How many funerals have you been to over the years? Loved ones, friends, neighbours, work colleagues. When we lose someone that has been a part of our life, we pause and take time out to come together. We pay our respects, say a final farewell and celebrate a life.
As we have discovered, a global pandemic brings many challenges and impacts our lives in more ways than we could ever have imagined. The COVID restrictions have added enormous pressure to people at a time when they are dealing with grief and so many other emotions. Caps on the number of funeral attendees, border closures and travel restrictions have meant that many people haven’t had the opportunity to gather together and say goodbye. The service, be it at a funeral or memorial, plays an important role in the grieving process.
Like many other industries, the break from the normal flow of life, has had an impact on the funeral business. We are seeing a shift – the farewelling of the funeral and the heralding of the memorial.
Funerals are usually held within a week or two of the death. The pressure is on to make decisions, to find photos, to write the eulogy, to choose poems or readings, all whilst dealing with intense grief. A memorial can be held at any time. Rather than being rushed, holding a memorial on a later date affords you the time to plan and, perhaps more importantly, the time to think.
There are no rules with memorials. They enable you to truly personalise the celebration of the life lost, inject personality in ways that may not be possible at a traditional funeral, where strict time limits and conditions are imposed.
You can choose a location that has some significance to the deceased. I recently conducted a memorial service at the spot where the man who had passed away had married years before. Another memorial was in the mechanical workshop of a car lover. The possibilities are endless – a beach, a park, a field, a club, a winery, a workplace.
Some families like to have an urn present. Others just have a photograph. The scene may be enhanced with candles and flowers, or it can be kept simple. The entire ceremony is personal to you.
Migrants and those with family and friends in other parts of the world have struggled losing loved ones during this time. There isn’t the option to jump on a plane and head home for a funeral. So, they have chosen to have their own memorial service here. They remember and celebrate the life lost and find that this helps. It can offer a sense of closure.
Just as many weddings were postponed because of COVID restrictions, many families, have chosen to wait, planning to hold a memorial when it is safe to gather together. When funerals were restricted to 10 people, not even all family members could attend, let alone friends and work colleagues. Some organisations have also chosen to hold memorials – whether it is a club who lost a long-time member, a school that lost a teacher or student, or a business that lost a valued employee. Through a memorial service, they can reflect on the life and the contribution that person that made to their community.
Our world changed dramatically in 2020. We pivoted in so many ways – work, education, family life, communication. Some of the changes may stay forever and become part of the new normal. I believe the memorial service will be one of those things.
We don’t like to think about death, but death is part of the circle of life. And the only certainty we have, is that no one gets out of this life alive. That, and that we all have to pay taxes. So should the need arise, please reach out. Together, we can create a beautiful, personalised celebration of life for someone who was an important part of your world.