11 Funeral Alternatives in the Age of Social Distancing

couple at funeral

The coronavirus pandemic has caused many families to postpone or even cancel life’s biggest moments, including funerals. Many people are feeling at a loss when thinking about ways to mourn their loved ones during times of uncertainty. As the new normal continues to take over our day-to-day, some have found alternative methods to celebrate the life of loved ones who’ve passed on such as video conference funerals.

Fortunately, there are some funeral alternatives to consider that can be both affordable and offer a way to protect your health, including ceremonies with small gatherings and activities within your own home. 

We’ve outlined 11 non-traditional funeral alternatives so you can grieve safely and still memorialize your loved one in a special way, complete with sympathy flowers or gifts.

1. Make a New Tradition

Due to the safety precautions of COVID-19, gathering in large groups may not be an ideal option for mourning the loss of a loved one. Instead, a smaller gathering can be a special way to not only grieve comfortably, but create space for a new tradition. 

Creating a brand new tradition is something that can be special in itself — it can bring together you and your family or closest friends. 

  • Tip: Consider starting a tradition of hosting an annual dinner in their honor, or volunteer with your family every year at one of their favorite causes. 

If you prefer to mourn with less contact, make it a new habit to meet with your loved ones over a cup of coffee. Remember that traditions don’t have to be perfect. Establishing bonds by starting new rituals is what can help create a stronger environment to deal with grief and loss. 

2. Hold a Small Ceremony 

Holding a small, personal ceremony instead of a traditional one is a great funeral alternative and requires fewer people to attend. Pick a day that is meaningful to you and your family and have a small gathering at your loved one’s gravesite. 

Having a ceremony in this fashion is special in that it’s more intimate and can allow you to share sympathy messages and say your goodbye’s with those who are closest to you. 

woman at funeral

3. Have a Memorial on Their Birthday or Anniversary 

Just because you had to skip a funeral or it was canceled doesn’t mean you can’t have a memorial. A great way to push back this date is to choose to mourn your loved one’s life on the actual day of birth or an anniversary date that is meaningful.  

  • Tip: If their birthday or anniversary date is coming up soon and you have to plan on short notice, same-day delivery flowers will help avoid any last-minute stress and ensure your memorial is as special as it can be.

This funeral alternative could be anything from a traditional memorial service, or a more casual dinner celebration with close family and friends.

4. Create a Scrapbook 

A lot of times when you don’t have a traditional funeral, not everyone can share stories or hear the impact their loved one had on people. A scrapbook is a perfect way to gather and keep these good memories all in one place. 

  • Tip: Have guests send you a page that they’ve created in their memory and combine them all into one book. Then, you can send this out as a sympathy gift basket to your family and close friends.

A scrapbook can be in the form of a memorial book or a memory box as well and contain different items that remind you of your loved one who has passed. 

funeral memory book

5. Spread Their Ashes 

If your loved one chooses to be cremated instead of buried, a great funeral alternative is to hold a “spreading of the ashes” ceremony accompanied by cremation flowers. This is a special way to remember their life since you can choose to spread the ashes in their favorite place to visit, such as their favorite beach, forest, park, or somewhere they always wanted to go. You can even spread the ashes at multiple locations.

  • Tip: Spreading of the ashes required a special permit and must comply with local environmental rules.

Put together a small and intimate gathering to take part in this ceremony. For example, you can take a boat ride with family or friends to spread the ashes in the ocean. For something more unique and out-of-the-box, consider a reef burial. This is where the ashes are mixed into an environmentally-friendly concrete and cast into artificial reef formations. 

6. Plant a Tree 

A unique funeral alternative on the list is to plant a tree in your loved one’s memory. Create a special place in nature where you can visit and memorialize them. 

  • Tip: Build a bench in their favorite park to visit and place a plaque or sign at the site.  

You can do this by planting a tree or another type of plant, such as a rose bush or garden. This is especially unique if your loved one was a nature lover and was one with the outdoors. 

bench at a funeral

7. Build a Shrine 

To avoid holding a ceremony where there are a lot of people, instead build a “shrine” in your home. This can be a simple area where you place photos, funeral flowers you’ve received, or other objects that are meaningful that remind you of your loved one who has passed. 

  • Tip: Add elements to your shrine such as a handwritten letter, a drawing for your kids, or a sentimental family heirloom.

Having a central area in your home like this can be a great funeral alternative where your family can conveniently gather to mourn the loss and say goodbye.

8. Throw an Intimate Garden Party

Invite a small group to memorialize your loved one in the form of a garden party for a cheerful outdoor funeral alternative. A garden party is a special idea if the person you’re mourning had a green thumb and loved nature. This is a great setting to incorporate flower centerpieces, plant arrangements, and other decorations to really tie in the garden theme.

  • Tip: To get the guests more involved, consider setting out a memory book that they can contribute to or memory jars. 

To try out the memory jar idea, place blank cards at the table for each guest to share their favorite memories. At the end of the ceremony, they can either keep these cards for themselves or put them inside the memory jar. 

funeral reception table

9. Host a Tea Ceremony 

Tea ceremonies typically celebrate weddings and baby showers but are becoming more popular as a light-hearted funeral alternative to celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed on.

Have a tea party catered at your home, a local community center, or tea room if you’re able to rent one out for the day. Invite your closest friends and family for an intimate celebration where guests can bring mementos and other items that are special. 

  • Tip: To hold mementos from guests, make sure your space has an alter or memorial table set up.

For a meaningful touch that will make it extra special, have a guest book or photo collage at the table where you can invite everyone to share words and memories. 

10.  Skip the Traditional Locations

If you still want to hold a funeral service but don’t want to follow the traditional path, think outside-of-the-box, and host the service somewhere other than a church or funeral home. 

Non-traditional funeral locations could include outdoor places such as a park, beach, or garden which is ideal for social distancing. Since funeral alternatives can be less casual, don’t feel the need to have an officiant with a eulogy — open the floor to your friends and family to share memories and celebrate their life. 

  • Tip: Consider holding the service at your loved one’s favorite restaurant, museum, or the local community center.

Be sure to also decorate your location with flowers and have a spot prepared if guests choose to bring remembrance gifts

beach funeral reception

11. Watch a Movie at Home

For a more creative funeral alternative, watch a movie with close friends and family if your loved one was a cinema lover or had a favorite movie. Since movie theaters are not currently open, set up a projector screen in your own backyard.  

  • Tip: A cinema-themed memorial presents an opportunity to also create a slideshow that captures the life and memories of your loved one.

To personalize this ceremony even further, design a movie theater poster in memory of the deceased. Make copies and pass them out at the end of the ceremony for a sentimental gift they can frame.

If your ceremony plans were halted or canceled, these funeral alternatives will help you celebrate the life of your loved one while staying safe. Be sure to complete your gathering space with heart-warming touches, such as sympathy flowers.