On 23 March 2020, the Government introduced new restrictions on social gatherings including stopping all social events, except funerals.
From this point onward, only immediate close family members are advised to attend funerals, which means that other people will not be able to gather to offer condolences and pay their respects in the usual way.
Some families may decide to live-stream the funeral ceremony using the webcam at their local crematorium.
Where it is not possible for all family and friends to attend the funeral, or following a direct cremation or direct burial service where there is no public attendance, families may choose to have an online memorial service or to hold a memorial service at a later date.
Like a humanist funeral, a humanist memorial is a non-religious ceremony that is about the person who has died, the life they led, the relationships they forged, and the legacy they leave, based on the humanist perspective that every life is individual and valuable.
A humanist memorial ceremony is conducted by a humanist celebrant and it is both a celebration of a life and a dignified, personal farewell – ideal for families who want a sincere, personal reflection on the life of their loved ones without having a religious dimension to the ceremony.
There is no coffin present at a memorial, but the occasion may be accompanied by a scattering of ashes, or their interment in the earth, and our celebrants can advise on this.
For those who decide to wait until the lifting of restrictions on social gatherings and self-isolation before holding a memorial service, they can choose when they would like to talk to a celebrant about the content of the ceremony – the tribute and any music, readings, poetry, or symbolic gestures. Planning is intrinsic to the success of a memorial, and can be a comforting process. It can take place over any period of time agreed with the celebrant.
A memorial ceremony allows people to come together to grieve, remember, and celebrate a life lived. Such ceremonies can take place anywhere that is suitable and fitting, and at any time.
Each humanist memorial is unique and there are no rules about what ‘must’ be included, or in what order. The content is up to you.
Over the coming weeks, our funeral celebrants will be helping families to plan memorial ceremonies by telephone, Google Meet, or Skype rather than meeting in person. They will spend time getting to know a loved one’s life story, and work with the family to draft a meaningful, fitting tribute.
For anyone who needs to self-isolate while organising a memorial, our celebrants will make everything as easy as they possibly can and there is no need to meet face-to-face.
When restrictions are lifted, a humanist celebrant can conduct the memorial service at a location of the family’s choosing. That may be in the home, the town hall, a garden, the local park, or even at the beach or a local pub.
Humanist celebrants have a great deal of experience in conducting memorial services outdoors. In the event of the virus still being present in the population when the memorial service is held, holding a memorial ceremony outdoors makes it easier for mourners to avoid close contact. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advises maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing (because they might spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus). Anyone who is too close can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
To live-stream a memorial ceremony so that guests who are unable to attend can participate online, there needs to be an internet connection, camera, microphone and a delivery service or app (such as Periscope or Facebook Live). This would need to be checked out in advance at the venue/location.
If you would like to discuss a funeral or memorial ceremony, you can find your local humanist funeral celebrant via our website.