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How to say your best goodbye when social distancing

Man and woman sitting an a couch together reminiscing.

As lockdown eases and more people can now attend funerals, we're here to help and guide you through.

There are things you can do to say goodbye whether you can attend the funeral or not, and we’ve put together some ideas here.

Live stream the funeral

Many crematoriums may have the ability to live stream funeral services, so mourners that can’t physically be there on the day still get to pay their final respects. If this isn’t possible, there are also many video call apps available that could be used to help as many people as possible to virtually attend the funeral.

Our Funeral Director, David Eagle, did what he could to connect a family during their loved one's funeral. Sadly, the deceased's son was unable to get home from America to attend the funeral, so David made a video call to him while at the cemetery, allowing him to be a part of the service.

This was also the case for Funeral Director, Leisha Hodgson, from our funeral home in Hartlepool. For the members of the family who couldn't attend on the day, she live streamed the funeral from her phone and also used the hearse to play music in the cemetery.

Funeral Director Live Streaming a Funeral

Another family in our care had the lovely idea to place a photo of each of their loved ones on chairs in the crematorium, then live streamed the service so family could feel they were part of the day.

Photos on seats - unique tribute

Hold an online ceremony

If you don't like the idea of live streaming the funeral, or you're having an unattended service like a direct cremation, then an online ceremony could be the right option for you. An online ceremony is where family and friends come together over a video conference call to celebrate the life of their loved one, and they can be guided through this by a funeral celebrant. The celebrant will be able to help put together the service along with readings and music that were important to your loved one, and will lead the ceremony, much like they would in a traditional funeral.

Read out messages from friends and family

During a funeral, a eulogy is usually read out for everyone in attendance to hear. Eulogies are speeches that help everyone remember their loved one and can include stories of the person’s life and people who were important to them.

Because of restrictions on how many people can attend a funeral, the eulogy could be used as a way to bring people together by asking those that can’t attend to leave a message or story to be read out. So rather than one eulogy, there could be many more, giving those in attendance more support and love from absent family and friends. These messages could then be kept together and turned into a book of remembrance to be shared later, or even shared on social media.

Writing

Coffin keepsakes

The idea of putting items inside coffins is not a new one, with many people requesting to have items such as photographs and jewellery placed into their coffin with them. So, when people are unable to physically attend a loved one’s funeral, they could still say their goodbyes by giving something to be placed in the coffin.

The possibilities are endless, but this could be letters, photographs, handprints, or even something that had special meaning between you and the person who has died.

Our Funeral Arranger, Bridgette Perks, told us of a funeral where one family member requested a cheque for £10 be placed inside their loved one's coffin, as they had a long-running private joke it had never been paid back!

Also, our funeral home in Kingsteignton told us a touching story where family members sent photos and paintings of their handprints to be fixed onto the outside of their loved one's coffin. A wonderful and poignant tribute.

Handprints on coffin Image

Putting items inside of a coffin isn't the only possible option. One man made the rather unusual request that a giant pork pie be placed on top of his coffin at his funeral. He mentioned it to funeral arranger, Claire Firbank, when taking out a funeral plan and she made sure to make his final request a reality when the time came.

Pork pie unique tribute

Online tributes

Now more than ever, people are turning to online channels to help them stay connected, so when a loved one has died it could be really helpful to have a way to allow people to send online tributes that can be seen by family and friends.

There's lots of ways to create a lasting online tribute or memorial for your loved one. Families can request that social media accounts are permanently deleted when a loved one dies, but some decide to keep the accounts open, and family and friends are still able to post messages - these can be messages of condolence for the family, or maybe just sharing memories of the person who has died.

For those who want a more official memorial page, there are websites that enable users to set up an online space for family and friends to leave messages, remember their loved one with stories and photos, and to fundraise in their memory. We have partnered with the online tribute charity, MuchLoved, to offer all the families in our care a free online tribute page for their loved one. Find out more about our online tribute service.

Online tributes page

Light a candle or play a favourite song

For most people, a funeral is a necessary part of the grieving process, and so understandably it will be very upsetting for those who can’t attend. It may help those who can’t be at the funeral to feel as if they are part of the service in some way. Maybe you could ask them to light a candle at a certain time of the day, or when the funeral is taking place. Alternatively, you could ask them to play your loved one’s favourite song.

Candle image

Share the order of service

In some cases it could be possible for the order of service to be shared with family and friends via email. This could then be read at the time of the service in their own homes, helping everyone to be a part of the funeral.

Connect on social media

On the day of the funeral, ask family and friends who can’t be at the funeral to post to social media in your loved one’s honour. You could ask everyone to take photos wearing a favourite colour or something else that would have special meaning for your loved one.

Using social media to say someone has died is becoming increasingly popular, but many still feel it can be inappropriate, especially without the family’s permission. By asking your friends and family to come together this way, you are giving them permission to celebrate your loved one on social media and helping them to come together when they can’t physically be together at the funeral.

Plan to have a memorial service once the restrictions have been lifted

The tips above might not be for you, and that’s okay. Or even if you do one or more of them you may still feel like you need the traditional goodbye. Funerals and funeral services are an important part of the grieving process and so, while it won’t be what you originally planned, you could plan to have a memorial service once the restrictions on social distancing have been lifted.

Group celebration of life

If you would like to discuss any of these ideas or have any ideas of your own for a loved one’s funeral, please speak with your local funeral home who will be happy to help guide you through.