Sunday, May 31, 2020

Funeral services during COVID-19 offer less seating, personal connection!

They sat, quietly, spread out in chairs in the middle of the room, like students ahead of a major exam or people on public transportation. Four people stood huddled together, talking quietly, wearing masks.

No one in the room shook hands or hugged, which is typical during these kinds of ceremonies. There were 23 family members in the room, some wearing masks, which is just under the limit set for gatherings.

Visitors practice personal spacing at Burns Funeral Home in Hobart Thursday May 21,2020 as Father Benjamin Ross prays during a funeral service.

At a Thursday funeral service for an Army veteran at Burns Funeral Home in Hobart, the priest added phrases like “all of you here and at home" to his sermon, also offering “condolences to everyone here presently and virtually.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted everyday life for people around the world, it has also altered funeral services. During the pandemic, fewer people can attend funeral services, live streaming has become an option and signs of condolence — a kiss, a hug, or a hand shake — are discouraged, according to area funeral directors.

Funeral arrangements have shifted to mostly emails and phone calls, and any in-person meetings required masks and gloves, said Jim Burns, president of Burns Funeral Home & Crematory. In some cases, contracts have been signed with families driving by and signing from their cars, he said.

When the pandemic first began, Burns said, the funeral home started advising people to express condolences with an elbow bump.

But, when the state’s stay-at-home order limited gatherings to 10 people, Burns said the funeral directors had to limit the number of people attending a ceremony. They also had to remove chairs and couches, and distance the chairs that remained, he said.

In some cases, Burns recalled, he would ask the secretary to step outside so that a family member can enter. When gatherings were limited to 10 people, Burns said families had to decide who can come in and funeral directors had to monitor how many people were in the room.

“It’s just really uncomfortable telling families you can’t go in to see your grandfather or your dad you have to wait outside because we have 10 (people) in here,” said Patrick Burns, an owner of the funeral home.

On Thursday, a camera was set up in the back of the room faced on the priest. Two people at Thursday’s funeral got up to get tissues and blocked the camera momentarily, then skipped away when the realized where they were standing.

Limiting the amount of people has been “very stressful on families and, at time, on us to enforce the rules,” said Carmelita Perry, a funeral director with Guy & Allen Funeral Directors.

“People were angry because they couldn’t grieve their family member like they would normally do," Perry said. “People are moving forward with services with some level of sorrow because they can’t have their whole family here.”

Family and friends practice social distancing at Burns Funeral Home in Hobart Thursday May 21, 2020.

Perry said her and the other directors have ensured there is hand sanitizer for guests, surfaces are disinfected and that the chapel — which holds 200 people — only has seating available for the amount of people allowed to gather under state regulations.

“We’re controlling our building ourselves. I’m not leaving that up to people,” Perry said. “I can’t control what you do when you leave, but I can ask you to social distance when you come here.”

Charlotte Sills and her husband Darrel salute the family during a funeral at Burns Funeral Home in Hobart Thursday May 21, 2020. The Sills, and other members of the Indiana Patriot Guard were on hand to honor the Korean War Army veteran, to burial in Schererville. Andy Lavalley/Post-Tribune

As that state opened gatherings to 25 people, it has been easier on families and funeral directors to let more people attend ceremonies, said Jim Burns. The funeral home still encourages face masks and social distancing, as the state recommends, he said.

With more people allowed to attend funerals, the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders, who honor veterans during funeral services, have been able to attend ceremonies again, Jim Burns said.

On Thursday, eight members of the Indiana Patriot Guard Riders attended the funeral, each wearing a mask. They each took a turn to salute the American Flag and the casket.

Limiting funerals has impacted the grieving process, Patrick Burns said, because people have not been able to gather and remember their loved ones together. For the most part, people haven’t been able to shake hands or hug during services, Jim Burns said, and they’ve had to mourn from afar by sending flowers or connecting virtually.

When the pandemic ends, Jim Burns said he hopes people realize funerals and expressing grief should not be taken for granted.

“When you’re denied the ability to do that, you realize how much you miss it and how necessary it is for a family as well as for friends,” Jim Burns said.

