The Rise of Virtual Memorial Services and Why You Should Consider One
During the height of the pandemic, many municipalities limited the number of people that could gather and how they could publicly grieve in community when a loved one passed on. Families moved to online memorials to celebrate and honor the lives of the deceased.
With the changes that the world has seen with the pandemic, the act of honoring a loved one's memory with a virtual memorial service continues to grow in popularity.
Here are some ideas on how to host a virtual memorial service:
Live-Streamed Traditional Service
Initially, virtual memorial services meant broadcasting a traditional service. However, as funeral homes and places of worship were under local restrictions regarding gathering indoors, the only people in attendance were the celebrant and very close family members who were subject to distancing requirements.
These services were broadcast using personal devices such as live streaming to Facebook. For those who had access to more sophisticated technology, a professional camera set up that would stream to the funeral home or church website.
At the time of this writing, many municipal restrictions regarding gatherings have been lifted, but live-stream virtual memorial services continue to be popular.
It allows people who might be medically fragile and wary of attending an in-person event the opportunity to view the service. Similarly, friends or family members of the deceased who cannot travel for an in-person celebration can observe services from any place with sufficient internet connectivity.
Work with the host location if you find yourself looking to plan a virtual memorial service by live-streaming the event. Many funeral homes and places of worship have upgraded their video services during the pandemic and can easily accommodate your request.
What do you include in your online service?
If you choose to live stream a traditional service, we suggest opening the live-stream five minutes before the celebration formally begins.
This allows your virtual guests an opportunity to ensure that they have accessed the memorial service and that they are in the right place. In addition, you might encourage the celebrant to acknowledge your virtual guests during the celebration so that those attending online feel welcomed and acknowledged in their grief as they tune in to pay tribute to the deceased. If you opt to host a virtual memorial service that is NOT simply a live stream of a traditional celebration, the doors are wide open to customizing the experience.
Indeed, a "proper memorial service" is conducted in a manner that honors and celebrates your loved one's life. Therefore, a "proper online memorial service" can include almost anything that will honor your loved one's interests and life.
Commonly a memorial service (whether virtual or not) will have these components:
Welcome to the guests that have gathered online to celebrate the life of the deceased
A reading from a meaningful text, whether a religious book like the Bible, a sonnet written by Shakespeare, or iconic quotes from Capt. James T. Kirk from Star Trek.
Eulogy of the deceased
Closing statements and information about internment
Frequently, there will be music at various points during the service.
If you choose to host an online memorial service that is NOT a live stream of a traditional service, you have ultimate flexibility; there are no rules on how to "do it right" to honor your loved one.
If they loved Star Trek, invite guests to attend in character. If they were an avid football fan, tailgate online before the next big game. No matter how you structure the service or what's included, as long as you've created a personal, intimate, and impactful moment for the deceased's family and friends, you've hosted a winning virtual memorial service.
What tech do you need to host a virtual memorial service?
If you are working with an event location such as a funeral home or place of worship, defer to their tech team as to what they are most comfortable using. Chances are, they will already have the infrastructure ready to support an online memorial service.
If you are going to DIY the service, you will need an audio and visual recording device that connects to the internet. It could be something as simple as sharing a zoom link from your phone or accessing a studio for professional broadcast.
Technology is the backbone of your online virtual memorial service, so make sure you take time to understand both the hardware and software requirements, as well as the internet speeds required to support your event.
Keep in mind if you will be inviting more than one person to present, you'll need to ensure that all presenters have sufficient online capacity to participate.
How do you let people know about a virtual memorial service?
Frequently, memorial details are published in an obituary. If you are worried about interlopers crashing your online event, it's prudent to restrict access via password for guests. To expand your reach, you might consider sharing details about the virtual memorial service to your loved one's friends and family via social media. Simply include the access link and invite those to share the link with others who connected with the deceased who might like to attend the celebration.
Offering a virtual memorial service can be a massive blessing to family and friends that mourn the loss of a loved one and want to pay their respect, but due to travel restrictions or other commitments, they cannot attend in person.
Finally, virtual memorial services remove the capacity constraint of any physical building. You might be surprised at how many people were impacted by the deceased's life and welcome the opportunity to pay their respects online.
Those who want to host a virtual memorial service that properly celebrates the deceased's life might mean a non-traditional burial method with a virtual watch or reflection.
For example, if your late loved one was a space enthusiast or scientist, Celestis will send your loved one's remains out to the great beyond with a viewing of the rocket's takeoff. They also offer online viewings, which is something you could include in your virtual memorial service.
Making an online memorial service a bit more personal can feel daunting because you will be in community but physically apart from others as you grieve. We encourage you to personalize the remembrance by inviting your guests to share a special memory in the chat, dress in the deceased favorite color, or join with their drink of choice to toast a life well lived. Engagement with your virtual audience will help bridge the gap between online and in-person memorial services.
Remember, if you craft a service that honors the deceased and helps you and others in their healing process, then you've hosted a memorial service that's done its job.