The way we express grief for strangers is changingon December 3, 2020 at 10:15 am

Even funerals have changed. Gathering in a closed room, hugging a mourner, viewing a dead body–all are potentially deadly acts in a pandemic, which has led to a boom in Zoom funerals. “The pandemic is really just accelerating the tech for funerals that was already at play.”” says John Troyer, the director at the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath and author of Technologies of the Human Corpse. “Everyone can do it [webcast an event].”

It’s not just coronavirus deaths that are commemorated this way. AIDS deaths have been memorialized this year on an Instagram account, for example. Ron Sese, a volunteer with the project, told NBC that it helped an internet-native Gen Z understand history: “”If the history books won’t write about us, how do we tell our stories? How do we share our stories? How does the next generation learn about the generation that came before them?”

Mohammad Gorjestani, a filmmaker, feels the weight of history as well. Gorjestani started 1800HappyBirthday, which invites people to remember those killed in incidents of police brutality by leaving voice mail on their birthday.

“It was limiting to have these police killings and straight-up murders get sensationalized in the media and, once it was not sensational any more, to move on,” Gorjestani says. “It’s a disservice to the individuals that were alive. Those were individuals who were just trying to live, not trying to be martyrs or tokens for political platforms or politicians.”

On 1800HappyBirthday, people can find the birthday of a person who has died at the hands of police and leave a voice mail that’s available for the public to access. These messages are screened to keep racists and other bigots out, but they are otherwise open for any memory or thought.

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