With families settled all over the country, even the world, it can be difficult for them to come together to mourn a death. That’s what happened to a friend when her nephew died in Alaska. Her immediate family was spread out on both coasts and a funeral in Alaska was logistically impossible. Her nephew’s death was a devastating loss to my friend, her husband, and their children. Their inability to attend funeral rituals left them without any sense of closure.

What can grieving families do when many members are geographically scattered?

  1. Hold a memorial service in another part of the country for friends and loved ones unable to attend the funeral. That’s what my family did when my mother died. My mother’s funeral was in California. My immediate family, local relatives, and friends who did not travel to the West coast were able to share their loss, cherish my mother’s memory, and support me at a memorial service in my home.
  2. Conduct an online memorial with your family via Skype or another form of group chat. Plan ahead with readings, stories, or photos, anything that will help family members interact, grieve, and feel some sense of closure.
  3. Organize an event when you will all be together to remember and honor your loved one. You can plant a tree in their memory, all helping in the selection and planting. Or, you can be creative and make a donation to a place the deceased loved that is accessible for you to visit, such as having a plaque added to a bench in their memory at a favorite park or a tree planted in a public space.
  4. Create an online scrapbook together using Shutterfly, Snapfish, or other online photo service. Use the same login so each member can add their personal photos and journal memorable stories and anecdotes. When you have completed the album, purchase a copy for each family member.
  5. Choose an annual way for the family to honor your loved one when you are together that ties into your loved one’s passion, whether it is education, clean communities, or feeding the hungry.
  6. Designate a day for all of you to light a memorial candle either on the anniversary of their death or their birthday.

Do not allow distance to come between you and your grief. Look beyond traditional mourning rituals to find a strategy that helps you and your family grieve.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now at a reduced price for e-books for "Illness & Death," "Suicide," "Miscarriage," "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store.

Photo courtesy of author

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