Friday, May 22, 2020

California funeral homes with online price lists charge 30% less

Death isn’t cheap — and grief doesn’t pair well with comparison shopping.

Such was the calculus behind a California law pushing the funeral industry toward greater price transparency, which passed in 2013. As everyone, sooner or later, must die — and the average full-service funeral costs more than $7,000 — federal law already required funeral homes to provide detailed price lists to customers who walk through their doors.

California’s law propelled that into the 21st century by requiring price disclosure online as well, sparing mourners an arduous trek from funeral home to funeral home to compare prices. But the law gives funeral homes two options on how to do this: Either post their complete price list online for all to see, or list services offered and disclose that a full price list is available upon request.

Guess which of the two had the lowest prices.

An analysis by the Funeral Consumers Alliance, Consumer Federation of America and Consumer Action of California found that funeral homes that declined to post full price lists online charged much more than those that went open kimono — to the tune of more than 30 percent.

The consumer groups compared prices for three “bellwether” services in six major California markets: the basic service fee, which is essentially what funeral homes charge to cover overhead when buying a la carte; direct cremation; and immediate burial without a casket.

The median basic services fee for “price hiders,” as the consumer groups called homes that don’t post full price lists, was $1,835 — 36 percent higher than the median for “price posters” ($1,348), the study found.

Hiders’ median for direct cremation was $1,695 — 31 percent higher than that of posters ($1,295).

And for immediate burial without casket, hiders’ $2,595 median was 37 percent higher than the $1,900 median for posters.

The option to not disclose full price lists online was written into the law at the urging of industry lobbyists, said Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, and “materially undermines the law’s actual goal.”

The consumer groups call that a “loophole,” vocabulary that enrages some in the funeral industry who say they’re following the letter and spirit of the law.

Bottom line for consumers: “Prices vary so greatly that consumers can potentially save thousands of dollars on a funeral by shopping around,” said Alegra Howard, Consumer Action’s policy advocate, in a prepared statement. “It’s unfortunate that consumers need to comparison shop during an already stressful and upsetting time in order to avoid being fleeced. However, we recommend that consumers do just that, and begin their search with funeral homes that prominently post prices.”

The groups urge the California Legislature to eliminate the option to not post full price lists online.

‘Astonishing’ range of prices

The groups asked non-price-posting funeral homes for full price lists, most of which were received by email (but one came snail mail, which could be a distinct disadvantage for those truly shopping for a funeral).

Prices are posted on items in the shop at O’Connor Mortuary in Laguna Hills. (Photo by Ana Venegas, Orange County Register/SCNG) The highest prices were logged at funeral homes in Newport Beach, Westwood in Los Angeles, Culver City, Fremont, Richmond and Sacramento, the groups found.

And there was an “astonishing” range of prices for similar services in the six geographical areas studied — the counties of Orange and Alameda, and the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco.

Basic service fees ranged from $250 to $4,370. Direct cremation, from $525 to $4,115. Immediate burial without casket, from $495 to $4,715.

And the 24 homes in the ask-for-the-price-list Dignity Memorial family charged the highest prices of all, the groups found. Dignity’s median basic services fee was 48 percent higher than that of posters, direct cremation was 31 percent higher, and immediate burial without a casket was 63 percent higher.

Dignity is owned by Service Corporation International. A spokesman objected to the nature of the study itself.

“Pricing alone does not provide consumers with enough information to adequately plan something as customizable and personal as a funeral service. It’s much the same as planning a wedding,” a company spokesman said by email.

“Online pricing characterizes funeral service as a commodity, which is incorrect. It ignores the fact that different providers offer an array of service levels, from facility features, products, and amenities, much like the example of brands in a hotel portfolio — from Courtyard Hotels to The Ritz-Carlton.”

SCI funeral homes serve more than 300,000 families a year, the company said, and its customer surveys show that price often is not the main consideration. Quality of service, provider reputation and location convenience ranked higher than price.

Comparing apples to apples 

The consumer groups chafed at these explanations.

