The coronavirus pandemic has extended virtual memorial services and remote funerals with the aim of allowing family and friends to share the pain of death in a close way, even if not physically. Although restrictions have been relaxed in many countries, the online funeral home is here to stay and the world’s leading funeral homes have already incorporated this option into their service portfolio.
What is a virtual memorial service?
The wake and funeral are essential rituals for people to come to terms with the loss of a loved one and to share their grief in society. According to most psychologists, such mourning is necessary to come to terms with death and its absence can lead to mental health problems. Restrictions on funeral homes and cemeteries during the coronavirus pandemic deprived many people of this possibility of a dignified farewell.
For this reason, virtual memorials, a kind of online condolence book where friends and family remember the deceased by posting comments and uploading photos or videos, have become widespread. In this way, they can honour the memory of the deceased and come to terms with the loss in company, even if not in the traditional physical way.
Many countries have now relaxed restrictions due to the pandemic, but like teleworking, virtual memorial services are here to stay. Many funeral homes have already incorporated this modality into their service portfolio due to its many benefits.
Advantages of a virtual memorial service
- The cost of offering a virtual memorial service is minimal for a funeral home.
- The management of the virtual memorial service is very simple and does not require any technical knowledge thanks to the many applications and platforms that exist (see below).
- It opens up participation to many more people who would otherwise not be able to express their affection for the deceased and their family.
- Due to migration flows, the virtual memorial service is perfect for organising a farewell service for those who die far from their home country, but wish to be buried in their host country.
- Offering and advertising this service can make the difference between your company and the rest of the competition.
How to host a virtual memorial service
There are many ways of organising a virtual wake depending on the tools you have, your financial resources and the degree of management you wish to take on.
Virtual memorial services through social networks
The most automatic and possibly the simplest form of virtual memorial sercive are social networks. All you need to do is choose a hashtag (for example: #AlexHarperRIP) that can be used by all those known to the deceased when posting a message, video or photograph on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram… The advantage is that it is an easy, free system that requires no management and can be accessed by anyone with an account on social networks. This is also its main disadvantage: everyone can participate in the wake without control or filtering of messages, something that may not be to the liking of the deceased’s family.
Virtual memorial services through your website
In the same way that you book a room in your own funeral home, you can open a page dedicated to the deceased on your own website. The advantage is that you have total control over what is published, who can participate, you can embed streaming videos, insert comments on social networks, modify the aesthetics of the page to customise it according to the wishes of the family… In addition, it will increase traffic to your website as all those visits count in your favour. The main disadvantage is that you will need one or more computer specialists dedicated to this task, which means an increase in costs.
Virtual memorial services through specialised apps
This is the best option for funeral homes that want a good service at an affordable cost. Here are some of the many funeral home startups that can revolutionise your business.
Eternify provides families with a personalised virtual wake for them to share and pay their tributes with images, videos and texts, all free of charge. It is a digital book of condolences that can be accessed through its website. It does not require a great deal of digital knowledge to operate. Once on the page, you enter an email address, the name of the deceased and a telephone number to create an administrator profile from which everything is managed. There is no need to download any application or specific software.
Mi Legado Digital
Mi Legado Digital is an InsurTech that has developed the Smart Will: the first platform with full legal validity, which uses blockchain, electronic time stamping and certified digital identification systems to collect the last will of the deceased and make inheritance management easier. It also offers a free digital wake service for families, consisting of a biography and a digital memorial book.
Tellmebye offers digital funeral products and services, will management and also a memorial wall for the deceased. It is aimed at individuals, funeral homes, insurers, non-profit organisations and support groups for people with illnesses.
The Divela.net website has the main function of “creating a wake” as well as “accessing” it as a guest. The system also makes it possible to leave written condolences in a kind of online signature book, which can then be downloaded to keep as a memento of the virtualised farewell.
Ever Loved is a funeral home startup that offers the necessary tools to organise a funeral in the United States. It allows you to compare funeral home providers and displays price lists. It also allows users to raise money quickly to cover funeral costs. Users can publish a free, collaborative obituary with others they know. The application can be linked to Facebook, which makes it easy to find contacts and organise or even broadcast the event online.
Planning a virtual memorial services
In addition to the virtual wake, some companies offer streaming services of the funeral or memorial service to make attendance easier for those unable to attend in person.
Live video streaming can be done through multiple platforms such as Ustream, Livestream, Twitch, YouTube, Dailymotion, among others. On a technical level, if you are thinking of installing the webcam on your computer with internet access, you should be aware that this is not a very professional method.
It is best to have a video camera that sends the signal to the computer and transmits it to the streaming provider. In addition, it is possible that a microphone will be used during the ceremony. In that case, you need to have a socket that allows you to capture the sound quality. For this reason, and taking into account that we are talking about a particularly emotional event for the family and friends of the deceased, it is preferable that you contact a professional.
In Spain there are already parishes that celebrate masses online, such as San Agustín in Valencia. Funeral homes and cemeteries in Madrid also offer the possibility of broadcasting funerals via videoconference.
Virtual memorial service ideas
Among the many services for organising an online or virtual wake is GatheringUs. This platform creates virtual funerals and gatherings where family members can share memories. It also allows you to raise funds to help with funeral expenses through fundraising or to donate to charities to honour the deceased.
In Memory of Life is an independent, family-run funeral home that has emerged in the UK by offering an interactive virtual memorial service through Zoom. This option is included by default in the simple or low-cost funeral service, making it a very interesting alternative for those who want a more affordable but equally dignified option for their loved one.
Alife service, a social network that allows you to connect with family and friends to share memories of someone who has passed away. This service was later adopted by other funeral homes such as Pompas Fúnebres de Badalona, Funeraria Vascongada, Funcantabria and Tanatori Litoral. Mémora, the leading group in the ranking of funeral homes in Spainin terms of turnover, also offers this online service in all its branches in Madrid and Catalonia.
Another success story of virtual funeral homes is Funerarias Noega, which offers families a private and free virtual space to share messages, photographs, condolence cards and even light virtual candles to commemorate the deceased. After the death, the family receives a link to the page that they can share with their loved ones via WhatsApp.
The funeral services company Gayosso began offering digital solutions for emotional support during the quarantine with services such as Funeral Virtual, a streaming platform so that family and friends can be present during the wake and funeral mass through any device with an internet connection.