If you died tomorrow, how many people would feel compelled to travel for your funeral, and how far would they have to come? It’s now fairly commonplace to leave your hometown and move across the country or abroad, at least for a while, and to find your loved ones scattered across thousands of kilometres.
As much as we might want to travel for every major life event, it’s often not feasible. Funerals, in particular, are hard — if not impossible — to plan for. So more and more, those who are grieving are opting to livestream the service for loved ones who can’t travel to be there in person.
The practice has been around for several years, but as technology improves and we become more accustomed to sharing our lives so thoroughly online, livestreaming is growing in popularity, Wired reports:
Gary Richards, founder of OneRoom, a company that offers live-streaming services to funeral directors in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the US, says he’s noticed that many of the families that use his service are recent immigrants from the Philippines, Vietnam, or India, who are looking for a way to connect with family and friends from back home.
The easiest way to know whether a loved one would be ok with having their funeral or memorial service live-streamed is to talk about it while they’re still alive.
Although we are notoriously bad, as a society, with dealing with end-of-life issues, there are certain things we can — and should — address so that our wishes are met after we die. Burial versus cremation. Whether we want our loved ones to attend a formal service or a backyard BBQ. And whether we want to keep it small with immediate family only or whether all are welcome — either in person or virtually.
These conversations aren’t easy, but they’ll give you peace of mind later that you’ve got the most important nod of approval.
How to set it up
Some funeral homes now offer live-streaming services for a fee, or the directors regularly work with outside companies that can come in to perform the task. If that’s not an option, you can choose to set up the livestream yourself.
The easiest way is to capture the service with a smartphone or tablet (but a laptop with a webcam is better) and upload it to the internet through a streaming service, YouTube or Facebook Live. The platform and gear you use will depend on how your loved ones will access the stream, whether you want to be able to save the file and how public you want the service to be.
US Urns Online has a comprehensive piece about choosing the right gear and setting up your livestream. If you are doing it on your own, be sure to ask the funeral director whether there are copyright concerns with streaming any recorded music pieces you might be using.
And when in doubt, ask for help. If your own grief is making it too difficult to deal with the technologic aspects of a livestream, outsource the task to a tech-savvy family member or friend. So many people want to do something to help a grieving loved one, and this is one thing you can delegate to lessen your own stress.
If you attend a livestreamed funeral
Part of what may make people balk at the idea of a live-streamed funeral is the casual nature of the internet. While everyone who is physically attending the service takes the time to dress formally in suits and dresses and then mingle and connect with other attendees, a livestream viewer might very well be “attending” alone and in their pyjamas.
Dressing up as you would if you were attending in person can help you feel as though you’re more a part of the service. And inviting nearby loved ones to watch with you can be comforting, Scott Watters, a funeral director in England tells Funeral Guide:
“A celebration of life or a funeral is not normally a solitary event,” Watters says. “In my experience, people will watch in a group.”
As for where to watch, you’ll certainly want to pick a location that has a reliable internet connection. You may simply want to watch from your home or you might consider viewing from a location that was meaningful to the person who died. Those who are coordinating the livestream may also have suggestions for where or how to view in order to better honour your loved one.
Are funeral livestreams the future?
Watters tells Funeral Guide that we shouldn’t be concerned that livestreaming will take the place of in-person attendance at funerals, but instead should view it as a way to include more people in the service.
“Livestreaming is worth a great deal to those who can’t attend in person,” he says, “because in my experience, people are thankful that they are able to participate in the service.
“But I don’t think this technology would ever stop people from going in real life. People want to be able to extend a comforting hand, a hug, an eye-to-eye acknowledgement.”
Although watching your Aunt Lizzie’s funeral via livestream might be a newer concept, people have been tuning in to watch the funerals of public figures, such as Princess Diana, Pope John Paul II and Mohammed Ali, for many years.
Livestreams are simply one more tool for mourners to pay their respects and to partake in an important part of the grieving process.