“This is an attempt to make the funeral transaction appear so confusing, so infinitely customizable, so perfectly personal that we can’t but throw up our hands in the air and say, ‘There’s no way to compare,’ ” said Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

“Not true. A direct cremation at an SCI facility that may occupy a beautifully manicured lawn is the same exact service — with no additional ceremonies, and nothing different — as a direct cremation from a modest store front establishment. We can, in fact, compare apples to apples.”

SCI is implying that since more choices are involved than just price, price transparency doesn’t much matter, he said.

“We are not saying that only price matters,” Slocum said. “We are saying that price matters just as much as anything else, and consumers have the same interest in and right to fairly disclosed prices between competitors in funeral service as they expect in any other major purchase such as a car.

“For too long, the funeral industry has wanted price not to be a factor at all, because price-conscious consumers are much less easy to ‘sell’ than unaware consumers who are compromised by grief.”

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Why Choosing Funeral Music is So Important

My grandmother’s funeral, held 13 years ago this month, was a long and emotional ceremony, but a lot of it is a blur to me now. There’s just one thing I remember vividly, and that’s struggling to get through singing the Lutheran hymn, “For All the Saints,” Grandma’s favorite. I broke down at the lyric, “And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong,” and more than a decade later, I still can’t even think of those words, or the tune of the hymn, without tearing up.

That’s normal, says Frank Joyce of Joyce Funeral Home in Waltham, Massachusetts. “You’re supposed to tear up, even 13 years later. You never close the book on loving someone.”
Music affects us with a power that not even psychologists and neurologists can fully explain. For many of us who have lost a loved one, music acts as a catalyst that lets us continue to feel and express our grief. I’ve thought and talked about my grandmother a lot recently: I cooked some of her recipes, visited the farm she lived on, and told my friends about her special talent for writing squeaky-clean limericks. But in all those memories,  the only time I got emotional was when I thought about singing “For All the Saints” at her funeral service.
That’s no surprise: Funerals and music are almost inextricably linked. For huge numbers of funerals — not in every faith tradition, but in many — music is typically sprinkled throughout the ceremonies in which we remember lives, and it serves many purposes.
“Silence can be deafening,” Joyce notes, “and music fills the void.” Which is to say: When we’re deep in grief and can’t find the words to express it, we can turn to music to speak for us. That can be through the songs that were the deceased’s favorites — like the Led Zeppelin song I heard at a recent funeral, which helped us remember the spirit of the man who’d wanted it played. But even songs we don’t already know can elicit surprising emotions. Joyce Funeral Home often chooses the music that will be played at a service, in an effort to unburden the family from having to make too many decisions at a difficult time.
“Those are songs you wouldn’t think of asking us to play,” Joyce notes, “but listening to those words at the funeral, they’re very powerful.” He’s identified some songs that are particularly effective at encouraging mourning. One of them is “Going Home” by Mary Fahl — not a widely-known song, but one that he sees people responding to, even as they hear it for the first time while they grieve.
Part of that is the song’s lyrics: “Surely sorrows shall find their end/And all our troubles will be gone/And I’ll know what I’ve lost, and all that I’ve won/When the road finally takes me home.” But there’s more to the power of music than the words we sing or listen to. Chord changes, crescendos, quiet moments and epic sweeps all come together to loosen the tight hold we normally have on our emotions and allow the tears to flow.
Renee Wilson, a professional harpist who’s provided music for funerals for the past 25 years, finds that the mood in a room can shift quickly as she plays. When she reaches the perfect musical selection, she says, “The conversation in the room gets easier. People relax a little bit.” Interestingly, she says, the wrong piece can have the opposite effect, causing mourners to subtly tense up, and she’ll move on to something else. The mourners themselves, she says, usually don’t consciously register the shift — but the music she plays has the power to affect the way they feel, and she strives to use that power for good, to help them express their grief.
One moment in the course of the ritual she finds particularly powerful, she says, is when most people have left and just the family remains, gathering close to their loved one for a final time. “Frequently, I will stay and play really quietly in the corner, far away from the family,” she says, “while they have their last moments with their loved one.” Rather than leaving them in silence, she gives them a bit more music to ease their transition into life without their loved one: “It’s a real honor to be able to be there at that moment and to help make it as nice as it can be.”
There’s no one kind of music that can accomplish this crucial component of a funeral — encouraging us to mourn. Music at funerals runs the gamut from hymns to classical music to traditional tunes to rock songs. Some funerals feature live musicians; others rely on recorded music. Some sing hymns together, while others are more comfortable listening to music. But in whatever form we experience music at funerals, we’re tapping into something primal, something that predates civilization itself, to soothe our sorrow.
Wilson mentions new research that suggests prehistoric humans may have developed singing even before we developed speaking. “I think the reason we want music at funerals,” she continues, “is because it reaches back to something innate in all of us that touches us. And that’s what we hope for. We want to gather and remember that person, and we want comfort — and music is just the natural choice.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Surprising Intimacy of the Live-Streamed Funeral

