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Streaming and the new mourning

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There is no doubt since the advent of COVID-19 that the funeral profession has had to become more technologically advanced.  And, in the practice of the “no large gathering” prohibition across the country we have turned to technology, such as funeral streaming, to allow more people to mourn the services of a loved one.

The funeral profession also has a myriad of opinions on how live streaming these funeral, memorial, and graveside events may become common practice and some in the profession have went as far as to say that they may have a profound positive impact on revenues if effective and done correctly.

So, that is what some in the funeral profession think.  What about the mainstream consumer and those who have had to mourn via livestream?  What are their thoughts?

I recently read a great article from the New York Daily News that you can read here.  It is written by Rick Jacobs who is described as a rabbi and the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.  More importantly, at least to me, is the fact that Rabbi Jacobs’ mother passed away in San Diego last week and Rabbi Jacobs was in New York and not able to attend the services in person.  In the article, he shares some great perspective.

I will share a couple of Rabbi Jacobs comments here, but don’t want to steal the whole article from your reading pleasure.  Here is one thing he says, “Over the past weeks, I have listened to clergy friends describing the new reality around death and dying.  I have even attended a few Zoom funerals.  It’s quite different, however, when you are the mourner.”

He commented on his mother’s funeral, “The Zoom funeral service, with the chanting of prayers and words of remembrance shared by all of us from our homes, felt familiar.  What I was unprepared for was the virtual burial ceremony.”

Rabbi Jacobs continued, “As we stood virtually with those at the gravesite, a sense of debilitating loneliness came over me.. . . . . Observing this ritual electronically felt spiritually insignificant.”

From my point of view, the more you are at a cemetery service, the more you look for commonality with other services that remind you that we are all here because of a death. . . . the pile of dirt, the smell of the flowers. . . those are some things that cannot be recreated by livestream and, quite frankly, are important elements in acknowledging loss. . . at least in my case.

Rabbi Jacobs concludes his thoughts in somewhat of a paradoxical view. . . .he comments, “Showing up still matters, and today’s technology makes it immeasurably easier to do so. . . .Some of what has changed in our modalities of mourning brings healing to more of us.  But let it also be said loudly and clearly that the necessity of physical distancing inhibits a great deal of healing. . . I yearn for the time when we can receive and offer the long-delayed physical embraces of comfort our souls crave.”

I suggest reading the article.  I realize that technology is changing.  However, Rabbi Jacobs does remind us that technology will not be the panacea that solves all of our issues in the funeral “care” business.  I believe that livestreaming ability is a weapon that all purveyors of funerals should have in their arsenal for those who may have to join from a distance, but I more than ever believe that there is still a market for good, honest, hands on caring in the profession.

Related – Funeral Live StreamingCoronavirus lockdown:  Funerals missed by mourners because of video technology problems.  INews – United Kingdom.

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