How can we cope with funerals and bereavement during coronavirus?
A death of a friend or loved-one and arranging or attending a funeral is always a very personal and emotional time.
Currently guidelines say that funerals should continue as normally as possible. However, families are being asked to restrict attendance to 30 close family members. This is to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus to attendees and staff involved in the ceremony.
It is possible to have a pre- or post-funeral ceremonies (commemorative events), they have to follow social distancing and gathering guidelines, which means that only 6 people from different households can attend. It might be a good idea to wait until the restrictions on gatherings have reduced for a proper ceremony.
Alternatively, you can speak to the Funeral Director about recording or live streaming the service, so people unable to attend can still feel a part of the goodbye ceremony. All you need is a smartphone and a reliable internet connection on both sides of the process.
We asked Dignity Funerals for their best advice and guidance on what to do when faced with funerals and bereavement during coronavirus.
Here you can can find answers the most common questions on:
- Arranging a funeral
- Attending a funeral
- The situation at crematoriums, cemeteries and memorial sites
- Coping with grief and bereavement during isolation
Arranging a funeral
Funeral Directors will attempt to provide as many of their services as possible. Your local Funeral Director will be fully to date with the current and most up-to-date guidelines.
The government has put a restriction of 30 people at a funeral (this does not include anyone working at the event). However, this is only if the venue can accommodate that many people while following the social distancing guidelines. Therefore, for some venues, the upper limit on attendees might be less than 30. There is information from Public Health England (PHE) on its guidance following discussion with faith leaders here.
If someone is self-isolating, make the first contact with the Funeral Director by phone and many, if not all the arrangements can be made remotely.
The government is allowing people who are self-isolating to attend funerals of close family, but only if they are facilitated to do so properly. This involves being separate from everyone and where they go will need to be properly cleaned. Talk to your venue about this.
If you wish to view your loved one before the funeral by visiting a Chapel of Rest, your funeral director will make arrangements for specific times and limit the numbers attending. At-risk groups are strongly urged not to visit.
If the deceased person death was related to coronavirus, it may not be possible to visit them in order to prevent further spread of infection.
Before the funeral it may be a good idea to think about:
- who you want to attend, being mindful of those in high-risk groups
- if someone is travelling from overseas for the funeral, check that the venue can accommodate them as they would normally need to self-isolate for 10 days.
- arranging service sheets as service books are unlikely to be available
- recording the eulogy on a phone or other recording device so those not in attendance can listen or watch at another time,
- organising a celebration of life or memorial for a later date, when it’s safe to do so
- whether it’s appropriate to have family members bearing the coffin
Attending a funeral
In line with Government guidelines, attendees at the funeral should be limited to a modest number of close friends and family. This has changed to allow even those who are high-risk and who are self-isolating, but only if they can be accommodated properly and kept separate from everyone else so that the risk of infection is kept to a minimum.
People should only attend a funeral if they have been specifically invited by the funeral organiser. If you are attending you should expect to follow overarching government guidelines on social distancing. That is, to maintain at least two metres distance from anyone not living in the same household. Face coverings are also required to be worn at all times.
Anyone suffering with COVID-19 should not attend a funeral service under any circumstances.
Mourners who are not part of the same household are advised to stay the recommended two metres apart from each other and avoid shaking hands or making other physical contact.
To collect charitable donations on behalf of your loved one, the safest way to do this is online, which will also enable people to leave messages of condolence. Your funeral director will be able to guide you through how to do this.
The situation at crematoriums, cemeteries and memorial sites
If a service location closes due to the virus your funeral director will work with you to find an alternative that is local and suitable for your requirements.
At present your funeral director ought to be able to manage the return of ashes as normal. This may be either them returning them to you or arranging for you to collect from the crematorium.
If collecting from the crematorium, this might need to take place on a suitable date after mobility restrictions are lifted across the UK.
On March 26th 2020, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force. This means that crematoria, cemeteries and other memorial sites are closed for anything other than funeral services, which can only be attended by a maximum number of 30 immediate family members or close friends.
As funeral directors, we understand this is a concerning time for everyone. Right now, we are continuing to take the greatest care of families and arrange funerals as we always do.
We have implemented significant contingency plans to ensure we are able to sustain caring for families and the deceased in the coming months. We are working closely with the government and the funeral sector to ensure that we deliver the services that people need, while providing the necessary protection for both our clients and our colleagues.
The situation continues to change on an almost daily basis and we will adapt accordingly. We will do our utmost to provide people with the funeral service that they want. However, there will be some areas where restrictions based upon government guidelines may be in place.
Rachael Barber of Gordon Barber Funeral Homes
Coping with grief and bereavement during isolation
The death of someone close to us can be one of the hardest things we ever have to deal with – grief is never easy. But at the moment it may seem just that bit harder as we feel more detached from our usual support networks and perhaps unable to see and comfort members of our family.
Isolation can also make it harder to process grief. At times like this when there is a constant stream of new and distressing information, people can find themselves distracted from dealing with their grief. They could be worrying about the situation as a whole, or worrying about themselves or others.
Practical concerns and considerations may also come up. The person who died may have been a partner, parent or carer. So the bereaved person is left without practical or emotional support at a time they need it most.
How you can help yourself
Talking things through with friends and family can be very comforting. This can be done remotely if you or they are isolating.
If you are feeling very distressed, share your feelings with someone you trust. If feelings persist your GP is usually the first port of call for access to more specialist services. At the present time there may be some additional delays here if GPs are under pressure from the pandemic.
How you can help another person
Try to stay in contact with bereaved friends and family (even if you cannot visit in person if you or they are isolating). Let them talk about how they are feeling and about the person who has died – talking can be one of the most helpful things after someone dies.
The charity Cruse Bereavement Care has a wealth of advice and information on coping with a bereavement during coronavirus.
Here are more resources that may help
- Public Health England COVID-19: guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing
- Mind: mental health and isolation
- Samaritans – mental health during coronavirus outbreak
- Independent Age Guide to download on coping with bereavement
If you have experienced bereavement during these difficult months, share with others on our friendly forum
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