With coronavirus restrictions limiting the number of people to attend funerals in Australia, funeral homes have live streaming funeral services, enabling mourners to ‘attend’ anywhere in the world. “We’ve seen a lot from Wales, Scotland, the Netherlands, USA, East, New Zealand; so people see, there’s no doubt about that,” said Funeral Director Chris Voonings.
When Sergio Rotta’s mother died, the grief was felt not only in his family home in Brisbane – it was also felt half-away in Milan, the hometown of Annamaria.
Her funeral was short, with only seven or eight attendees, but half a dozen people from her family and friends were able to share experiences in another part of the world in real time.
“She was always up for adventure, so we came to Australia,” Mr Rotta said.
“My wife Emily decided to find a place that keeps the streams alive so that we can engage our relatives as well,” Mr. Rotta said.
“We wanted everyone to be a part of it, especially his brother in Italy – he can’t fly, he has a phobia to fly … so we made sure he was part of it.”
Annamaria’s relatives gathered in Milan to see Milivast together.
Industry moves over time
After spending several years helping his wife’s uncle run a funeral home in Burpengary, north of Brisbane, he transferred to ‘Funeral IT’, starting a streaming service that spanned four months of its existence The demand has doubled.
Alex Medkoff is no stranger to dealing with grief – his previous career as a British Army soldier involved informing families that their loved ones were casualties in the war.
“Tribute centers, web streaming, apps where they can upload information and photos so that they don’t have to travel to the funeral home.”
Newhaven Funeral Director Tim Connolly tried live streaming with his grandparents’ funeral in New Zealand ten years ago.
‘Closed’ for remote people
If someone can’t make it to the funeral, he said that watching it live can help reinforce what has happened and help them move forward.
Judith Murray, associate professor of psychology at the University of Queensland, says this modern approach has obvious benefits.
“We may end up with unintended consequences… [that] we need to be careful about.
“If you have someone who is isolated or dependent from their families, then sitting in a live stream funeral room without people around them [can take away their grief].”
Future of funeral
While he welcomes the convenience and impact of live streaming, he also thinks that it will skip physical ceremonies in the coming years.
“In time, who knows what technology will allow?”
“We know that there is a part of the brain that lights up in mourning that also lights up in a romantic attachment where there is a strong sense of desire to grow physically toward that person.
“I don’t think [streaming] will ever replace the power of physical communication that happens at funerals.”
“The funeral is really about the people who are left behind … It’s an opportunity to come together, support each other, share in grief.”
But for the Rotta family, the Internet provided a meaningful bridge across time and space.
Knowing the chance to say goodbye to his family and friends, Mr. Rotta said, “I think my mother would have appreciated it a lot”.