8 things you can do to support each other online when someone has died
As funeral ceremonies are pared right back to immediate family members only, or even unattended direct cremations, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, here are some things you can do with family or friends to keep community gathered around when someone has died:
1) Create a virtual space to remember the person who has died
This can be their Facebook page, or you can make a new webpage, if someone is up to that. Don’t be too quick to memorialise a Facebook page. Keeping the page as it was allows you to continue to interact with the person’s page, to leave messages for them, and you will still get birthday reminders or friendiversary celebrations as the years go by.
On their facebook page or the new webpage, you can leave messages, upload videos, sing songs, play music, leave virtual flowers, photos/videos of lit candles, poems, wishes, prayers, anything. It serves now and in the future, whenever you miss them, on special occasions or just because.
You can receive snail mail submissions or suggestions by phone from those who are offline and upload them, you can print off a document of all the gathered material and mail it to them.
2) Make a music playlist
Set the parameters for the playlist: is it for a specialist occasion, like an online funeral or memorial, or is it to play when you want to feel their memory around you? Is it music to grieve to, or to lift you up, or both? You can use Spotify or another platform, or even a communal document e.g Google doc, with links – this is great because you can add the reasons that you chose the song and through that share memories with each other. This can be printed and sent to those who are not online.
3) Create a shared photo album
Fill it will all the photos that each of you have of them, then maybe have a zoom meeting and screen share the album as you all share the memories and stories that accompany those photos. Those with original photos can send copies taken perhaps with their phones, and you can upload these copies to the album for them.
4) Arrange to talk to each other often
Make a time each day, or once a week, whatever suits, where someone agrees to perhaps open a Zoom, Google Meet or Skype virtual ‘room’, or a WhatsApp call, or even phone conference call. Whoever wants to show up to chat, shows up. Even better if you all agree to check in, but sometimes we don’t know how we are going to feel. Just an invitation and a host willing to entertain themselves if no-one drops in, is enough. If group calls aren’t your thing, make a time to call on the phone.
5) Fix a time and everyone watch the person’s favourite movie or TV show. You can even message each other in a chat group as you watch if you like, or be on the phone. If they had a favourite band or artist, all watch a concert or live gig together even if it’s not your thing, it will allow you to focus on them and their passions, even if you still don’t get it.
6) You can make their favourite food
Or some of you order it in – take outs and food delivery services are still working. Just all sit down to dinner at the same time in your own homes with their favourite food on the table. Maybe light a candle on each table. Eat, talk, laugh, cry, whatever, it’s all OK, just be there. For those who are not online, they can phone in to a zoom call, or you can just agree a time to eat, put on some favourite music and know that you are all thinking of them at the same moment, even as you raise a glass.
7) Plan a Celebration of Life
Preparing and planning a memorial together can really help get you through the tough times. Use all the stories, photos and music that you have gathered (points 1-6 above) to plan a Celebration of Life memorial for a time when it is once again possible to all gather together. Grief doesn’t just disappear in a few weeks or months. It will be just as important to remember and celebrate later this year or next.
If you are not sure how to go about organising a memorial ceremony, get in touch with a celebrant who can help you. You may want to have an online funeral ceremony now to help process your loss and get used to the person’s absence, and then concentrate on preparing a wonderful Celebration of Life for the future.
8) Understand that everyone grieves in their own way, and there is no right way to grieve
It may feel obvious to you that something needs to happen in a certain way to remember or mourn the person who has died, but we are all so different. You might need to be around others, but someone you want to be with wants to be alone. So make open offers. Do things and be willing for no one to show up, but still do it because it feels right to you. You might make your playlist alone or you might be flooded with songs from family and friends. Whatever it is, do it to honour and remember the person you love, if others aren’t ready to join you, that’s OK. What you create will be there for them later, when they are ready.
Emma Curtis is an award-winning secular minister, opera singer and grief and resilience counsellor, based in Surrey with a therapy practice in London’s West End. She is the founder of Ceremony Matters, offering advanced trainings, support and mentoring to funeral celebrants. Learn more about Emma here
Ceremony Matters offers advanced trainings, continuing professional development, support and mentoring to funeral celebrants across the UK. Celebrant Support is a professional support service in person, online or over the phone.
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