Because of the coronavirus, memorial services are moving online, where mourners find that collective grief is still possible.

When Candida Rifkind got the call on March 14 that her Aunt Cecilia had died, she realized she couldn’t attend the funeral. The rapid spread of the coronavirus was making international travel more uncertain than ever. Just a day earlier, the United States had blocked most European visitors from entering its borders. Ms. Rifkind, an English professor who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, didn’t want to risk it. (Canada and the United States closed their borders to each other the next week.)

So the family devised a solution: Host a small funeral in Los Angeles, her aunt’s home city, and post a live stream for everyone else. Late in the morning on March 18, Ms. Rifkind received a protected link and a password. She hooked up her laptop to the TV, sat with her husband on her living room couch and streamed her aunt’s funeral from nearly 2,000 miles away.

As governments across the globe espouse self-isolation to stem the spread of the coronavirus, funeral homes are facing intense pressure. In Spain, local officials traced over 60 Covid-19 cases to a large funeral held in late February. On March 20, Washington State affirmed that funerals and memorial services were banned indefinitely.

In Kentucky, as in much of the United States, funerals are restricted to the “closest of family,” and guidance from the White House to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people” has placed firm caps on how many family members can attend.

Funeral homes racing for new ways to help people grieve at a remove have taken up a much-maligned technology: live-streaming. But in the age of social distancing, mourners are finding online funerals to be a surprisingly intimate way to honor loved ones. Even in self-isolation, collective grieving still matters.

“I thought it would be distant and cold, but it was the exact opposite,” Ms. Rifkind said. At her aunt’s funeral, attendance was restricted: her aunt’s ex-husband, sister and three children, plus the rabbi and cantor from their synagogue. Several times during the ceremony, the rabbi turned to thank the live-streaming audience, which also included Ms. Rifkind’s brother and mother. “At the end he commented on how difficult these times are for bereaved families but reassured us that ‘all we can do is all we can do,’” Ms. Rifkind said.

Usually when Ms. Rifkind attends funerals, she said, she doesn’t cry. It’s too much pressure: She puts on a brave face for fear that her grief will become a burden. But in her home, as she watched her cousins say goodbye to Aunt Cecilia, “I didn’t have to hold it together for anyone,” she said.

Some form of funeral live-streaming has existed since FuneralOne began offering it in 2003, but the idea never reached the mainstream of the industry. Last year, the National Funeral Directors Association estimated that only about 20 percent of all funeral homes offered a live-streaming option.

That’s because of long-held assumptions that live-streaming is impersonal. For people reeling from a loss, the communal catharsis of a funeral seems to demand a physical presence.

“When you associate live-streaming and webcasting with funerals, you chase away the vast majority of people very quickly,” said Bruce Likly, who has run the funeral live-streaming service TribuCast for over a year. Part of the problem is that most people’s concept of a funeral stream — a rather ghoulish two hours of coffin footage — is wrong.

“If all you’ve done is shot a camera on a casket, it leaves that remote attendee feeling anxious, uncomfortable, sometimes even voyeuristic,” he said.

What TribuCast and other services like it promise is a humanized stream. Alongside the video is a collection of memorabilia — photos, a family tree, a link to the obituary, a memorial video — designed to make the funeral a bit more intimate.

