Over the past decade there have been many technological advances that allow anyone with a smartphone in their pocket to be an amateur photographer, videographer, or artist or have a "face-to-face" conversation even when the parties are in different locations.
Those same technologies have begun to cross over to the funeral industry, where the streaming of funerals for those who cannot attend in-person, has become a very real option.
Why Stream Funerals?
The grieving process is very personal and different for each individual. When you aren’t physically able to attend a funeral, you may feel like you can’t create peace with the situation, gain closure, and support your friends and family. When family members are traveling and cannot get back in time, live too far to make it feasible to attend, or are not able to leave home for a variety of reasons, streaming of the funeral or memorial service may be smart option.
While at first attending a funeral “online” may seem like a strange concept, it has been said to be comforting by others (see this Feb 3, 2016 Article in the New Yorker: Our Strange Unsettled History of Morning). Those who have used technologies to attend a funeral even from afar have found that it is a good alternative for not being able to attend in person, giving you the ability to still participate in the funeral and connect with others in attendance.
Fears of this Technology
In a NY Times article: For Funerals Too Far, Mourners Gather on the Web, John Reed, the past president of the National Funeral Directors Association, said that some funeral homes have avoided funeral streaming technology in fear of it replacing a “communal human experience with a solitary digital one.” Other funeral directors have feared that if the video or audio quality is poor it would reflect poorly on their funeral home.
However, some funeral homes have invested in offering this service with options of videotaping the service or streaming it live, as well as making it public or password-protected for invite-only viewing. We talked to some funeral directors who offer this service to see how frequently it is used. All of them mentioned that not as many people opt for this service as they originally thought. In addition, they mentioned that the initial investment to be setup to provide this service with professional quality can be costly for funeral homes, therefore some opt to charge for providing the streaming or video recording services.
Options for Funeral and Memorial Streaming
If you are considering streaming the funeral for those out-of-town or to watch again at a later date, you have options:
1. Streaming Via the Funeral Home
If you’re interested in a professional stream of a funeral, you should contact and inquire with your local funeral home to see if they provide this service. If they do, the video and audio quality may be better than a smartphone or laptop, but you should inquire if they would be opposed to letting you do it yourself...
2. DIY Funeral Streaming
Smartphones and laptops both provide the ability to record and stream. This makes the process of sharing funerals very convenient and free. Sites such as Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts all provide streaming technologies for free. After seeking feedback from some funeral directors on DIY funeral streaming, they stated that they were not opposed to the use of personal technology to record and share funeral or memorial services. One pitfall of DIY may be in the video and sound quality which is highly dependent on your personal device and the strength of the internet or network connection.
Though still not prevalent in the American funeral, we think that video and audio streaming of funerals and memorial services will eventually become more mainstream for consumers due to its practical nature and our familiarity with it in everyday life. With families often separated by large distances these days, use of video streaming technologies could prove to be a cost-effective and meaningful option to include family and friends in different parts of the world.