By Michael Schimmel, CEO of Sympathy Brands, Parent Company to Cemetery.com, eCondolence.com and shiva.com.
As we approach a return to expanded in-person gatherings, there will be an influx of families holding long-overdue memorials for those who passed during the pandemic. There will be a strong desire to gather and mourn with family and friends from multiple locations, which is necessary to facilitate a halted grief process.
Prompted by a shift in services during COVID-19, the funeral industry has evolved over the past year and can now offer families a wider range of meaningful opportunities to honor and memorialize their loved ones. The introduction of evolved technology has allowed services to include those unable to travel due to distance, illness or other circumstances, as well as the ability to share memories.
The Viewneral® platform from Sympathy Brands provides interactive online arrangements, funerals and gatherings, allowing those unable to attend in person to participate in meaningful ways. Such gatherings, for example, allow children–who may not always feel welcome or comfortable at a service–to view a funeral or memorial service. This can be a gentle, touching and very valuable way to involve children in such meaningful life events and to expose them to funerals and services in, perhaps, a less daunting way.
The technology used to create virtual services has long been available to the death care industry, but was not widely used until the pandemic. During this time, we have seen the impact it has on professionals and families, as well as its ability to help mourners navigate through the grief journey. We acknowledge that it is part of our future and it will be integral as we begin to see an increased number of memorial services in the coming year. Virtual attendance is not intended to replace in-person condolences or, certainly, hugs. Still, the ability to be present, seen and send virtual condolences provides the ability to “be there” and has been warmly welcomed by funeral directors and families.
Industry professionals are now able to offer more creative, meaningful and personalized memorials, and funeral homes and cemeteries should be open to more non-traditional ideas at their venues. Technology and virtual services have provided families with ease, convenience, familiarity and comfort over the past year. These attributes, coupled with human interaction can be seen as the ‘“new normal.”
Funeral directors and cemeterians will now lead the way as the desire for all encompassing services grows and brings comfort to families.While death care providers may not have a crystal ball to peer into what the “new normal” will be for post-COVID gatherings, it is clear that they may never return to the services many have grown accustomed to. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that change has happened, is happening and will continue to shape all aspects of our lives.
Michael Schimmel is founder and CEO of Sympathy Brands, parent company to eCondolence.com, shiva.com and Cemetery.com that connects families and funeral homes through the stages of planning, service, and aftercare with its consumer brands, proprietary Viewneral® technology, and nationwide concierge services. The companies provide a modern approach to end-of-life matters.