and encourage attendees to maintain social distancing guidelines.
This can be a powerful show of support for both the family and members of the community. A school bus driver of more than 50 years recently passed away. Friends, family and students – past and present – lined the route with signs showing their love and appreciation. During the procession, the driver’s daughter sat in the lead car with the windows down, waving to those who came to show their support.
Hugs from Home
Through the Hugs from Home program, family and friends of the deceased submit messages for the family directly to the funeral home, either through an online submission form or in an email to the funeral director or office manager. The funeral home will handwrite the messages, tie them to balloon weights and place the balloons throughout their chapel so the family can see the support of their friends and relatives, even though only a few of them can attend the service in person. This is a powerful visual to show support for the family. Milner and Orr Funeral Home in Paducah, Kentucky, recently shared this on their website: “These balloons will fill our chapel as hugs for the families. They will be able to read your heartfelt messages and hopefully know that many others are there with them in spirit.”
What are some creative ways you have helped friends and family show support for those who have lost loved ones? Share your ideas in the comments below.