Live Streaming Funerals Is a New Trend, and It's Not As Weird As You Think

As technology advances and it seems as if computers are taking over the world, all types of businesses are looking to become tech savvy in order adapt to the times. One unexpected industry has been webcasting since the early 2000s, but it’s been a hard sell, and understandably so…who ever thought to begin live streaming funerals?

The basic concept of webcasting funerals isn’t new or unfamiliar; funerals of celebrities and other high-profile memorials have been televised and viewed for years. Recently, more and more private funerals have been streamed for family and friends who could not attend the memorial. USA Today estimates that around 20 percent to 30 percent of funeral homes in America offer this amenity to grieving families, and one funeral home even claims that they webcast half of their funerals. While some are offering the service for free, other funeral homes are charging around $100-$300 for the webcast.

But what is really going on here? There is something that feels a bit creepy about watching the funeral of someone you know via your laptop. It seems as if watching a funeral in the comfort of your own home almost sterilizes the intimate and emotionally charged occasion. How can you be expected to fully grieve and fully respect the deceased and their family when you are alone on your couch?

Funeral homes acknowledge that this service isn’t meant to be a replacement for attending a funeral, but rather, a substitute for those who aren’t able to make it due to circumstances like distance, health, and money. The expanded accessibility of the ceremony through live streaming provides a way for those who cannot attend to hear the eulogy of the deceased, grieve from afar, and feel as if they did not miss such an important occasion. And while it’s not as ideal as attending the ceremony in person, it’s a small concession that might provide comfort and perhaps some closure to the viewer.

Of course, many are still skeptical of including this type of technology in their services. For privacy, the webcasts can be password protected and invite only. The technology is still not quite socially acceptable; if I told you that I had live streamed a funeral this weekend, I’m sure that you would raise an eyebrow or two. So, while live steaming funerals is certainly an imperfect practice, it’s also an expanding one that may eventually grow to become a standard part of any memorial service.

Image: Stephan Ridgway / Flickr