Virtual Tributes: Grieving Together Apart
For with grief, there is no fixing it, only bearing it.
And even in this time of physical distancing, we can find ways to bear it together.
Grieving together is an act of revolutionary love.
But how do we grieve together when we must be physically distant?
How do we awaken to what this pandemic is uncovering about racism, inequality, and vulnerability?
How do we grieve loss in a way that creates new possibilities both now and for our future?
Valerie Kaur (Activist, filmmaker, educator and faith leader)
For many of us, the pandemic has shifted from being a crisis to being a way of life. It has disrupted the usual healing process offered by rituals. KORU believes that Ceremony is essential in experiencing the many emotions that arise when someone dies: grief and guilt, love and loss, healing, grace and gratitude.
When we’re going through difficult times like death in the family, gathering with others makes a world of difference. As we all settle into the altered reality of our lives, KORU is dedicated to finding the balance between your family’s need to mourn through Ceremony and the wider community’s safety.
How do we grieve together apart?
KORU is committed to rising to the challenge of the moment as we continue to reimagine ceremonies by guiding you in the planning, coordinating and facilitating a virtual tribute for your loved ones.
We are collaborating with the talented, tech-savvy folks at New Narrative led by Christina Andreola. They coordinated and supported more than twenty virtual memorials in Canada and the United States in the last few months. Family members and friends across different geographical locations and various time zones gathered in one virtual location at the same time to honour their departed and to comfort each other.
What can you expect from KORU’s Virtual Tribute?
- The same outstanding quality of service that we have provided in our in-person ceremonies.
- The same support and guidance by wise, caring women who understand you and know how to create a heartwarming Ceremony that genuinely reflects the life and legacy of the person who died. The same team of caring women will allow you to focus on what is essential to being a healthy path to grief, perhaps take over when necessary and provide things you didn’t even know you needed.
- The same care in maintaining the “big picture” of the ceremony (e.g. flow and feel of the event) while also attending to the details of each aspect of the ceremony. Traditionally, a memorial (or funeral) has been divided into the services (food, candles, flowers) and the stories (eulogy, speakers, music).
With our recent collaboration with New Narrative, we continue to create a personal and meaningful ceremony that is also interactive, inclusive and participatory. Consider these scenes from actual virtual tributes:
- A grandfather from Ontario passed away. His family had an in-person funeral service while family members from Vancouver were streaming in through their respective devices.
- A virtual Catholic Mass attended by family members from the U.S. and the Philippines. The local priest officiated the funeral mass at the home of the deceased – the family’s patriarch. Readers of the liturgy were from separate locations. After the mass, there were eulogies. A slideshow depicted the life of the deceased. There was also an opportunity to share stories in a more informal atmosphere.
- Two school-aged children and their dad thought that speaking live during the event may be challenging. They pre-recorded a tribute message in front of the mom and wife’s memorial tree and shown during the virtual gathering. Being in their environment, the bereaved children felt free to move around, get some snacks and hug their stuffies while listening to the shared memories and comforting messages from uncles, aunts and cousins.
Frequently Asked Questions
As we enter this “new” realm of grieving together apart through virtual tributes, we expect there will be many questions. We’ve compiled some of those that we’ve had already and welcome your input with other queries that we can share with others and learn from collectively.
A ceremony usually involves a celebrant (priest, rabbi or minister), speakers and eulogists, music, and attendees/guests – whether it’s just 3 or 300. There may also be flowers, candles, food and drinks, a gathering space (a room, hall, church or temple), stories about the life of the person who died as well photographs (prints or a slide show). All of these elements can still be present in a virtual tribute. The only exception is that guests won’t be in one physical space.
The main benefit is that you, your family, and friends can mourn the death of your loved one together. You can bear your grief together, comfort each other, be a witness to each other, remember and reminisce together. A virtual tribute makes all of these possible while also maintaining the health and safety of the community.
Grief is a natural human experience. Whatever happens in the world and our lives, it is necessary to give even just a little space to our grief in any way possible.
Surprisingly there are a number of unexpected benefits. Here are a few that we’ve discovered.
- Family and friends from all parts of the world can attend and participate. No need to fly, drive or commute.
- No need to rent a venue.
- No cost for guests from out of town.
- No need to spend on food, drinks, flowers.
- It is possible to show the actual space or actual objects that were meaningful to the person who died. Dad’s favourite chair. Mom’s garden. The room in the house where your friend plays her cello. The possibilities are endless.
- The virtual tribute can be recorded. You can keep it for years to come.
We understand. We are all used to doing things in a certain way, and it’s always not easy to reimagine ceremony any other way. Although it will be using the same or similar technology that many of us are currently using to communicate and connect during this pandemic, a virtual tribute has a different purpose and function to your work meeting.
A sample video may be helpful. Watch the video below to see what a virtual tribute could look like. It is creative, interactive and participatory as well as customized to the person honoured.
Note: There is a table of contents at the beginning of the video for you to skip ahead to see a particular part of the virtual tribute.
Questions and Answers from New Narrative
Our friends from New Narrative have been asked a number of technical questions that we have shared with you here.
We recommend Zoom Video Conferencing for its ease of use and technical capabilities. Each event held over Zoom is encrypted and can be password-protected for additional security. We are also familiar with Google Meet, Instagram Live, Youtube Livestream and Facebook Live, depending on your preference.
You can participate via desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Attendees without any of these devices can call a toll-free phone number and listen to the event. We are happy to include additional time to help your family and friends log in before the tribute ceremony.
Each video conference call can accommodate up to 300 computers to log in to the event at one time. If your family is expecting more households, we can explore other options for distribution, such as live-streaming or sending out the recording after the event.
There is no restriction on the style or type of ceremony you can host. We recommend that you decide whether a video conference (ie: Zoom) or a live-stream would fit your needs best. A video conference allows multiple attendees to join in and speak, whereas a live-stream is one camera streaming to a live audience or being recorded, similar to Facebook Live.
Yes. We use Zoom’s “Waiting Room” feature and/or password protection to ensure there will be no disruptions and that only invited guests are able to be let in. We would be happy to discuss other options to ensure you are comfortable with the software choices.