Can you still have a funeral during COVID-19?

Can you still have a funeral during COVID-19?

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When a loved one passes away, an important part of the mourning process is a funeral or celebration of life; where people can gather to grieve, honour and reflect on a life well-lived.

But how does one have a funeral during a pandemic? When guidelines on how best to flatten the curve of the virus’s spread mean limiting physical and social interaction as much as possible? A birthday party, graduation ceremony or even a wedding can be postponed or cancelled, rescheduled for a later time.

Funerals are different.

Physical distancing means maintaining a healthy and safe space between you and fellow guests, usually at least two metres or six feet. It also means foregoing the traditional ways of comforting someone who is grieving, like handshaking or hugging. Not being able to have a meal or buffet following the gathering for more informal fellowship and reflection. Travel restrictions prevent people from abroad from attending. Certain religious and cultural traditions might now seem too risky to incorporate into the service.

So many restrictions may appear overwhelming. We are currently sailing in uncharted waters, but there are ways to honour and memorialize a loved one; while protecting the health and safety of guests and staff members.

Planning a funeral

  • Appointments are limited to one or two people, but other family members can be on the phone or join the appointment remotely.
  • There can be screenshares, appointments handled completely over the phone, or by email.
  • If preferred, the appointment can be held remotely for all family members

Streaming or recording a funeral

  • All Arbor locations are equipped with technology to allow for the service to be streamed, or recorded and shared with extended family and friends

Postponing the larger celebration of life to a later date

  • Some families will opt to have a small, private service for immediate family members only.
  • A larger gathering that includes extended family, friends and loved ones from abroad or who need to travel to attend can be scheduled for a later date
  • Time to Remember services allow for a customized and unique celebration that can be held at any time preferred by the family

Arbor staff are well-trained to help make these arrangements, and provide compassionate and thoughtful guidance during these fraught times.

"I have been involved in helping families through turbulent times of loss for just over 35 years," said Jerry Roberts, Vice President, Funeral Service for Arbor Memorial. "Many of the peers I've spoken with have never experienced anything quite like this." 

"While it's difficult, I think people understand that this is a time that, well, we want to restore some calm. We still need to ensure that we protect everyone to the best of our ability," he continues.

To find an Arbor location near you, please visit our location page Our staff can be contacted in a number of ways to answer your questions.

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