Grief Rituals that Overcome COVID Limitations

“The Covid-19 virus does not stop grief. It is our honor and duty to still provide our client families with personalized services during this time.” – Renee Townsel, Funeral Director at Tharp Funeral Home

Healthy grief cycles are tied to healthy funeral rituals. Remembering the person who died, accepting the reality of death, and receiving love and support from others are all part of a grief cycle that leads to healing for those who are left behind. The human need to mourn is met by funeral rituals because they provide a time and a place for us to go through different stages of grief.

But with COVID-19 limitations, our social rituals have had to change and so have traditional funerals. From group sizes to service locations and physical contact, there are many factors to consider when planning for funeral and memorial services.

Here are a few of the ways the coronavirus pandemic has affected our grief rituals:

  • Limited group sizes
  • Postponed or canceled services
  • Services limited to the immediate family
  • Added grief or anxiety around immediate planning
  • Limited hugging and physical contact

But despite the limitations, families that have faced loss are choosing new and different ways to mourn that can ultimately lead to healing.

People who are facing loss need to experience support from others, and they also need a way to reflect and celebrate their loved one’s life:

  1. Remembering the person who died
  2. Receiving love and support from others
  3. Making an emotional connection with a loved one
  4. Reflecting on and celebrating their life

Has COVID Changed our Grief Rituals?

Just as each person, each relationship and each circumstance are different – not everyone’s grief rituals look the same. While some families want to say goodbye with an open casket, some want to scatter the body’s cremains in a way that was meaningful to their memory.

Grief rituals can be as special as the honor and love you feel for your loved one and as unique as the life that they lived. From live-streamed indoor services to drive-thru casket viewings, there is no lack of creative and personalized options for funeral and memorial services.

Here are a handful of alternative service ideas that other families have used since COVID has impacted our’ ability to be together in the traditional funeral setting:

  • Live streaming or recorded services
  • “Parking lot” services through FM transmitters
  • Drive by and drive through funeral processions and viewings
  • Alternative Outdoor gatherings
  • Virtual Visitations
  • Connecting Families Virtually

Read more: Covid-19 Funerals: guidance for individuals and families

For many families, technology has been the silver living that opened the door to many new opportunities to connect virtually from anywhere – even from the safety of our own homes. Families are celebrating life right ceremonies like birthdays, anniversaries – and even funerals – through live group meetings on Zoom or BlueJeans apps. Services all over the world are being broadcast live on Facebook, Vimeo, and being permanently stored on the web for later viewing.

Opportunities to connect are greater than they ever have been, even if it looks and feels different than before. Families should consider taking advantage of technology to celebrate the life of those who have passed and help each other through the healing journey.

Sharing through Virtual Tributes

Virtual opportunities give us the ability to share photos, recordings and videos of our loved ones, creating everlasting tributes of their lives. Here are some places that other families have taken advantage of technology to create virtual tributes:

  • Guestbooks on online obituaries
  • Facebook accounts that have been memorialized
  • Virtual services and viewings

Are these Changes to Grief Rituals Permanent?

Although grief rituals may not be what they once were, it is important to remember why we have them: to recognize and celebrate life, and ultimately to begin healing. And although some of our traditions may have changed and evolved permanently, the experience can be deeply meaningful and unforgettable.

Tharp Funeral Home Helps Families Grieve

At Tharp Funeral Home, our mission is to help families with the healing cycle through funeral and celebration arrangements. For help on understanding grief rituals and COVID limitations, please schedule a meeting with a director here, or call us at 434-237-9424. We serve Central Virginia families in and around Lynchburg, Bedford, and Roanoke.

Photo credited to Tharp Funeral Home outdoor service that used an FM transmitter