For the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that’s proof enough that funeral streams are a legitimate gathering place for mourners. In mid-March, a C.D.C. epidemiologist said the agency would “encourage” people to shift their funeral rituals to live-streaming so that the grieving process could continue under safe conditions. All told, public-health restrictions are ushering the funeral industry toward a new reality.

While some morticians are taking to Twitch, YouTube Live and Facebook Live to stream funerals, others are relying on the handful of funeral streaming specialists scattered across the world, among them OneRoom, FuneralOne and TribuCast. “This may very well represent a tipping point,” Mr. Likly said. In the past few weeks, TribuCast has registered roughly 30 new funeral homes each day. That’s a major spike compared with the company’s previous average of three to four per day. OneRoom saw online funeral attendance more than quadruple during the second half of March, according to the company.

Although some funeral homes  have always offered free live-streaming, in normal times many tack on a $200 or $300 charge. But in the past month, many homes — including Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries in Los Angeles, which hosted the funeral of Ms. Rifkind’s aunt — have cut out live-streaming fees.

Outside of a pandemic, people opt to live-stream funerals for a host of reasons. Maybe you live far away and you can’t afford to travel, or your work schedule is tight and you’re worried about taking a day off, or you have a disability or health problem that makes long trips difficult. Undocumented immigrants can’t get home to a funeral because of border restrictions, active-duty military members lack the opportunity to make a last-minute trip overseas, and when a beloved resident dies, nursing homes don’t always have the capacity to transport dozens of residents to a funeral.

At TribuCast, Mr. Likly has witnessed the full spectrum of reasons families choose streaming. He told me of a hospitalized man who used TribuCast to watch the funeral for his wife of 62 years. The man wasn’t able to leave his hospital bed, but he didn’t want to miss the ceremony.

Another example that Mr. Likly points to: a woman who couldn’t get to Washington State for her father’s funeral. She was pregnant and unable to travel, so she wrote her eulogy and asked her brother, who did attend the service, to read it. On the live stream, she watched her friends and family react to her final message to her father.

“People grieve so deeply when they lose a loved one. That grief is often amplified when they can’t get to the service,” Mr. Likly said. “To be included in it is incredibly powerful.”

Friday, May 8, 2020

Cremains of 15 become artificial reefs

Eternal Reefs, an Atlanta-based company that gives people the on to have their loved ones’ ashes interred in giant reef balls, has deployed about 2,000 reef balls since its inception, mostly off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.

PENSACOLA — Surrounded by her family on the bow of a fishing boat, Judy Manning said her final goodbyes to her husband, Brian Delf, who passed away in May after a third round of cancer.

Manning held in her hands a concrete reef ball about the size of a basketball, covered in fresh flowers. After whispering a few words to her husband, she threw the ball over the bow of the boat and watched it sink to the bottom through a school of fluorescent jellyfish.

The reef ball was one of 12 deployed last Monday about 50 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico. The reef balls contained the cremated remains of 15 people — and a few beloved pets — whose families opted to turn their loved ones’ ashes into fresh habitat for local marine life.

“Brian and I were scuba divers and very much pro-environment and loved all of our marine animals,” Manning, who lives in Mary Esther, said before the ceremony. “So I knew I was going to do this 12 to 15 years ago. When his cancer came out of remission, it was his third round, and I said, ‘You know, we really ought to talk about this.’ He wanted to be a part of the reef.”

Eternal Reefs added 12 new reef balls to the Escambia East Near Shore Reef system last Monday, about 2 miles off the coast of Pensacola Beach, in a ceremony attended by families of the deceased on fishing boats.

The families came from all over the Southeast, including Pensacola, Nashville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. Their journeys started Sept. 14, when each family attended a “casting” ceremony that allowed them to decorate their loved ones’ damp reef ball with handprints and other memorabilia. Some reef balls contained the ashes of just one person, while some contained the ashes of several family members who wanted to be buried together.

Some contained the ashes of pets. Brian Delf’s reef ball included the ashes of two beloved dogs, Frodo and Candy. Otto “Skip” Mooney III of Atlanta and his wife, Francine, along with Skip’s beloved cat Sam, were all interred together in another ball.

