People Are Livestreaming Funerals Because of Coronavirus

Mourners can tune in digitally to pay their respects

Employees of Bestattung Himmelblau undertakers rehearse the livestreaming of an upcoming funeral on March 24, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)
Employees of Bestattung Himmelblau undertakers rehearse the livestreaming of an upcoming funeral on March 24, 2020 in Vienna, Austria. (Photo by Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty Images)
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By Bonnie Stiernberg / March 25, 2020 6:12 am

With large gatherings of people banned worldwide in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus, many people have had to scramble to cancel plans. But while weddings can be postponed or rescheduled, funerals have proven trickier to navigate during the pandemic, and as a piece by OneZero points out, many have turned to livestreaming memorial services as a way to grieve while safely social distancing.

“Funerals and memorials are all about being there, supporting each other, touching, hugging, loving each other — that’s the preference,” Mark Musgrove of Musgrove Funeral Home in Eugene, Oregon (which has installed livestreaming equipment) told the publication. “But with these restrictions, [digital options] may be something families ask for.”

One option if your local funeral home doesn’t have livestreaming capability is GatheringUs, a startup that offers virtual funerals. “In a digital funeral, mourners log into a video chat on their phone or computer, and GatheringUs staff members moderate prayers, speeches, and musical numbers,” OneZero writes. “They can even incorporate live footage from a cemetery or funeral home. In a digital reception, staffers act as virtual emcees, grouping participants in smaller video chats, similar to the way people naturally cluster at reception tables in real life — one hub for high school buddies, another for work friends. If anyone experiences technical difficulties, the team is ready to troubleshoot.”

While a service like GatheringUs comes in handy during the pandemic, it can also be used in normal times for mourners who are unable to travel cross-country to attend a loved one’s funeral.

“I think even after coronavirus ends, it’s still incredibly necessary,” Noha Waibsnaider, the co-founder and CEO of GatheringUs, told the publication.

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