It can be difficult to decide how you'd like to honor your loved one after they've passed away. While funerals may work for some, they aren't the best choice for everyone. Whether you've decided that you're not comfortable with a funeral or if holding a funeral isn't possible at this time, know that there are plenty of options when it comes to alternative funerals.
Alternative funerals can offer you a unique way to honor your loved one who passed away. When it comes to selecting an alternative funeral, think about what you feel most comfortable with.
Virtual Funeral Service
Holdin a virtual funeral service is an alternative to an in-person funeral service. When planning a virtual funeral service:
- Consider who you'd like to lead the service- can be a celebrant or loved one
- How many individuals you'd like to invite
- If you want the service to be open to the public or private
- If you'd like to suggest a dress code
Plant an Honorary Garden
If your loved one enjoyed gardening or you think of a certain flower or tree when the memory of your loved one comes up, you may consider planting something special to dedicate to your deceased loved one. You can:
- Add a plaque to your garden that dedicates it to your loved one
- Decorate the pot(s) if applicable
- If you inherited anything from your loved one's garden, you can add it to this dedicated spot
Create a Memorabilia Project
Creating a memory project to honor your loved one can be a special way to reflect on your time together. This project can be done solo, or you can include loved ones in the process if you'd like to do a larger family project. Project ideas include:
- A large photo album or scrapbook (can be done virtually as well)
- A compilation of favorite memories from loved ones and close friends of the deceased individual (can be made into a bound book or virtual book and distributed)
- A quilt with each square decorated with favorite memories, or one square per family, and then join together
Virtual Family Gathering
Holding a virtual family gathering is a sweet way to remember the life of your loved one. At a virtual family gathering, you can go around and share favorite memories of your deceased loved one and connect with those who are also mourning this loss. You can also pre-plan to enjoy a meal together and cook some of your deceased loved one's favorite dishes.
Remembering with Action
Think about what your deceased loved one was known for and dedicate something to them by taking action. This could mean:
- Doing their favorite hike, walk, or bike ride and dedicating it to their memory
- Volunteering at their favorite site to honor their charitable nature
- Learning how to do something they were known for (wood working, skateboarding, gardening, etc.)
Alternative Funeral Services
Instead of a large funeral, there are plenty of ways you can say goodbye on a smaller scale.
Small Family Service
If a large funeral is unable to take place for whatever reason, holding a private, small family service may be a nice alternative that both honors their memory and allows for familial support. If planning a small service during a pandemic, be sure to follow appropriate Centers for Disease Control guidelines to ensure that all guests are able to stay safe. At a small family service:
- One family member may lead the service instead of having a celebrant do so.
- If multiple families would like to attend, you may consider planning a service that is recorded and shared with others or Facetime during the service with others who are unable to attend.
Scattering of Ashes Ceremony
Scattering ashes is a beautiful way to honor the life of your loved one. If you do opt to scatter ashes, be mindful of rule and regulations if you aren't on your own private property. When scattering ashes:
- Pick a location that was meaningful for your loved one.
- Plan what you're going to say or for a moment of silence.
- Consider who you want to be there with you- if larger gatherings aren't possible, you can always record or livestream the scattering of ashes and share it with those who would like to see it.
Private Celebration of Life Gathering
If it is possible to hold a celebration of life gathering either virtually or in person, you can consider:
- Create a memory box with slips of paper that anyone can use to write down their most cherished memories with the deceased loved one- these can be shared at some point during the gathering (if virtual, send memories to one dedicated individual who will read them later on at the event).
- Play your loved one's favorite songs during the event.
- Enjoy some of your loved one's favorite dishes.
- Share a slideshow of images of your loved one enjoying their life.
When a Funeral Is Delayed, How Do I Say Goodbye?
If a funeral is delayed indefinitely, it can feel like the bit of closure and support that may accompany attending a funeral is out of reach. This can feel isolating, painful, and disappointing. Processing this loss and beginning to experience a semblance of closure will look different for each unique individual. Consider:
- If you prefer to process alone or with others
- If you like to create as a form of processing
- If you prefer to sit with your thoughts and emotions
- If you like to talk with one trusted individual instead of several
- If you'd like to plan something that connects you with others who are in the process of mourning this loss
Funerals During a Pandemic
If your loved one passed away during a pandemic, you may experience an added layer of sadness and pain because there may be restrictions on the funeral, as well as viewing the body before they are laid to rest. The Centers for Disease Control will have updated guidelines to help you make the healthiest decision for you and your family when it comes to honoring your loved one, while keeping you and your family as safe as possible.
Alternative to Funerals
Know that funerals aren't the only way to memorialize the life of your loved one and selecting a funeral alternative because of preference or necessity can still provide you with a special way to honor the individual who passed away and wish them,"Rest in peace."