Conducting memorial services during COVID-19: tips for how to make meaningful connection

In the best of times planning and officiating at funerals and memorials can be both very challenging and rewarding. In these times of Stay-At-Home and Do-Not-Gather orders the challenges and opportunities abound. The following suggestions and resources are offered as an invitation to consider how we can best support those in our our congregations and communities, who are grieving the loss of loved ones, during these especially difficult times. The following are recommended resources from Rev. Marshall Wattman-Turner, Abundant Health Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference and trained chaplain. Your comments and suggestions are welcome: marshall@umoi.org.

  • Find Out Who Will Be Involved in Making Decisions regarding Funeral / Memorial Arrangements. If several people will be involved or need to be consulted, it may help you to identify a primary point of contact.
  • If your congregation is already set up for online worship, consider how these resources might be adapted to livestream or record and distribute a Memorial Service.
  • You Don’t Need to Try and Re-Invent the Wheel The United Methodist General Board of Discipleship provides a wealth of resources related to COVID-19 and Funeral & Memorial Services:
  • Consider A Virtual Wake to provide an opportunity for sharing memories in whatever manner works best for those involved. It could be a live event via telephone or online, or an invitation could be extended to share personal remembrances over an extended period by mail, email, or online. If you are uncertain about how to proceed, ask your local Funeral Home / Mortuary for guidance or assistance. Reminiscing together can be framed by Scripture or Prayer.
  • Consider the use of social media and its practical implications for a memorial service.
  • The National Funeral Director’s Association (NFDA) includes several resources including: When a Loved One Dies During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Ways to practice self-care while grieving 

  • Write a letter about your loved one and memories you have, make copies and mail them out to friends and family. Invite them to reply to you with memories of their own.
  • Reach out to family and friends by phone. They’ll enjoy hearing from you and it’s an opportunity for you to share a memory of your loved one and for them to do the same.
  • Keep a journal. As you are inspired to do so, write about memories of your loved one and how you are feeling about your grief. Share those memories with others as you are comfortable in doing so.
  • Make self-care a priority

A Memorial Service can be Postponed.  Grief Can Not.

  • Amidst the shattering of life, as you’ve known it, grief is more than “just a feeling” It encompasses our whole being: Body, Mind, Heart, and Spirit. Grief may involve dozens of feelings—sometimes contradictory feelings—that are a response to losing someone you love. Because grief is such a complex experience that is different for every person, it is important to find support and take good care of your emotional and physical needs. While grief is a normal, natural, and fully human response to loss, it can be cumulative and complicated, when denied or delayed.
  • Learn More About the Journey of Grief from the Center For Loss and Transition.
  • ACES Connections gathers resources for Trauma-Informed Care. Daren Casagrande is a Mental Health Therapist in Davis, Calif., where the first case of COVID-19 in California was identified. His recommendations include some Best Practices For Conducting Sessions Online.

Comment

  • Thank you for wise words and direction.
    We could all reinvent the wheel but it is nice not having to.
    Lynne Whelan Ellensburg UMC

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