By Deb Malewski
— As a result of the current COVID-19 (coronavirus), many are being forced to change the way they would normally cope with the loss of loved ones and the way they connect with their friends and family to mourn that loss. One change now being seen is that funeral homes have enabled live streaming of funerals. This allows everyone to “attend,” even from a distance in this time of social distancing. Others are delaying services, waiting for the current social distance guidelines to be over before honoring their loved ones.
Gov. Whitmer has limited the attendance at many gatherings to slow the spread of COVID-19, including at funerals. Funeral attendance is limited to only ten people, Jill Skinner, funeral consultant and former owner of Skinner Funeral Homes, explained.
“Prior to COVID-19, we did not do funeral streaming, but we were already looking at options to offer it,” Skinner said. “With the limit on how many can attend a service now, we set up live Facebook streaming so that everyone at home could virtually ‘attend’ the funeral, and most have been very grateful for our efforts.”
Jennifer Mills of Mills Funeral Home said it a unique situation for everyone involved.
“We will continue to adapt to the needs of our families to ensure that they are well taken care of,” Mills said. “We will provide a live-streamed funeral if requested.
“But we also recognize and understand that some might want funeral services to be put on hold, which can be an additional emotional burden on those families during their grieving.” Besides not having the traditional funeral, funeral luncheons cannot be held, which is the usual time for families to reminisce and comfort each other, Mills pointed out.
“We do feel [live streaming] will be a service that family and friends will use even more in the future for those who are homebound, living across the country or across the world,” Skinner said. “Perhaps you can’t be present to give a hug, but technology has made it possible to be a part of saying goodbye, which is very important.
“I expect that the streaming may become a ‘new normal’ for funerals.”
Skinner Funeral Home plans to upgrade their video equipment soon, but they discovered that the demand for video cameras is up due to so many who now work from home and require them.
Less than a year ago, roughly 20 percent of funeral homes across the country were offering funeral streaming to families, according to Bryant Hightower, president of the National Funeral Director’s Association. It is expected that hat number will soon be much higher.