For some religions, there can be no delay in the funeral. So, how do we move forward and adapt to this new world of cornavirus lock-down with the need to gather? And where there are no existing directives for some aspects of a funeral service when it comes to times like these?
“This is a whole new terrain,” said Amy Cunningham, a Brooklyn-based funeral director who runs Fitting Tribute Funeral Services. “It leaves the family with few choices, one being to just sign authorization forms and give your permission to have a body cremated with no service,” Cunningham said.
Depending on denominational leadership, many churches have ceased indoor funeral services until further notice — the same for funeral homes who are in an industry with no regulatory association. As for the houses of worship and funeral homes who feel that they must service their community, policies from funeral homes and houses of worship fluctuate widely. Some churches and funeral homes are capped at 250 attendees while others at 50. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has urged people to avoid groups of 10 or more to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The CDC offered guidance to the National Funeral Directors Association about alternatives, as funeral homes try to protect their workers, and the public. “As you think about planning for the event, limit the number of people if possible, use live-streaming options and perhaps have only immediate family on hand. Additionally, promoting social distancing at the event, regardless of size, and promoting hand hygiene as well is also important,” David Berendes, an environmental epidemiologist with the CDC, said during a recent webinar to the association.
When someone dies, 'human contact gives funerals meaning, says Meghan O'Rourke, author, of her memoir, "The Long Goodbye." We as humans, need human contact in times of loss and need to reach out to each other after a death. As a culture and for some with faith, the need to gather immediately after death, hug, show our support to the bereaved, and share stories is very real. It's a hard-wired part of our grieving process to "be in community" and gain some closure together. "There's a lot we can numb ourselves to in order to survive. But I'm not sure we can numb ourselves to the idea that we can no longer come together for funeral rites — behavior that defines us as human." Ms O'Rourke said. (credit to a recent Washington Post article on mourning alone).
We still have to gather somehow, even in the wake of Covid-19. And our only way to do that for now, and what could be for a very long time, is to leverage technology. Lianna Champ, a grief counselor and funeral director based in the UK, anticipates that “the way we grieve is going to be completely changed because of the coronavirus. We have to have a process of closure, of rituals, especially when we’re grieving - it requires an intimacy with those we share our lives with and those we love,” she told the BBC.
“But I think physical distance from the actual funeral service could actually become quite normal for us moving forward. We’ve got to adjust to this new way of thinking and being. The world has changed, society has changed - and we need to realize that when something like the coronavirus hits the world, we need to change not just our everyday lives, but how we die as well.”
If you’re grieving and unable to attend a loved one’s funeral in person, Ms Champ recommended that you “reach out to people and be honest in your communication, in sharing with people how you feel.”
It became very apparent to me that Inremember was the perfect conduit to fill this need. It's who we are and what we do in our service to families of all faith (or no faith). Inremember and its parent company, Potomac Talent, have always been very strong on video and event technology. So it only took a couple of days for us to do a quick pivot by acquiring additional equipment and coming up with a safety protocol to add streaming to our portfolio of related funeral services.
With the Covid-19 restrictions set forth on gatherings in the Greater Washington,DC, and Baltimore Area, at the same time many families have no choice but to have a small services or gathering to be compliant to limit the initial gathering. Right now, we're figuring that using ten people in a room as a maximum is a good and safe number. That would include immediate family members, a faith leader, clergy, or officiate to lead, and perhaps a musician to gather into prayer. The essential parts of tradition and rituals.
From this starting point, we've designed a package that would work in just about every scenario from a funeral home to a church. From there, we can stream to any platform, social media network, or website for the extended family, friends, and colleagues to view in real-time to also honor all the essential parts of the ritual depending on your faith, traditions, or new rituals.
The next level could be to have family and friends record their remembrances on Skype or Zoom. Like a collage, we can knit or edit both that session/event with the first one (the initial private family funeral for rites) for a deliverable artifact that lives on the cloud. While we're at it, we can include digitized photos, newspaper clippings, obits, poems, and favorite music. Inremember has been providing this service for Celebrations of Life memorials for the past few years.
And on the topic of Celebrations, until Covid-19 is safely in our rear-view mirror, there will come a day again when we can all gather, hug, cry, share photos and swap stories. That will be the time to sit together and have a community meal. This is a new universe and we're all making adjustments.
“The families decided to slash and postpone the big-service invites and make what’s happening now private. Considering everything going on, it’s not a bad idea,” said Walker Posey, a fourth-generation funeral director at Posey Funeral Directors in North Augusta, S.C. “You get a chance to grieve a death and then have a positive gathering months later, when things slow down, to remember your loved one.”
Inremember, a division of Potomac Talent, LLC (since 1997) is a funeral event planning company that helps families create one-of-a-kind life celebrations that can happen anywhere, any time, before or after death. We are currently using robotic cameras to minimize social contact for our technical staff and families. This allows more family members to be present in the shared space. All video is pristine 4K. Audio is also captured by professional archival grade 'boundary microphones.' Safety, quality of audio and video, mindfulness for those who are in mourning, stricken with grief, and respect for holy places and spaces, is our prime focus. We're here to guide and assist.
Contact Eric Cathcart, Founder and Director of www.inremember.com or call 301-587-6267 for immediate need or questions.