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When Goodbye Rituals Goes Virtual

Goodbye rituals and ceremonies, whether religious or secular, are integral in processing our grief. Gathering together and sharing stories about the departed can be helpful. It can even be therapeutic and transformative. 

The pandemic has disrupted the way we gather and grief. We haven’t been able to gather in the same space together for more than a year. Virtually, though, we still can. Platforms like FaceTime and Zoom have made it possible. True, it may not be the same as in-person gatherings. However, we are forced to adjust and adapt.

Gatherings, whether live or virtual, can be meaningful, impactful and interactive. In The Art of Gathering, author Priya Parker says “Gatherings crackle and flourish when real thought goes into them, when a structure is baked into them, and when a host has the curiosity, willingness, and generosity of spirit to try.”

Last month, iris – Koru’s Community Engagement Coordinator – organized a virtual tribute for her own aunt who died in the Philippines. Because of health restrictions due to the pandemic, there was no wake or funeral, as was the custom. Based in Vancouver, iris brought together family and relatives from the Philippines and different cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. One advantage of virtual events is that family members and friends from various places in the globe can participate without leaving their homes. 

Iris with (L-R): her mom, aunt and cousin

Iris knows that creating a robust structure (or “container”) for any gathering is essential. She also knows that incorporating rituals in a virtual ceremony helps to give it a strong structure. But can it be done? 

YES, it can be done. Incorporating some ideas from Be Ceremonial’s ceremony toolkit, iris included rituals into the ceremony for her aunt. Candles have a considerable significance in her family’s Catholic tradition, so she thought a candle-lighting ritual will resonate with her family. 

Below is an excerpt of that ritual.


I invite everyone to get their candle and match/lighter. We’ll light our candles at the exact moment. We think about an intention, wish, or a memory we want to focus on as we do so.

As you hold your candle, I invite you to notice the heat from the candle, the scent it gives off, the sounds it makes. Pay attention to your senses as we collectively pause to acknowledge why you have all gathered.

Once you’ve lit your candle, let’s hold the candle up to the screen and notice the candles being lit in different places. 

Place the candle somewhere significant in your ceremony space. Keep it lit for the duration of the ceremony. 

We are all gathered today to honour and celebrate the life of our beloved aunt. We will remember who she was to us. We’ll share stories, we’ll hear tributes. We will cry. We will laugh. We will cry and laugh at the same time. Perhaps you’d like to reflect and just stay still. Be present to your grief. 

Towards the end of the ceremony, there was a virtual flower offering. Like in many cultures, the Philippines has a practice for mourners to offer flowers during the wake and burial.

Iris wanted to incorporate the flower ritual, not just because it was part of tradition but also because her aunt was known for her beautiful gardens. 

Below is a video clip of the VIRTUAL FLOWER OFFERING during the ceremony.

The support of New Narrative before, during and after the ceremony was invaluable to iris.

You can read more about the work of New Narrative here and Koru’s partnership with them here. If you want to know more about how to incorporate rituals in your virtual ceremony or if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to call 604-324-8285 or email us at [email protected]. Let us know how we can help you!

Photo Credits:

Candle, bible, flower – SixteenMilesOut from

Girl in front of computers – Ralston Smith from

iris paradela-hunter Family photo

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