Should services be postponed because of COVID-19?

By: William Spence
Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The novel coronavirus has left little undisrupted, including final arrangements for those who pass during this scourge.  Whether out of prudence or mandate, too often the wishes of the deceased or their family cannot be carried out as hoped because of social distancing and group size limitations.  This has resulted in many families deciding to announce a memorial service “at a later date.”  Although there have always been valid reasons for postponing certain services, my professional advice is for families to give considerable thought before rushing into postponing a service solely based on COVID-19 restrictions.

Most times when services are postponed, they are done so to accommodate family scheduling.  Often, the date and time is known and is immediately made public.  However, no one can really say when the restrictions will be lifted regarding COVID-19.  At least in some regions, large gatherings may be limited for the foreseeable future.  I feel that many of the services that are postponed with good intentions will not happen.  That is unhealthy for the grieving family.

Do not misunderstand me, I am not opposed to having a memorial gathering for the departed in the future.  I think it is most fitting.  But I do feel that having a service for a loved one shortly following death is also necessary.  This allows the family an opportunity to begin the journey of healing their grief.  Technology provides us with many options to involve others virtually until we can meet face-to-face. 

Several of the important functions of a service include: publicly acknowledging that a death has happened and that separation causes pain and grief; allowing the community an opportunity to show compassion and support during your time of sorrow; and if you are a person of faith, revisiting your beliefs to receive hope. These steps are foundational in order to begin the healing of grief.  When a service is delayed, the road to grief recovery is delayed and can become more difficult.

Make plans for a memorial service or celebration of life “at a later date,” but for your emotional health, consider having a small, private service at a reasonable time following your loved one’s death.  You will be glad that you did not miss the opportunity.

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