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Memorials and Funerals in Times of Physical Distancing

A cemetery in springtime with green grass, blue sky, and green trees.

When authorities limit in-person gatherings to 25 or 10 or even fewer people, it necessarily affects our capacity to hold funerals and memorial services. We may choose to have a small in-person gathering that fits within local requirements for physical distancing, we may wish to delay services, or we may choose to hold a service online.

Bereaved friends and family may wish to hold their own at-home private memorial service. UU hospice chaplain Rev. Kristen Rohm has created a guide to Grieving and Creating a Memorial at Home which she and Hospice of Santa Barbara have shared with us.

Burials and cremations are time-sensitive and cannot be delayed until social distancing restrictions are lifted. Local funeral homes will be aware of how many people will be permitted to gather for a graveside service or whether a minister would be permitted to accompany a family to a crematorium. 

Memorial services are less time-sensitive, and it will be up to the discretion of families and officiants when and how to hold them. You may wish to hold a memorial service online, with livestreaming and/or videoconferencing software. Our guidance for worshipping online can help you with the logistics of how such an event can be run. Our tips for online memorial services can assist you with planning content and participation.

If you choose to postpone a memorial service until a time that physical distancing restrictions are lifted, we offer some guidance for in-person memorial services that can help planning run more smoothly, especially since congregations may be coordinating multiple services for people who passed away while physical gatherings were prohibited.

Additional Resources for Funerals and Memorials During COVID-19