By Leader Contributor Peter J Armstrong
Editor’s note: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, we heard from a funeral industry professional in the United Kingdom about how the virus is changing services there, along with his thoughts on the role of those in the funeral profession.
In the U.K., funerals currently only happen at a crematorium or at the graveside. Churches and other places of worship are closed.
Only immediate family members can attend if the crematorium allows (some crematoriums are only offering direct cremation), others vary from 5 to 10 guests allowed.
An increasing number of crematoriums are not allowing family members to touch the coffin or place items on it, and some are even not allowing flowers. Before mourners leave, the coffin is to be lowered or curtains closed at the majority of venues. No wake or gathering should be held following the funeral.
The official government advice is (as well as advice on immediate family members):
“Any individual displaying symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend. Those who do attend will need to adhere to social distancing at all times, including when traveling to and from the funeral.” However, there is flexibility “If the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend.”
Many funeral directors will be treating all bereavements as infectious and have increased all safe working procedures for their staff.
At a recent funeral I officiated at, only two members of the family were present. The service was livestreamed. One grandson had sent in an audio recording of his tribute, so he was able to hear himself at home. Relatives and friends were able to watch from anywhere in the world in the comfort of their own home. Hugs were encouraged for those at home in family groups!
The response from a daughter by email was: “I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the work you have done and making the service special for the whole family. Have spoken to several of those who watched, and they all said you captured Dad well. Many had dressed for the occasion and enjoyed a cuppa and a chat afterwards.”
The family is now taking the idea of planning a very special event when they can. Even making it a fundraiser for their chosen charity. They have said, “It gives us something to look forward to.”
We are in unprecedented times, but the caring touch by funeral professionals can still make a big difference.