By Leader Contributor Carol Heffernan

Whoever thought there would come the day when funeral directors would be forced to tell families they can’t have the funeral or memorial service they envisioned?

During this time of great uncertainty, families who lose loved ones are hit with a harsh realization: They will not be able to gather and gain a sense of closure in the ways they normally would.

More than anyone, those in funeral care understand how beneficial it is to pay tribute when a friend or family member dies. That’s why it’s important to have ideas on hand for families so they can begin the grieving process when normal rituals aren’t possible. Families are looking to you for comfort and strength as they not only face shock and sadness over a death but also over their inability to honor their loved one the way they want to.

You can offer assurance that there are still meaningful ways to pay tribute. Consider sharing these ideas, as they apply to your firm:

  1. Livestream the funeral or memorial service. While some families may embrace this technology, others might need a little prompting. Interested in how some tech-savvy companies are transforming funeral services with video? This article provides a description complete with what you can expect if you attend or view a video funeral. 

  2. Help organize a drive-through viewing with an open or closed casket or a procession that passes by the family’s home. This option allows members of the community to get involved and pay their respects, so the family doesn’t feel so isolated during their time of grief.

  3. Encourage families to post a link to a virtual guestbook on your obituary page. The support and stories shared may provide a surprising amount of comfort – and encourage viewers to learn about your funeral home on your website at the same time.

  4. Advise families on how to create a memory table within their homes. It’s important that families acknowledge their loss as opposed to moving on to avoid painful emotions. Think of this display as a substitute for a memory table at a visitation. The process of gathering items can bring a much-needed sense of healing.

  5. Assist families with setting up donations. More than ever, churches and nonprofits are in need of financial support. Families can offer a one-time or annual donation in a loved one’s name to their favorite church or charity. The nonprofit Make My Donation makes finding and donating to a charity of choice easier than ever.

  6. Talk about ways to continue the legacy of a loved one. Examples include planting a tree in their honor or finding a way to contribute to an organization they held dear.

  7. Explain how eulogies can be shared via letter or by phone/video. You can help the family request for friends or family members to mail their letters or to have them record their eulogies on video and send via email.

  8. Explain how to gather their loved ones for a video call. Seeing family and friends and hearing their familiar voices is a valuable step toward healing – even via a screen. Offer to help set up a conferencing service if need be. Families could ask participants to share a favorite memory or story about their loved one who died.

  9. Encourage the family to enjoy a beloved meal in their loved one’s honor. Industry professionals know how important it is to gather and share a meal and memories at a reception. Encourage families to do the same from within the safety of their own homes. For example, a family could share their loved one’s favorite brownie recipe and encourage everyone to make this sweet treat on the same day.

  10. Guide families through the process of designing a headstone or monument. Families can create a custom design and plan an unveiling ceremony for a later date. Visiting a final resting place will take on new meaning, as many won’t have the chance to say goodbye in person. 

For additional resources for marketing strategies during the coronavirus crisis, visit the COVID-19 section on MKJ Marketing’s website.

Do you have any creative ideas about how to help families grieve during this unusual time? Comment on this story or share your thoughts by emailing

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