31 Dec  

How COVID-19 Has Changed the Way We Say Goodbye to Loved Ones and How We Can Cope

Gathering as a community is a universal part of our grief process. However, how we hold funeral services for a loved one has changed dramatically this year. Families are being forced to navigate grief in isolation, making it harder to come together. The pandemic has not only altered how we gather, but the very way we mourn.

Here are some ways the coronavirus has affected funerals in 2020:

  1. Immediate family-only funerals
  2. Limited number of attendees at chapel services
  3. Elimination of receiving lines
  4. All attendees required to wear masks
  5. Virtual-only services and gatherings
  6. Graveside-only services
  7. No hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with anyone outside their household
  8. Family units keep social-distanced from other attendees
  9. Virtual streaming of funeral services
  10. More people choosing cremations instead of burials
  11. No sharing of rides in cars between service events
  12. No Shiva, reception, or limited gathering without food or drink
  13. No books or pamphlets distributed


For those of us who are Jewish, social distancing and extended burial times are at odds with Jewish rules about burial and grieving. This is especially true when it comes to sitting Shiva, the seven-day time period immediately following a burial. In many instances Shivas are being canceled or postponed in these unprecedented times. Some families are getting creative and holding drive-by Shivas, so loved ones can offer condolences from their car window.

While the use of technology can help family and friends safely connect and mourn, there are also unique ways to express condolences within the Jewish faith. These can be through sending personalized gifts, including commemorative plaques, planting a tree in Israel, and delivering special meals or Shiva baskets.

Whatever your faith or cultural preferences may be, your funeral director can help you plan a service with today’s restrictions in place. They can guide you on modified or new practices that work best for you and your family, and they can provide resources to help. This could include assistance with graveside-only services, outdoor reception space, religious rituals, virtual funeral services, celebrations of life, visitations, and tributes.

Your funeral director can also help you share new funeral practices, service and visitation details with family and friends, and connect mourners through online guestbooks to share photos, memories, and condolences. In addition, they can be a resource if you choose to hold a memorial service at a later time when restrictions are lifted.

Here are some ways to cope with grief during the pandemic while honoring your loved one:

  • Ask family and friends to share memories and photos of your loved one with you online, in email or text, or video chat.
  • Host online group calls to stay connected, share stories, and support one another.
  • Create a virtual memory book, website, or blog for family and friends to share photos and memories.
  • Hold social-distanced drive-by events to offer condolences.
  • Honor your loved one with a significant event such as preparing one of their favorite meals, planting trees, or re-creating their favorite day.
  • Research books or blogs on grief and loss to help you process your loss or ask your funeral director for suggestions. Read age-appropriate books with your children to help them understand what they are experiencing.
  • Look to spiritual guidance from your faith-based organization or community organizations.
  • Take advantage of online grief counseling services, support groups, or speak with a mental healthcare provider.
  • Read an e-copy of The Guide for Grieving During COVID-19 Pandemic, a guide for anyone who lost someone during the pandemic or wants to support someone who has.


Grieving the loss of a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic can add an entire new layer of extended grief as saying goodbye is often minimized or postponed. While it’s a challenge during these times to make decisions about how to mourn and honor your loved one, you are not alone. Your family, friends, funeral home, and community can help you cope with saying goodbye in ways that offer comfort and peace of mind.

For more information on pre-planning funeral services or at-need assistance, call us today at 215-927-5800 or email us at info@goldsteinsfuneral.com.


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