|We all spend
more waking hours in the ‘digital world’ these days, and with 78.6% of
the U.S. population online(1),
living our life, and indeed our eternity, in a virtual space is becoming
an intrinsic aspect of our culture. Culturally the ‘space’ of online
memorials are becoming our virtual cemeteries! For those of you who want
to create an online memorial, this article should provide you with the
know-how to get started and an overview of your options.
What is an online memorial?
An online memorial is also referred
to as a virtual memorial. It is a hosted web page or pages that memorializes
the deceased. It can include text, audio, image and video content.
An online memorial can be created simply as a dedicated page to the recently
deceased, or can be a fully interactive memorial site, that enables family
and friends to post their own condolences and tributes.
How does an online memorial
differ from an obituary?
Typically an obituary was featured
in a newspaper and was written by a columnist from content provided.
It was a more objective summary of the profile and life of the deceased.
Today newspapers still publish obituaries, and of course, many are also
published online. Staff writers often spend significant time preparing
obituaries for celebrities before they have even passed.
An online memorial tends
to be a more subjective and emotive tribute to the recently deceased.
It is most often created by the bereaved family, or from content provided
by the family to the funeral home or memorial website.
How do I know which online memorial
company to select?
There are numerous online memorial
website companies. We have listed below some of the most popular
and best-reviewed memorial websites. It is important to decide exactly
what you want out of an online memorial, as this will help you make your
There are different terms
and costs associated with setting up an online memorial. Most memorial
websites categorize their memorial offerings along the lines of what storage
capacity you require, how long you require the memorial to be hosted, and
how able you are to content manage the memorial page. The questions
outlined below should help you to set some selection criteria:
Once you have decided upon your
criterion, you will be better able to compare online memorial sites.
Do you want a lifetime hosting
of your memorial web page?
Or do you just want something
that will facilitate family and friends’ participating in the grieving
process after a death has occurred?
What about the storage size
for your online memorial?
Do you want to be able to host
video content or make regular updates?
Do you want your memorial to
be password protected and maintain some privacy?
Or are you happy for your memorial
page to be public?
How much does it cost to create
an online memorial?
It is possible to create a free
online memorial. However, this is likely to have storage, if not
content, limitations and may only be hosted for a limited period. There
are various options for purchasing an online memorial, usually either a
monthly, annual or lifetime option. Prices can start from as little
as $9.95, with a lifetime membership or one-time payment costing around
Many funeral homes now host
their own online memorials from their own website as part of their service
What kind of etiquette should
be observed in creating an online memorial?
An online memorial company will
request that you agree to their terms and conditions when creating an online
memorial. There is a voluntary code of conduct referred to as ‘The
Memorial Code’ that governs the creation of virtual memorials. This
was brought about due to instances of inappropriate advertising in the
early days of online memorials.(2)
The Memorial Code sets out five general principles of stewardship, and
the key responsibilities of both the service provider and the memorial
In terms of what etiquette
you should observe as a memorial creator, the principle thing to consider
is that the memorial should honor the deceased respectfully and maintain
integrity and a certain degree of privacy. Identity theft is a real
issue in today’s digital world, and it is becoming increasingly common
for criminals to target the recently deceased. Read our related article
on ‘How to protect the deceased from identity theft’.
Carefully consider exactly
what personal details of the deceased and the bereaved family you include
in any online memorial. If you are creating an online memorial, ensure
you have the consent of the next of kin of the deceased, to the content
you are proposing to upload. Similarly be vigilant about what images or
video you add to a memorial. These days many online sites automatically
gain copyright to digital images you upload. Be wary of adding personal
details to digital images as these can feature in search results, even
if you have omitted including full personal details in the text of your
memorial. It is probably wise to consider the benefits of an online
memorial site that offers password protection.
How are online memorials hosted?
There are several types of service
providers for online memorials. These can be summed up as:
Commercial Paid service – you
pay a fee for the hosting
Commercial Free service – basic
memorial offered for free but site makes revenue from advertising and/or
Charitable service - free or
Funeral Home hosting
Social Media hosting
Can an online memorial be created
As I have just mentioned above,
social media is now becoming a domain for creating online memorials. In
fact, in our digital culture we are all creating our own online legacy
every day as we add content, photos and share our ‘likes’ with our networks.
Facebook has had to implement
processes to manage how all this data is handled in the event of a death.
A Facebook account can now
be turned into a digital ‘insta-memorial’. Facebook now offers the
facility to transform the profile of a deceased user into a memorial.
Memorializing the account removes certain sensitive data and restricts
profile access to only confirmed friends. A family member or ‘friend’
can request that an account be memorialized upon production of proof of
death. Alternatively, a family member can request that an account
be deactivated and removed from Facebook.
Another consideration is
that mobile technology has brought about a new platform for how we transfer
digital images to the Internet, and many of our younger generation are
transferring and storing their digital libraries on Facebook. Deleting
an account (being that Facebook owns copyright to the digital images) can
mean that these digital images could be lost to you forever.
It will become more practical
for each of us to leave instructions about the memorialization or termination
of our social media network accounts as part of our legacy and living will.
QR code technology and online
Technology is reshaping the
death care industry and I wrote in a recent article about ‘Online Funerals’
how QR codes were being employed in the memorialization industry.
A QR code chip can now be embedded or attached to a grave marker, which
then enables anyone with a smart phone to instantly view the deceased’s
full online memorial. This technology is still fairly new but is
likely to radically change the whole concept of extracting history from
cemeteries and genealogy.
Public vs. private online memorials
I have earlier touched on the
possible benefits and disadvantages of both public and private memorials.
You should carefully consider which type of online memorial is best for
you. A public memorial is great in that anyone can access it and
share their condolence messages and memories of the deceased. However,
this does make the personal data of the deceased very much in the public
domain and archived on the Internet. With today’s issues over identity
theft, this can be a concern and steps should be taken to ensure there
is no risk to the deceased’s estate.
An online memorial can be
hosted and password protected in order that only those provided with the
password are able to view the memorial.
Online memorials aiding the
Bereavement counselors often
view an online memorial as a means by which people can work through their
grief. They can help the family by providing a means to commemorate
their lost loved one, and the sharing process can be a significant aspect
of the healing process following a bereavement.
Remembrance, and keeping
the memory of someone living on, is an intrinsic dimension of our cultural
rituals and ‘story-telling’ legacy.
Fundraising with an online memorial
These days a memorial web page
is often set up ‘In Memoriam’ in order to help raise funds for a charity.
The online memorial can act as a Tribute Fund, and some non-profit memorial
sites offer Tribute Fund Schemes as part of their services.
Reviews of top online memorial
There are so many online memorial
websites to choose from that it can be difficult knowing which is the best
one for you. Be sure to carefully check that the online memorial
hosting company you select is well established. Many companies have
started up on the Internet hoping to make money at this service.
You want to be sure that the tribute company you select is going to be
around for years to come. It is very tragic when family spends time
to create an online legacy to a lost loved one, and then the site goes
offline and their memorial is lost.
This article on ‘Our
Top Six Online Memorial Websites’ by Legacy Multimedia reviews the
pros and cons of six online memorial websites.
Hopefully you now have a
clearer understanding of how to create an online memorial and what you
should consider in the process. The related articles below offer
further reading about memorial tributes and death rituals online.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
1 - Internet
2 - Guardian
2007 ‘Code of conduct for virtual grieving