A Guide to Attending Funeral Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With respect to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic we’re living in, times are tragic, traumatic, and tricky. We are left with so many questions about how to console one another, and ourselves. People we love are passing away, friends are losing their loved ones. In addition to people we love dying of COVID-19, we are unsure how to lay to rest our departed and how to appropriately comfort those we love who are mourning. So, let’s take a minute to address the elephant in the room — should we be attending funerals during this pandemic?

Should I Attend a Funeral Service During the Pandemic?

There are two answers to this. First, it depends on your level of comfort being around others or if you prefer to stay at home for safety. Second, and even more importantly, it depends on what the family has decided to do for the funeral arrangements. Families are deciding between a few options for funerals. If the family does decide to hold an in-person service, they may limit the number of people in attendance or keep the gathering to immediate family members. Some might even postpone services until after social distancing guidelines are lifted.
Funeral home staff members have been particularly helpful with providing alternative solutions for funeral arrangements. Some funeral homes are offering virtual services, such as live streams of memorials or other tributes. Others are providing online guest books where friends can leave notes of condolences and other personal anecdotes.
If the family prefers to hold an in-person funeral service, whether you choose to attend in person will depend on your level of comfort. For instance, if you have a family member at home who is immunocompromised, you may not feel comfortable attending the service and potentially increasing you and your loved one’s exposure to the coronavirus. However, if you do feel comfortable with personally attending the memorial to offer your condolences and pay your respects, the funeral home will most likely be observing social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to increase the safety of all those in attendance.

If I Go, Do I Need to Wear a Mask?

Most likely, yes. However, beyond the practice of wearing masks, the most important factor to preserve yours and others’ safety while attending an in-personal funeral service is to engage in social distancing. In adherence to social distancing guidelines, you may be attending an outdoor funeral with seating, six feet apart from one another. You will want to keep distanced from anyone who does not live with you in your household. Make sure to wash your hands often as well. It is an unfortunate and difficult fact of these sensitive circumstances to not be able to show affection as support for your family members and friends, but it’s best for now. You can hug and kiss those in your household who are accompanying you to the service, but otherwise your presence will serve as the best demonstration of love and support you can give.

If I Go, Should I Sit Shiva or Attend a Reception Afterward?

If you attend an in-person funeral, the family may still choose to observe certain traditions prior to or after the funeral service such as sitting Shiva or attending a reception at the home of the family afterwards. If this is the case, again it depends on how comfortable you are with engaging in these events. It’s of course important to respect whatever the family has decided to do, but make sure to keep in mind what is best for you and your family’s health, whatever you do decide to partake in. For instance, if you decide to show up in person to the funeral and follow CDC guidelines for the first part of the service, but feel it’s best to go home afterward, that’s okay.

Is it Okay if I Choose Not Attend a Funeral Service During the Pandemic?

With respect to so many people across the globe tragically losing loved ones due to this pandemic, you may feel troubled by the thought of not physically attending a funeral now to show your support. You might even feel selfish for not demonstrating your love and care to the family by deciding not to show up to the services. However, this is a difficult time and it is acceptable to forego the memorial services and choose to stay home to protect yourself and your family. There are other ways to show your respects and give your condolences to a grieving family.

If I Don’t Go to the Funeral Service, Should I Send a Gift?

If you choose not to attend an in-personal funeral service, sending gifts to the family can be a wonderful way to show your care for your friends and family who have lost loved ones. You may send an electronic card, attend virtual services or send voice notes or gifts. There are many ways to show your love from afar.
If you are thinking about planning a funeral service at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic, we advise you to talk to funeral professionals, such as a funeral director. If your loved one has perished from COVID-19, your grieving process will be heightened by the added difficulty of arranging a funeral right now. Despite the challenges, know that your family, friends, religious leaders, and your local funeral home staff are willing and available to help. The means of arranging and attending funerals today will just look a bit different.

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