Loss in the age of the pandemic has been especially challenging for families across the world. For months, people have been unable to spend time with family that lives outside their home or across states or cities, or even countries. During periods of loss, many have struggled with the issue of not being able to bring family and friends together to celebrate the life and mourn the death of someone that so many cared for.
One of the ways people found to adapt to the new difficulties of being together was by having and hosting online memorials. Online memorials are a beautiful way to allow people to come together virtually to share their memories and express condolences during periods of loss. They also provide an opportunity to bridge the gap of distance, allowing even more people to memorialize someone no matter how far away they live.
Grief can make the decision and planning process more challenging. Things are already emotional, that trying to manage, organize, and plan might inhibit one’s ability to properly mourn their loss. This article will help sort through some of the necessities to organize an online memorial for your loved one to give you the closure and peace you need.
Start the process by deciding on a platform.
Think of this as the "venue" for your virtual memorial. It allows you to bring together people, no matter their location, into one space together, all in real-time. There are also a lot of different options depending on what platform suits your needs and offers what you want from the service. Here are a few options:
- Zoom:Zoom became quite the standard for live, face-to-face meetings and events via a digital platform in the past year. Classes and meetings for corporations everywhere started using it because it allows multiple people to share face time and includes mute features, waiting rooms, and comments. It's a great option for hosting a ceremony or memorial. You can create a meeting and send the invite link out to whomever. There are limitations to the number of people who can join based on whether you have a subscription or free version.
- Skype:Similar to Zoom, Skype also allows for multiple people to meet at the same time. It requires a subscription but allows for people to stream the ceremony from their phone or as a phone call.
- Instagram:Instagram has a Live feature that will allow you to live-stream a ceremony. You aren't limited to time or people invited, and it allows them an opportunity to watch from home. They can also respond by commenting during the live stream, and people can carry a dialogue in the comments.
- Facebook:Like Instagram, Facebook also has a Live feature. You can stream the ceremony live while allowing viewers to interact with emoji responses and comments. It also means you aren’t limited to a certain number of people or a time frame, but doesn’t give the face-to-face of Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet.
- Google Meet:Google Meet is a feature of the Google Drive platform. If you have a Gmail account or want to make one, you can have access to scheduling a virtual meeting through Google Meet. On the plus side, it allows up to 49 people to join and allows you to see up to 16 screens at the same time. You can make yourself the host and send the link out to family and friends who want to attend.
Regardless of which platform you chose, it might be helpful to do a trial run with a few family members so you know how to start the meeting and work through any potential kinks. This will help you have a smooth memorial. It can also help alleviate some of the stresses of technical difficulties or issues.
In addition to these more recognized platforms, there are also websites and companies that offer services specifically for hosting a virtual memorial. There are quite a few of them online, so you can always conduct a search to find the right one. Many of them charge a fee but may make it easier to host your memorial.
Select a date and time and send out invites.
Once you decide on a date and time that works for you to host the memorial, you can send invites out in a variety of ways. Some options include:
- Email:You can type up a basic message and include the link for people to attend the live stream ceremony. You may want to use a picture or two in the email and include a favorite quote or song lyric of your loved one in the invite. You can also create digital evites to send out to people’s emails, which are customizable templates that make it easy and stress-free.
- Print-Outs:If you’re looking to keep some aspects of the funeral or ceremony more traditional, you can also purchase printed invites, complete with a beautiful design and message to send the information out to family and friends in the mail.
Plan out the service and what you want to include.
This is best when done with other family members, or at least by consulting with someone else who is close to the family. How do you want your loved one to be remembered? What do you want to include in the virtual memorial? Consider it as a list of first, next, then, and finally, to help you generate a schedule for what you want to have included for the duration of the live stream or meeting.
Here are some considerations for when you’re developing the service:
- Music or special excerpts:You can open and close the ceremony with your loved one’s favorite song or a gentle hymn to welcome your family and friends to the event. This can help fill the first few minutes when people are getting settled and started as you accept them into the Zoom room or set the audio/video settings on their computer and the like.
- Opening prayer:You may want to start the ceremony with a special prayer or even just opening words to welcome everyone into the space.
- Life story or eulogy:As a family, decide who will be giving the eulogy and what they might want to cover. You can simply tell the life and story of your loved one to remind everyone of their journey in life.
- Excerpt readings:Readings of small excerpts from literature, speeches, bibles, or anything that might relate to your loved one can be included to help memorialize them.
- Personal memories and reflections:You can allot time for some of the closest family members and friends to write and recite stories about their favorite moments and memories with the deceased.
- Images and slide shows:Family and friends can collect and share photographs in advance of the loved one. You can easily generate slideshows for free with different apps and programs online and attach special songs as well.
Decide where you want to host from.
If you’re hosting a virtual memorial ceremony, you'll still want to consider where you're having the celebration and what will be on the screen along with you. It's important to think about what you might want in the background while you host.
Some families choose to have the ceremony at a traditional memorial or funeral home, which makes the setup a little bit easier. However, here are some things to consider when hosting the virtual memorial from home:
- Flowers:Flowers can be a beautiful way to represent the life and spirit of a loved one. Having a flower arrangement behind you or as part of the setting can add an element of life, color, and tradition to a ceremony.
- Cremation Urn: A beautiful and decorative cremation urn not only serves as the final resting place for your loved one but is a symbolic representation of their transition from life. Often, families will place special care in selecting the perfect urn for their family member, and it will provide symbolic importance for years. Having it in the frame of your ceremony can be quite powerful.
- Photograph: Either a collage or a portrait in the form of how so many friends and family remember a loved one is perfect for including as part of the framing of your ceremony.
- Background: While there’s not really a right or wrong when it comes to your background, it is something many want to consider. If you’re setting up your streaming station from home, consider what the wall or space behind you might suggest or distract from. Find a neutral or special background to frame your ceremony, like a blank wall or bookshelf. You can even use a sheet set up to frame the background and prevent distractions.
Set up a virtual memorial page.
If you plan to host a virtual memorial, using platforms like Zoom, Google, Facebook Live, or Instagram Live allow your guests to leave messages and comments in real-time. However, once the meeting ends, those messages are lost forever.
Many families choose to set up a virtual memorial site that allows individuals to post personal messages, memories, or stories to a page that is saved in memoriam of the deceased. It remains available for them to read for years and is a beautiful way to allow remembrances years from now. This can be done with a Facebook page, which can be turned into a memorial page by a family member. It can also be done on a formal site created for the purpose of remembrance messages. You can link it at the end of the ceremony or in the original invite, so guests have access to leave a lasting message.
The planning process can be intense when you've experienced the loss of a loved one. If you're looking for other supports to help with the planning and preparation that typically comes with experiencing loss, you're not alone. There are resources to help families and individuals maneuver these difficult times. Take advantage of those resources, like EverLoved, to find out about what help you can find. Know that there is help out there, and you’re not alone in the process.