COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the community and saw life as we know it change. We faced a slew of restrictions and numerous lockdowns as governments assessed the best ways to minimise the impact of the pandemic.
It also changed, likely forever, how the funeral industry operates and the services it delivers.
The main priority of funeral providers is to enable friends and families to honour, respect and remember those who have died. And even though this is still the principal task amidst a pandemic, Australian funeral providers are also offering alternative ways to not only organise a funeral, but to attend one as well. This is especially relevant as COVID restrictions and lockdowns meant that not everyone is able to attend their loved one’s funeral.
Australian funeral homes are now offering high-quality live streaming services. These are most often tailored to ensure that everyone can say their personal farewells, irrespective of where they are in the world. Another option is for the family to split the services. They can hold a simple service to farewell the body during lockdown, and then a separate larger gathering to celebrate their loved one’s life once restrictions have eased.
Another way COVID has affected the industry is in the way funerals are traditionally personalised, such as the use of floral arrangements, choirs, or pets in the service. This is prompting funeral industry providers such as florists, for example, to implement meaningful initiatives that help people send personalised flowers to their friends and family who are grieving when they cannot express their condolences in person.
Live stream services can be personalised through capturing floral arrangements, music, photographs, eulogies and viewings. This approach ensures that people watching the service remotely can get a good feel for the service, and how it appropriately reflects the life of the deceased.
The funeral industry has also increased its resources to support grieving families, and help facilitate contacts with counsellors and psychologists. In additional, grief experts are delivering counselling strategies online to grieving friends and families to ensure that, despite lockdowns and restrictions, they have access to important resources that help them heal in the grieving process.
Many grief counsellors like Dr Alan Wolfet believe that attending a loved one’s funeral is essential for the healing process. According to research, of the one in three (35 per cent) Australians who have chosen not to attend the funeral of a loved one, more than half (58 per cent) regretted it afterwards. It is important to attend a loved one’s funeral, and if someone cannot attend due to COVID restrictions and lockdowns, an online funeral service is a viable alternative. In fact, a recent survey concluded that more than two-thirds of Australians (69 per cent) believe an online portal to organise a funeral would help manage the stress.
The funeral industry is also seeing an increase in pre-planning and pre-paid funerals due to an increase in challenging circumstances due to the pandemic. Pre-planning and pre-paid funerals enable families to look at the various service options available and express their wishes about how they would like to be remembered, so that their final farewell will be more personalised. Families are also able to better manage the costs this way, fulfilling their wishes while avoid financial stress during the grieving process.
These are just some of the major ways in which the pandemic has significantly impacted the way traditional funeral services are delivered, and are likely just the starting point for a whole new range of innovations the funeral industry will offer in the coming years to help support grieving families.
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