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COVID-19 has deeply impacted grieving families. Many are electing to put a funeral or memorial service on hold for an indeterminate amount of time. In the meantime, individuals may be seeking a sense of closure through a ritual that honors their loved one’s life. It may be valuable for you as a household to set aside a time to proclaim your loved one’s impact on your lives and express your grief.

Below are some considerations if you choose to hold a memorial service at home. You might consider live-streaming your service to include others, or you may prefer to simply keep the time for those in your household. While the service may be informal, it is important to still create it with intention.

Set a day, time, and location within the home. A scheduled time prepares those involved and allows you to make the time purposeful. A set location can be prepared in advance to set the tone for the memorial service.

Decide on a format. Options may include having a slideshow of photos, a favorite song, a time of memory sharing, a prayer or blessing, or an important reading.

Have a clear opening and closing. One way to do this is to light a candle at the beginning of the time together and blow it out at the end.

Ask children involved for their input. Children may particularly benefit from having this time to solidify in their minds the finality of the death. Talk to children involved ahead of time to explain that the household is planning a home service to remember the person since s/he has died. A child may have a special memory to share or a song that reminds him/her of the person or an item to display. A child may even want to write a letter to their special person to read.

A sample format may be:
– Gather together in a designated room while displaying a slideshow set to an important song.

– One person lights a candle or each person individually lights a candle to signify the beginning of the service.

– A person shares why they are gathering – to remember the special person – and shares an opening prayer, reading, passage from one of the loved one’s favorite books, or a quote.

– Have a time in which individuals can share important memories and what they miss about the deceased.

– Have a designated person share a closing thought, blessing, or reading; this may be a reading associated with lighting and extinguishing the candle. Blow out the candle(s) lit at the opening to signify the end.

A poem for candle lighting. https://www.compassionatefriends.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/WCL-Poem-Ideas.pdf has several readings for candle lighting. Hamilton Funeral Home in Des Moines offers a beautiful sample as well:

The golden flames of our candles are symbols of our memories – they are warm, bright and comforting, helping light our way through darkness. Although we eventually will blow out our candle of remembrance, the spirit of those we love remains in our hearts always. No light born in love can ever be extinguished.