Volunteer Story | Attending a Zoom Funeral

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Phoebe, 24 February 2021

Phoebe is a Cruse Bereavement Volunteer

Attending a Zoom Funeral

In the UK, current coronavirus guidelines allow just 30 people to attend a funeral, leaving many extended family and friends to attend virtually from their own homes. While many people describe a Zoom funeral as the ‘best option’ during difficult times, many others have found attending a funeral virtually to trigger feelings of isolation and despair. One of our Bereavement Supporters shared her feelings of anger and frustration after attending a Zoom funeral in support of a close friend.

Attending a Zoom Funeral

It's nearly a year since the pandemic started. And I feel so very fortunate not to have known many people die. Not just because of terrible stories of being separated, unable to say goodbye and the painful deaths suffered. But the impact it has had on grief. When we’re grieving, we are taught to reach out to other people, not isolate ourselves, and yet, here we all are so very isolated.

I attended my first, and hopefully last, Zoom funeral this week. I was there to support a friend after the death of her Mum. What I wasn't expecting was the emotion and the anger that came with it.

I had spent a year thinking an online funeral must be so weird. But how amazing that we still have a way of saying goodbye even if it's not how we want. I had even heard of some people saying they felt it was actually easier. They could fall apart without anyone judging them. But now I have attended one I'm not so sure.

As the service started, the music was powerful and caught me completely off guard emotionally. And I began to feel honoured to be a part of this for my friend. But alone. Then the reverend spoke and I couldn't hear a single word. He was quiet and the sound was poor. Worried I would miss my friend's speech, I rebuffed the connection. I checked the sound but all was working. It turns out buildings like churches and crematoriums just aren’t built for live streaming.

"My frustration eased when I realised I could hear my friend’s beautiful words but I still felt overwhelming sadness for her and that I couldn't give her the hug she so deserved."

They are doing the best they can in extraordinary challenging times. But that wasn't good enough. My frustration eased when I realised I could hear my friend’s beautiful words but I still felt overwhelming sadness for her and that I couldn't give her the hug she so deserved. After she finished, the connection went, it froze, it came back, it froze again, it went off altogether, it came back. We received a message telling us there were some connection problems at their end. The problems continued for the rest of the service.

In over a year of hearing of remote funerals never once had it crossed my mind technology would be so unstable. And I was angry. Angry for all her mum's friends unable to say goodbye in the way they were meant to. Angry that I wasn't there for her. Angry that people die. Angry so many people have died unnecessarily. And angry that at this time we can't grieve as we would have wanted.

Advice for attending remote funerals

  • Allow yourself time to process. Rather than trying to squeeze in a virtual funeral between other appointments, if you are able, take a day to yourself to process the emotions you might be feeling after the event.
  • Check your connection. In order to reduce stress during the service, check your internet connection prior to the start and make sure you are able to log in with the details you've been given.
  • Dress for the occasion. Wearing clothes you think the person would have liked is a simple way to honour the occasion from home.
  • Reach out to other attendees. Catching up with other people in private calls and text messages a few days after the event is a great way to digest the different feelings you might have after a virtual funeral.
  • Put another date in the diary. If you're preparing to attend a Zoom funeral, remember that this celebration of the person's life doesn't have to be final. It can be comforting to put a date in the diary, perhaps their birthday, for a time when you will meet to celebrate their life in person.
  • Find other ways to remember them. There are multiple ways to pay tribute to someone who has died. If you found yourself dissatisfied with a virtual funeral, you could try cooking their favourite food to eat after the service, or listening to their favourite music. You can also discover a range of ways to honour their memory in our guide to remembering someone who has died.

 

If you’ve experienced the death of someone close and haven’t been able to gather in their memory, this can be extremely difficult to cope with.

You can find advice about funerals during the coronavirus pandemic in our guide. If you’re finding it hard to cope, you can also call the Cruse Helpline or speak to a trained grief counsellor using our online chat service.

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