At 8 a.m. last Monday, the families left from a marina on Pensacola Beach to head to a spot just east of the Pensacola artificial reef system, where a barge carrying the reef balls was waiting for them. One by one, a crane dropped each artificial reef into the sea, and the exact coordinates were provided to the families so they could come back and visit.

Crystal Markley cried as the third reef ball was lowered into the water. Her big sister, Adriane Michelle Brown, was interred inside the reef, something Markley said she had planned out herself before her death.

“It was just emotional. I don’t think we’ll ever let go,” Markley said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing. I like knowing that she’s going to help preserve ocean life now, and I think it’ll help keep her soul living.”

Each family was given a smaller version of the reef ball, made of concrete and not containing any cremains, to decorate with flowers and throw over the side of the boat after the main reef ball was lowered.

Manning said she planned to come back and scuba dive at the spot to keep an eye on her husband.

“The actual moment of him entering the water was bittersweet,” she said. “I wrote on the inside of the reef our tagline, which is ‘Goodnight, my someone.’ And that’s what went through my brain. ‘OK, goodbye for now.’”

The reef balls will join more artificial reefs that are helping to replenish sea life in the Gulf.

Shelby Davis, general manager of Eternal Reefs, said she thinks the reef balls appeal to people who love the water.

“It’s just a very upbeat type of memorial,” she said. “When you’re thinking about having that reef ball with all the fish swimming around it and all the sea vegetation growing on it, people really like that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

How digital technology reshapes funerals due to Coronavirus

The Online Funeral: How digital technology can reshape funerals as we know them

We have been in the throes of a digital revolution for some time now, and it has slowly crept into a once very stoic funeral industry. Progressive funeral homes have seen the opportunity to embrace digital culture and technology, and how it can enhance their business offering.

Over ten years ago when we first launched US Funerals Online, more funeral homes did NOT have a website, than those that did. Many still believed that ‘traditional’ methods of marketing were the only way for funeral homes, and that people would not use the Internet to search for funeral services. How times have changed in the last decade!

Frequently we now find that funeral homes DO have a website, in fact, they may have more than one. Those that are embracing technology will have visually engaging, informative and interactive sites, many are now further utilizing all the Internet has to offer with additional online advertising, online directory listings, pay-per-click advertising and participating in social networking campaigns.

So what can we expect from a funeral home in the digital age?

The ‘Virtual’ Funeral - Web casting & live streaming of funeral services.
As we become a more dispersed and transient society, the ability to stream funeral services and therefore enable distant family and friends to participate without extensive travel, is a significant way that technology will change the funeral industry.

The costs to travel across the United States, let alone internationally, have prevented many people from attending the funeral of a deceased family member or friend. Add to this, constraints for time off work, tightened restrictions on travel and economical impacts, and yes more people today have to politely excuse themselves from attending services.

We are also now such a visual culture, with over half of Americans (53%) indicating that they watch digitally streamed TV programming on a device, and with 78% of baby boomers being online (according to a study by ThirdAge). This means there is a greater acceptance, and a greater level of access, for people to participate in live web streaming of funeral services.

There still seems to be some discomfort in our culture with the notion of live web streaming of funerals. Is it distasteful? Does it remove us from the immersion in the funeral ritual and the grieving process? Personally I would argue that there are pros and cons to this new technology. I thought Evan Selinger’s recent post on Huffington Post about his experience of an online funeral in the wake of Hurricane Sandy made for an interesting exposition of how the technology impacts on us culturally.

We are widely accepting of dignitaries and celebrities having funerals streamed online or on TV, so why not for the masses?

So how does live web streaming of a funeral work?

In layman’s terms video equipment is set up to video the funeral service, linked to a computer and software that enables the video to be live-streamed. In most cases the web cast is password protected, so only family and friends provided with the password can access the streaming.

The web cast remains online for 30 days in order that family and friends who could not participate in the live stream can watch it, or people can re-visit the ceremony. Service Corporation International (SCI) has added web casting at a number of their Dignity Memorial locations, and web casting companies report a slow but steady uptake of the technology. FuneralOne who offer their ‘Life Tributes’ package to funeral homes across the U.S. saw the number of funeral homes offering web casts increase from 126 in 2008 to 1,053 by 2010, clearly demonstrating an uptake of this technology.
Arranging a funeral or cremation entirely online – no funeral home visit required!

