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When a Funeral Isn't Possible or Is Delayed


When a Funeral Isn’t Possible or Is Delayed

If you’re unable to have a service for your loved one, or if it will be delayed, it may be difficult to accept that you will be limited in your ability to invite others to pay their respects and support you immediately following your loss. However, it’s never too late to honor the life of your loved one and there are many options to do so in the future, once it is again safe for family and friends to gather. You can start planning at any time, either for a traditional memorial service or for smaller memorial gatherings with friends and family.

If you're supporting a friend or family member who has experienced the death of a loved one, learn several ways you can express condolences.

Planning a Memorial Service

If you’re unable to have the funeral you would like to have due to the pandemic, you can still plan to have a traditional memorial service in a few weeks or months once social distancing and other restrictions have been lifted. While delaying a memorial service may have some disadvantages, there are also some benefits.

Having a memorial service several weeks or even months after a death:
  • Provides ample time to create a very meaningful tribute that beautifully honors the life of your loved one.
  • Makes it more possible for friends and family, especially those who live at a distance, to be in attendance.
The memorial service can be held at a funeral home, or you may want to select a location that has significance to your loved one or the family – perhaps a church, restaurant, or park. Regardless of the location, your funeral director can coordinate all the details, or you can plan the event yourself.

There are many ways to make the service meaningful, whether you’re planning a formal gathering or something more casual:
  • Display mementos and photographs
  • Show home movies/videos
  • Invite a member of the clergy or a celebrant to officiate
  • Play hymns or other meaningful songs
  • Invite family and friends to read some meaningful text or perform a song
  • Invite attendees to speak about the loved one and share stories
  • Serve refreshments or a meal, perhaps featuring your loved one’s favorite foods

Planning Future Gatherings of Family and Close Friends

A memorial service is a wonderful way to provide a large group of people with the opportunity to say goodbye, share stories and support each other as the grief journey begins. There are, however, other options for sharing memories with smaller groups of family and friends, all of which can help keep the memory of your loved one alive.

  • Honor your loved one at a special family gathering, celebration, reunion or holiday dinner.
    • Invite family and friends to share stories of your loved one.
    • Prepare your loved one’s favorite food.
    • Bring out photo albums and reflect on fond memories.
  • Recognize your loved one’s birthday or a special anniversary. Light a candle, bake a cake or prepare a special meal in their memory.
  • Host a small, casual dinner with close friends and family and share stories. The meal could feature your loved one’s favorite dishes, perhaps even prepared by those in attendance. If inclined to do so, you may want to give each attendee a special item that belonged to your loved one as a remembrance – perhaps a photo, a piece of jewelry or a special collectible. If applicable, share a story or memory about the item.
  • Plan a group activity based on one of your loved one’s interests or hobbies, such as a camping trip, a painting/wine party, or a movie night featuring a selection of his or her favorite movies.
  • Invite some family members and friends to join you at the gravesite (if you chose a burial) for some silent reflection, to share stories, or say a prayer.

Practicing Self-care and Staying Connected

Having the opportunity to gather with friends and family to collectively mourn the death of your loved one may seem very far off. Until then, however, there are a variety of things you can do to practice self-care and stay connected with family and friends while you begin the grief journey.

  • Post notice of your loved one’s death on social media. Invite your friends and family to post a memory and/or photo.
  • Post notice of your loved one’s death in local newspapers and the funeral home’s website. Most funeral home websites offer the opportunity for friends and family to contribute a comment or memory.
  • Write a letter about your loved one and memories you have. Make copies and mail them out to friends and family. Invite them to reply to you with memories of their own.
  • Reach out to family and friends by phone. They’ll enjoy hearing from you and it’s an opportunity for you to share a memory of your loved one and for them to do the same.
  • Keep a journal. As you are inspired to do so, write about memories of your loved one and how you are feeling about your grief. Share those memories with others as you are comfortable in doing so.