Funerals in a Time of Quarantine

Just yesterday I saw something I’ve never seen before at a funeral for a young mom and her daughter, killed together in a car accident. Over a thousand people wanted to attend their service but the health precautions kept all but immediate family from attending the actual service. Hundreds of people gathered in pockets to webcast the service and line the streets of the procession. But they also did the most beautiful thing.

The pastor was deeply upset that the church would effectively be empty despite the tragedy and outpouring of love from the community. So, an idea came forward – “what if we fill the empty seats with yellow flowers?” Yellow was Rosa’s signature color. And so, each family that could not be present in the pews sent bouquets of yellow flowers to shine love in their place. The empty places were filled and a family was dearly loved in a visible and tangible way.

Funerals in a time of quarantine

Something this time of quarantine is teaching me is that we have instinctual urges to gather when in crisis. The idea of quarantine is hard and foreign because it goes against our human nature. When stress and anxiety hit we want to be together. It seems in this pandemic, the way we are “together” is by being united in our safety efforts which is lovely, but lonely.

If you are unfortunate enough to have not only lost a loved one recently, but to also be facing the many obstacles of orchestrating a normal funeral right now – I just want to say I am so sorry. You don’t need this extra stress – you have so much already. But, here you are and you need a plan, maybe some ideas.

First and foremost, I want to make it clear that you need to have this funeral. It will be up to you and your family about when and where and how – but please trust me when I say that you will not regret making this funeral happen.

The funeral event is a type of rite-of-passage for bereaved people. It’s not that it’s magical or you’re ok at the end – but it provides a transition point for our grief. The funeral is the point in time where we gather publicly to say “goodbye” and there is something to that that we see as a marker in the grief journey.

I am deeply concerned and saddened for families who may be deprived or cheated out of this opportunity due to the timing of the pandemic and quarantine precautions.

Do we postpone?

Funerals are times of compulsive gathering. But right now, invitations are extremely limited – if allowed at all (we are still allowing them, fyi). Some might suggest postponing, which isn’t a bad option, but there are several reasons that it might be more difficult to postpone than you think. A couple things to keep in mind if postponing:

  • SET A DATE.  Set a date in the future where the larger community can come together to remember your loved one. Having a date gives your mind a place to dwell in the future, something very important and helpful for moving yourself forward in the early grieving days. Additionally, we have seen repeatedly that families who discuss having services “later” but don’t have a date, generally never follow through.
  • Some funeral events are time-sensitive. In particular, viewing your loved one – something our staff and bereavement experts highly recommend. Having an open casket at a public ceremony will likely not be an option. But close family and friends can still have that special, limited gathering.
So, what should you do if you cannot have the funeral you were planning?

Below is a list of creative & practical suggestions about how to still have this powerful experience in a time of quarantine.

  • Webcast the service. We are offering this as a complimentary service to all of our families while the quarantine efforts are underway.
  • If you are attending a service via webcast, consider still dressing up for the service. Before hand, take time to light a candle and find a quiet place. Creating the appropriate atmosphere can help you feel the weight and importance of the funeral event even at a distance.
  • Send the family a physical card with a thought-out, personal note. Maybe even set up a time in the future where you could get together with them and share memories.
  • Post a comment or picture to the online memorial as a way of “signing the guestbook”
  • If you’re invited to a postponed funeral – GO. Don’t let the excuses get to you.
  • Fill the seats with flowers.

 

Wishing you all calm, safety and peace.

By | 2020-03-19T08:24:57-07:00 March 19th, 2020|General, Planning Ahead, Resources & Information|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Terese Henriks March 19, 2020 at 9:48 am - Reply

    Molly, thank you for this blog today. As a Funeral Arranger, I am on the front lines with grieving families. This coronavirus has absolutely changed the way we can gather together to bring comfort to each other. Your ideas about ways to still have an important ceremonial experience, even with only a few people physically present are insightful. With today’s technology, the idea of moving forward with the ceremony and participating via the webcast is very doable. I also think what you said about setting a future date is spot on. The families I have worked with in the past, who have not had any kind of ceremony seem to be the ones that return to us months later, looking for help for grief support. Ceremony, without a doubt, helps grieving families and friends move toward healing.

  2. Chuck Ricciardi March 19, 2020 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Molly, Thank you for your words and insight during these trying times for all. As you mentioned the power of coming together as a community is a very powerful and healing experience for any reason but especially in grief. I love the ideas, thoughts and concepts you put forward in your blog. Grieving families and people still need our help, even in the middle of this pandemic…maybe more now then ever.
    We are all here as dedicated professionals to help be creative with memorializing your loved one during this unique time. I can not be prouder of our team at O’Connors and our profession as a whole for being on the front lines while continuing to serve with dignity and grace. Thank you all and thank you Molly.

  3. Joanna Ramirez March 19, 2020 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    Molly,

    Thank you very much for writing such a wonderful blog. I have seen the power of a ceremony and how it brings families and the community together. I have witnessed groups of 10 to 300 and it is what is needed for those who have lost a loved one. Thank you again for your words. It was beautifully written.

  4. Joseph Pray March 20, 2020 at 2:51 am - Reply

    Molly
    Thank you

  5. Kathy L Dusart March 21, 2020 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    A white dove release can also be easily incorporated into the service. Baskets of doves can be set up outside during the service for the family to open and release afterwards.

  6. Brenda Atkinson March 21, 2020 at 1:27 pm - Reply

    Molly,

    Thank you for this article. We are doing some of the same. It is a very difficult time for the family. I am going to call those who want to do a service later just to ensure them that we are still here for them. These are difficult days that we are in and Thomas McAfee Funeral Homes wants the families to know they are not alone.

  7. Dave McComb March 24, 2020 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Molly well said. What a poverty it is to not be able to Personally share grief and mourning at a time it is needed the most. Our funeral professionals of this nation…my hat is off to you…thank you for what you do to serve your communities.

  8. Ruby Miller March 24, 2020 at 9:22 am - Reply

    Thank you, Molly

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