Web casting may still be something of a marginal ancillary service, but we are also witnessing another aspect of how funerals are now offered online. More funeral homes and cremation companies are offering the ability to plan and arrange services ALL online, without ever visiting the funeral home. This online service is frequently offered for those who wish to arrange a direct cremation service, or a basic funeral. There are also cremation and funeral companies that facilitate the preplanning of a funeral using an online portal.

Obituaries, Online Memorials and the Facebook Legacy

Newspaper obituaries are becoming somewhat obsolete as we all digest our media updates online. Online memorials are now common, and are either offered by funeral homes as part of their service, or can be purchased directly online from companies such as Tributes and Legacy.
Even more interesting is the advent of the life memorial many of us are now creating with our own Facebook page. It is likely that this legacy we self-build will again change the industry of online memorial sites.

‘Living Headstones’ - QR codes and monuments that have ‘playback’.

We are all becoming more familiar with those black and white squares adorning magazines, street signs and coffee cups. QR codes (Quick Response) are starting to become embedded into our culture. Cemetery markers have not really changed for centuries….until now…with the technology to be able to impregnate a QR chip into a grave marker. Now a detailed memorial of the deceased can be loaded onto a chip, set into a headstone, and accessed anywhere with a smart phone. This can metaphorically make a tombstone become a ‘living’ interactive memorial.

The examples above demonstrate how technology is already reshaping the funeral landscape, as we know it. As technology becomes more firmly embedded into our culture I am sure we will see it revolutionize our death care rituals and our whole concept of death and memorialization.

Monday, May 4, 2020

A Virtual Place to Grieve when Funerals are Not Permitted

One of the most painful consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that families are forced to remain apart during especially challenging times of pain and loss. ForeverMissed is proud to offer a community of support where people can collect and share memories of their loved ones who have passed away.

ForeverMissed Online Memorials recognizes that one of the most painful consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that families are forced to remain apart during especially challenging times of pain and loss. COVID-19 victims, as well as victims of other illnesses and injuries, are dying alone during a global health crisis and are being mourned without traditional funerals. 
ForeverMissed is proud to offer a community of support where people can collect and share memories of their loved ones who have passed away. These lasting, virtual memorial pages can be shared so that the whole family can collaborate to preserve memories and celebrate lives lost, and families of COVID-19 victims receive a free full site access for one year.
“We all have a basic human need to gather together and express emotions during times of pain and loss,” says Oleg Andelman, Founder of ForeverMissed Memorials. “Families need and deserve a chance to say goodbye, and their loved ones deserve to be celebrated and remembered. We are proud to offer a place where people can come together to grieve their losses during an unprecedented time in our world when funerals simply aren’t possible.”
For more than a decade, ForeverMissed has offered an important outlet for grieving families and communities to gather in commiseration, celebration, and healing. Now more than ever, these virtual tools can offer a way forward for those who lack the closure a funeral typically brings. The company created a new COVID-19 page where thousands of daily visitors have paid collective tribute to the victims of this ongoing pandemic.
“Online memorials can’t ever take the place of traditional funerals and memorials services,” says Andelman. “We believe strongly, though, in the value of a virtual community of support and remembrance to help people navigate a grief process complicated by an uncertain world. Our users often tell us their online memorial pages help them cope with deep grief, and we are privileged to offer this service.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the company has plans to roll-out enhanced offerings designed to better serve those in need during this trying time.
About ForeverMissed Online Memorials was designed with the goal of connecting families separated by distance as they grieved common losses of loved ones. With nearly 150,000 memorial pages and more than two million posted tributes, ForeverMissed is a trusted source for many people traveling grief journeys. Users can choose public or private memorial pages under a variety of paid service plans, where they can add photographs, memories, music, and more in a secure and easy-to-use virtual format. The free, one-year Premium subscription for families of COVID-19 victims is a $64.99 value. For more information, as well as customer testimonials, visit