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online memorials for deceased child

Published on November 18, 2020

When someone dear to us dies, arranging for the funeral service or memorial service can be a difficult task, even overwhelming. And if you are unable to arrange an in-person service, the process can seem even more complicated.

It is good to know that virtual services are quite common these days, especially with the Coronavirus limiting the amount of physical contact we can have with our loved ones. Virtual services can be tasteful and dignified if done with careful thought. Thanks to video conferencing services and digital tools, a virtual service allows family members and friends to be present for the occasion, even when they cannot physically be together. These services also make it possible for those that are unable to travel to join and have proven to provide tremendous comfort at a time when it is greatly needed.

One of the most popular platforms for hosting virtual services is Zoom. Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local, desktop client and a mobile app that allows people to meet online, with or without video. It has been adopted and is in use by schools, workplaces, professional and social organizations, and is now being used for funeral and memorial services. The great thing about Zoom is that it allows multiple people to join the same video and audio call, thereby promoting a sense of togetherness and community. Easy-to-use tools allow for effective call management and security. Because of its popularity, most people are already familiar with it, which makes it a great option for conducting virtual funeral or memorial services.

 

Funeral or Memorial Service

First, it is important to clarify the distinction between funeral and a memorial service. A funeral service is a service held to memorialize a deceased person with their body present. A memorial service is a service held to memorialize a deceased person with their body not present. As such, funeral services are generally held at a chapel, church, synagogue, or other religious venue. A memorial service may also be held at a religious venue, but may also be held in a person’s home, or any other location that is suitable. Zoom can be used but will require careful planning.

 

How to Plan a Funeral Service on Zoom

Planning a funeral service on Zoom includes many of the same steps involved in planning a typical funeral. With any funeral service, these steps include, but are not limited to, the following.

  • Selecting a funeral home or other venue
  • Choosing an available date and time
  • Identifying a host
  • Identifying an officiant
  • Inviting guests
  • Deciding on other program elements
    • Reading of the obituary or biography
    • Musical interludes or songs
    • Readings of scriptures or poems
    • Speeches and tributes by family members and friends
    • Concluding prayer
    • Determine if a burial or internment ceremony will be included

If Zoom will be used, careful planning will be needed to determine which elements will be featured online and which will only be provided for those that attend in person. Typically, any elements that will be conducted within the funeral home may be appropriate for Zoom.

When COVID-19 restrictions are in place, there will be limitations to how many people can attend in person, and difficult decisions will need to be made. Although the nature of the occasion will make it hard, it will be important to maintain physical distancing. It will be important for the host or officiant to emphasize the importance of wearing face masks and honoring social distancing guidelines. Tactful reminders should be made. It would be thoughtful to have a few extra face masks on hand for anyone that forgets to bring their own and provide hand sanitizer.

There are several other things you need to do to ensure that a virtual funeral service is glitch free.

 

Find the Right Funeral Home or Venue

The first step you need to take when planning a virtual funeral service is to determine which funeral home or venue to use. It is possible that the funeral location will have already been selected and therefore you will need to determine if it can support a virtual service. Nowadays most funeral homes are familiar with the concept of virtual funerals and are equipped with some or all the equipment that you may need. They may also be able to handle these arrangements for you, which would greatly simplify matters.

If you decide to host a virtual funeral for your loved one, be careful to choose a venue that will provide the following or confirm that the designated location has the following.

  • A strong internet or Wi-Fi connection
  • Good lighting
  • Adequate computer laptop setup location with good webcam and microphone capability. A live test prior to the service day should be conducted. The live test should check for camera positioning, lighting, sound, and strength of the Wi-Fi connection.
  • Technical hookups such as electrical outlets, cords, and extension cables should also be verified. Ensure that steps are taken to eliminate trip hazards.

It may be necessary to position a Zoom support person adjacent to the podium to troubleshoot any issues that come up during the service. Conducting a live test will go a long way in eliminating problems on the day of the service. Setting up well in advance to the service will also be vital.

 

Consider a Funeral Planning Service

As you can see from the above information, there are several steps involved in conducting a virtual funeral service. To help, there are several funeral planning services that also provide all that is needed to host a virtual service. Some if these services can handle setup, technical support, day-of-the service coordination, sending virtual thank-you notes, and more. Furthermore, some funeral planning services that support virtual services allow you to choose between virtual-only and hybrid (virtual and in-person) funerals, thus giving you more flexibility and convenience.

