By Paul Hatchard, Chaplain
When a loved one dies, one of the last things we do for that person is to arrange their funeral. Although this can be upsetting, making these arrangements can play an important role in the grieving process as we try to come to terms with our loss.
As with so many things at the moment, current restrictions mean that the way a funeral is organised has had to change. This is the same whether a person has died due to Covid-19 or any other causes.
When you contact your funeral director to discuss the arrangements, they will be able to tell you about the restrictions that are sadly in place, which can vary between funeral firms and also between crematoria.
Be assured; funeral directors will work hard to accommodate all that you ask for, but they are also required to do all they can to minimise the risk of infection both to the group of mourners and to all those key support workers involved in organising the funeral. Therefore, when you contact them they will be able to advise on such things as:
- whether or not it will be possible to visit your loved one in the Chapel of Rest;
- whether limousines or transport other than the hearse can be provided;
- whether the family are able to act as coffin bearers;
- whether the curtains are able to remain open during the service.
In line with Government guidance, funeral services should only be attended by immediate family who are not in a high-risk category, not self-isolating and do not have any symptoms of Covid-19. Advice is to have as small a group as possible to attend the service and many funeral directors are limiting this to ten people or less.
Those who do attend will be asked to follow social distancing guidelines unless they are there with members from their own household. This means staying two metres apart from other people and not being able to embrace or hug them.
Of course these restrictions can be upsetting for the bereaved family and it may feel that the funeral you want for your loved one is not going to be possible.
Do remember that once restrictions have been lifted, it might be possible to hold a memorial service to celebrate the life of the person you have lost and perhaps at that time you can include some of the things you think are missing from the funeral. And of course, you will be able to invite everyone who would like to attend.
For those unable to attend the funeral, there are some things that can be done to make people feel a part of the service:
- Discuss with the funeral director if they can live stream the service;
- Have someone film it or take photos to share afterwards;
- Give everyone you would normally contact, the date and time of the funeral so that people are able to mark the occasion in their own homes should they wish to do so. This could be by lighting a candle, reading a prayer or playing a significant piece of music.
People can be asked to share a memory about the deceased which can be collated and shared at some future point, perhaps at a memorial service.
Below are some further links which you may find helpful:
Government Guidance on Funerals: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/guidance-updated-to-support-the-safe-management-of-funerals
National Association of Funeral Directors: https://nafd.org.uk/funeral-advice/
Also, for those who have been cared for by Oakhaven, the Oakhaven Chaplaincy team is able to assist with funeral planning and leading of services. For more information ask for a Help Planning a Funeral booklet and/or email FAS@oakhavenhospice.co.uk or contact the Oakhaven Chaplain on 01590 670346 or firstname.lastname@example.org