How to Remember a Loved One at a Funeral After COVID-19

Gathering and travel restrictions during COVID-19 lockdowns made it difficult to honor loved ones the way we normally do. A celebration of life—even months after a loved one has passed—gives family and friends the chance to reflect and remember the way they would have wanted. But will it be the same without a casket?

At a traditional funeral and some cremation funerals, the presence of the deceased is an important element of the service. For many, seeing a loved one and saying goodbye for the last time at a service is a critical step in the healing journey. But COVID-19 guidelines made this impossible, and friends and family were often denied that comfort.

Now that restrictions are loosening or lifting, and we can gather again to celebrate life with the customs and rituals that are important to us, we're here to help you plan a proper memorial that reflects your loved one's special life. Our caring and professional memorial event planners are experts at creating events for people from all backgrounds. And even though, like you, we have experienced something unprecedented, we know just what to do to celebrate the details of your special someone.

Read 10 Things to Think About When Planning a Funeral Service After COVID Lockdown.

All great events start with a theme

When you meet with one of our funeral arrangers, we’ll ask you to tell us about your loved one:

  • How did they live life?
  • What did you love most about them? What did they love the most?
  • What did you learn from them?
  • What made them laugh?
  • What did they—and you—want their legacy to be?

We’ll want to understand your loved one’s perfect day. Maybe she liked to wake early, sip coffee, and then take a sunrise walk on the beach. Or maybe it was sleeping late and then going for brunch, before a hike in the woods with his dog, followed by an easy backyard barbecue with friends. Or was it Sunday morning church, lunch with the kids and grandkids, time outside, and a long nap before dinner? Whatever that perfect day was, we’ll use it as inspiration for a Celebration of Remembrance, incorporating the five senses—sight, smell, sound, taste and touch—into a theme that captures and conveys your loved one's passions and personality.

Read 50 Celebration of Life Ideas for Mom and 50 Celebration of Ideas for Dad.

The entire process was handled with the utmost professionalism, compassion and decorum. … When I explained we wanted to display our Christmas Tree because we collected ornaments on vacation as a family tradition, they decorated the dining area with Christmas Tree centerpieces. They also helped us to decorate the viewing area in a Mardi Gras theme. In our time of greatest need, we could not have asked for better service. Thank you so much.

—Eric S., Wayne, MI

Every room needs a focal point

There are many ways to create a compelling focal point at a memorial service and make your loved one’s presence known without a casket.


Memorial table with framed photo of older woman and beautiful floral arrangement.


A dramatic portrait.
A large, framed photograph of your loved one surrounded by flowers—they should be unexpected and unique—placed at the front of the room is an easy, beautiful reminder of a loved one. In the absence of a large portrait, bring in an assortment of framed photographs or family albums.

A prized possession. Take it up a notch by incorporating elements that help tell the story of your loved one’s life, such as a favorite chair, a cherished collection or a prized possession like his motorcycle. Skillful lighting will help bring it all together.

A video tribute. A multimedia slideshow is not uncommon at funerals and memorial services these days, but when the loved one’s casket isn’t present, it can take on added importance. When planning a Celebration of Remembrance for a future date, you have more time to choose photos, video and music—and ask for input from family and friends. We’ll take what you give us and create something really compelling and memorable to share at just right moment during the service.

Often a slideshow will play continuously before a service or during a reception. We recommend giving your video its own moment to shine at a Celebration of Remembrance. Setting aside time to premiere the video during the service ensures that all eyes are on the story of your loved one’s special life.


pies arranged on a table


A shared meal.
Good food is nearly always part of any kind of celebration, and a special meal can also be part of the focal point of a Celebration of Life. If he loved to barbecue for the family, display his grill and hold a cookout with hamburgers seasoned with his secret mix. If she won blue ribbons for her pies every year at the state fair, it's only fitting that she be remembered with a smorgasbord of her winning recipes. A caterer can incorporate whatever food and drink specialties you desire into a menu that helps tell the story of a passion. 

A special place for memories. Create a space just for sharing special written memories of your loved one. Popular options include writing memories on the mat of a large, framed family photograph or next to attendees' thumbprints on a symbolic drawing of a tree. This creates a tangible memory for the bereaved to hold dear in the years to come.

Very friendly & beautiful place! The staff were so very nice, patient & kind. The video they made was awesome, many compliments from family & friends! The catering service was great! Food was awesome!

—Kathy N., Mesa, AZ

Sharing memories makes a lasting impression


hands clasped in church


Right after showing the tribute video is the perfect time to invite guests to share their own memories of a loved one. Choose a charismatic facilitator such as a clergy member or a certified funeral celebrant to lead the effort, engage guests and keep the memories flowing. Let guests know in advance that this is your plan, so they have time to think ahead about what they’d like to say and even write down recollections of their fondest moments with your loved one to give to you as keepsakes. When you incorporate a special time of sharing, you can expect plenty of laughter and tears—and you'll help make new memories for all to hold onto.

Setting a date is the first step

With the luxury of time, we can work together to explore every detail and celebrate a special life like never before. The first step is setting a date. Contact us and let’s pencil something in.

Are you prepared?

A professional funeral planner is available to answer all your questions about planning end-of-life details in advance.