 

How to Plan a Memorial Service on Zoom

If you are conducting a virtual memorial service, you will encounter fewer complexities and will have more options. Since your deceased loved one will not be present, the service may allow close family members to come together and others can attend online. The venue can be at a family member’s home. But several of the steps mentioned above will still be necessary to consider. These steps include, but are not limited to, the following.

  • Selecting the location
  • Choosing an available date and time
  • Identifying a host
  • Identifying an officiant
  • Inviting guests
  • Deciding on other program elements
    • Reading of the obituary or biography
    • Musical interludes or songs
    • Readings of scriptures or poems
    • Speeches and tributes by family members and friends
    • Concluding prayer
  • A virtual memorial service will allow time for online association following the service. These activities can be very upbuilding to grieving family members. Be certain that the Zoom plan selected will allow adequate time.

As with a virtual funeral service, a virtual memorial will need to provide the following.

  • A strong internet or Wi-Fi connection
  • Good lighting
  • Adequate computer location with good webcam and microphone capability. A live test prior to the service day should be conducted. The live test should check for camera positioning, lighting, sound, and strength of the Wi-Fi connection.
  • Technical hookups such as electrical outlets, cords, and extension cables should also be verified.

It may be necessary to position a Zoom support person to troubleshoot any issues that come up during the service. Conducting a live test will go a long way in eliminating problems on the day of the service. Setting up well in advance to the service will also be vital.

 

Choose the Right Zoom Plan 

Zoom (Zoom.us) offers both free and paid plans, which means you will only have to pay for what you need. The type of plan that you opt for largely depends on the kind of service you want to have as well as the number of guests you anticipate will attend.

A free plan allows you to have a virtual meeting with three or more participants for up to 40 minutes. 40 minutes is likely not sufficient for an online service. For longer periods of time and many guests, you can choose one of the paid options including.

  • Pro - This plan can host meetings with up to 1000 participants for an unlimited amount of time. Fees vary based on various criteria, including the number of desired participants.
  • Webinar - Plans range from 100 to 10,000 view-only attendees with chat features and live streaming
  • Business - Offers customized URLs, emails, dashboards, and more

Under most circumstances, a Pro account is all that is needed. If more than 100 separate connections are anticipated, which would likely be rare, an additional fee can be paid to admit up to 500 separate connections. Note that this is not the number of attendees. These are separate connections.

 

Inviting Guests

Since you are planning a virtual funeral, you will need to send digital invitations rather than physical cards as you would with a traditional funeral. Zoom allows you to create a meeting time for the service you are planning and generate a specific link for this event, which you can then send to your guests. 

Be sure to select the appropriate options, such as silencing attendees as they join and or having attendees go to a Waiting Room prior to admission to the service. It will be important to monitor the Waiting Room and admit guests as they arrive. A co-host can be designated in Zoom to assist with these functions from a separate computer or separate location.

 

Attending a Service on Zoom

If you are attending a virtual funeral on Zoom as a guest, all you need is a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer with an internet connection. Make sure you have the Zoom app on the device you intend to use for the service. However, if you are meant to give a speech, eulogy, or have other participation during the service, it would be wise to ensure that your device has a good webcam and microphone so that you can have better correspondence with guests during the service. Pay attention to the background and ensure that it is dignified and that no bloopers take place during the service.

 

Attire for a Service on Zoom

It is important to carefully consider your attire when attending a virtual funeral or memorial service, as you would with an in-person service. While your attire won’t be as strict as it would be if you were attending in-person, you should try to keep your dressing traditional and neutral as a sign of respect and to avoid becoming a distraction to guests. 

 

A Final Word

Virtual funerals and memorials are undoubtedly a relatively new phenomenon in the digital landscape that we currently occupy. However, with more of these services taking place, they are going to be more popular in the coming years. While a virtual meeting cannot fully replace the physical connection, platforms like Zoom make it possible for family members and friends to come together and support each other regardless of the barriers of distance.

If you are planning to host a virtual funeral or memorial service or attend one, we sincerely hope that these guidelines and tips will help you to have an upbuilding service that serves as a source of strength to you, your family and loved ones, and helps you celebrate the memory of your loved one.

Published on November 18, 2020