Could virtual mourning spell the death of funeral attendance?

Increasing features of daily life possess an online alternative with now such aspects being stretched even beyond the end of life itself.

Within the UK, rising figures of funerals are being live streamed to enable mourners from distant corners of the globe to witness the proceedings whilst being hundreds of miles away. For those who wish to observe but are unable to attend, an internet connection and a compatible device may offer them a new platform to log in and avoid missing the occasion.

The concept has however been criticised, especially by undertakers of a more traditional standing. This is due to the fear non-attendance to a funeral will become the norm, which then means friends and family are not enabled to partake as qualitatively in the grieving process. A leading UK funeral director has mentioned it may “pander to people’s laziness” despite the benefits for those physically unable to attend due to distance or mobility issues.

Live streaming of services has been proposed to 61% of funeral directors according to a recent survey, with around 1 in 5 of Britain’s 281 crematoriums having webcams already fitted for purpose. It can be enabled through the use of a discrete digital camera set up within a crematorium to capture the ceremony. This can then be watched online by anyone with the protected username and password.

Expressing the positive aspects of the service was Paul Allcock, President of the Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors, he mentioned that there is usually a request for it, should any mourners live abroad or further afield. He does say however, that engagement with the bereaved in person can often be integral for the grieving process and that such personal details are unable to be replaced by technology.

“It’s wonderful for those relatives who live abroad, but there’s also a danger of pandering to people’s laziness and not attending personally and sharing your condolences, which is such an important part of the grieving process.”

It is not however, as modern as it might sound. A West Sussex-based company has offered live streaming of funerals for nine years and one of their funeral director’s estimates that between a quarter and a third of all ceremonies take benefit from it. Speaking in regards to Funeral Directors HD Tribe, Max Webber mentions, “It’s always done at the request of the family”.

Aside from the camera being set up, the service otherwise goes ahead as it usually would and is unaffected by the one-way webcast. Contrary to concerns of some, Webber mentions that he does not believe the concept will hinder funeral attendance.

It may however be subject to technical difficulties as with all services that exist online. Interference with the stream during the ceremony may result in great distress being caused considering the circumstances.

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