Virtual services on the rise as families plan funerals during pandemic

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – With social distancing in place and limits on out-of-state travel, some funeral homes are turning to virtual services for lost loved ones. For French funerals and cremations, virtual services began as a way to connect people across the country and the world who might not be able to travel.

“We just installed this capability a few months before taking on this challenge with the goal of connecting people from across the country and around the world who might not be able to travel to attend a funeral or celebration of the life. ”Said Jonathan Dyck, general manager of French funerals and cremations. “We didn’t know it was going to be used that way, but it’s becoming more and more part of how we serve families. “

As New Mexico continues to place limits on group gatherings, state funeral homes are now offering these services live. They say it is an option for grieving families to continue to reunite.

“It allowed more people to be present, albeit virtually, as we remember those people,” Dyck said. “I would say the majority of the services and celebrations we perform are being broadcast simultaneously through our web feed.”

Riverside Funeral Homes are also seeing a demand for live streaming services. So much so, they say, that they’re on a waiting list for the technology to be installed.

“There are so many people out there who want to do this stuff,” said Charles Finegan, funeral director and owner of Riverside Funeral Homes. “Now we’re still in the queue to get it.”

On the other hand, some providers like Funeral and cremation of the Daniels family say many customers are pulling out of the virtual world and opting for traditional ceremonies. Some of the changes made so far include creating groups of five at a time, holding rosaries in the open air, and even broadcasting services through car radios.

“Even though we came up with non-traditional means like webcasting etc, most people were very traditional and wanted to come,” said Mike Watkins, vice president of operations for Daniels Family Funerals and Cremation. “We bought FM transmitters so the minister could wear a microphone and we could tell people to sit in their cars and which radio station to turn to.”

Local funeral professionals hope families will be able to embrace these changes. They say patience is the greatest need during the pandemic.

“It doesn’t limit their ability to honor the life of their loved one,” Watkins said. “It is not only to honor a deceased person, but it is also to provide support to the family.”

“We have obstacles, but a little patience and we will overcome them,” said Finegan. “The pandemic has definitely opened the door to a whole new way of doing business for everyone. “

While a lack of connection can be difficult for the grieving process, local providers say they will help families bridge this gap. French Funerals says people have submitted their favorite memorabilia to read during the services.

“It’s far from ideal in many ways. The heartbreak and the healing that is really a big part of holding a funeral or memorial is the embrace of the people you love, the handshakes, the connections, ”Dyck said. “What we’ve tried to do is really think outside the box and connect people beyond just looking at the screen, providing memories to read or thoughts to share from Aunt Martha watching to. home in Ohio. “

Providers of funeral services and celebrations of life on the Albuquerque Metro encourage anyone facing the loss of a loved one to contact their funeral professional to offer options for connecting friends and family and not to give up. The CDC has also posted a guideline for anyone experiencing bereavement and where to start in planning a service during the pandemic.


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Perry A. Thomasson