How the Covid-19 crisis has changed funerals

The Coronavirus crisis has affected all of our lives in so many ways. However, one of the most heart-breaking changes is the way that funerals are currently having to be conducted.  Here is some information about what to expect if you are currently planning or attending a funeral.

If you are arranging a funeral, you probably won’t be able to meet the vicar/priest or celebrant in person in order to talk about the ceremony.  However, the majority of celebrants are now fully utilising technology so you will be able to Skype or Zoom as well as communicate by phone and email.

At the time of writing (July 2020) current restrictions demand that a maximum of ten, or, in some crematoria, twenty people, can attend the cremation or interment.  In addition, social distancing rules must be enforced, and nobody can touch the coffin or each other, mourners are given gloves or hand sanitiser at the entrance, and some crematoria are requiring attendees to wear face marks. The situation can seem clinical, heart-breaking and overwhelmingly sad, especially in the instances when the loved ones were also denied a chance to see or spend time with the deceased in hospital or be with them when they died. However, funeral directors and crematoria staff are being incredibly professional while managing to keep families and staff safe and also giving the deceased the respect and dignity they deserve.

In order to allow more people to “virtually” attend the ceremony, crematoria are now regularly streaming and recording ceremonies as a matter of course.  Ironically, this move has meant that funerals can now be experienced in real time by a larger number of people in various geographical locations than before. There are some positives to this move to using technology; some families comment that seeing all the other mourners on the screen whilst being in their own family units gave them all time afterwards to stay connected online – something in which they found great solace.

If you are unable to attend the funeral of somebody close to you due to the restrictions on numbers, there are some other things that you can do to feel that you are able to say goodbye. Lighting candles, joining in with songs, or raising a toast to the deceased while being able to experience the ceremony in real time has become much more common.

Though the structure and length of the ceremonies has not changed, the fact that the congregation is usually just family, all of whom obviously knew the life story of the deceased, means that the content of the eulogy/tribute section is far more intimate and personal.  Tailoring ceremonies so that they perfectly represent the deceased and how his nearest and dearest saw him/her is crucial to offering the family the closure that they need in order to grieve. This focus on describing the real essence of the person, and the influence they had on family and friends, rather than merely listing the chronology of their life can be a good thing. The closeness of the family group has always been intrinsic to the ceremony but somehow it seems even more important now, especially when a spouse is isolating.

Similarly, this intimacy is also revealed through the choices of music and readings that families are making. Not having to cater to a wider social circle, the personal nature of the choices of both music and poetry and the reasons behind these choices can be incredibly moving. Families are being encouraged to really think about what was important to their loved one; the ensuing conversations can only be helpful as they slowly begin the difficult journey of coming to terms with their loss.

Therefore, despite the utter tragedy of the current situation, you will still be able to celebrate the life of the deceased in a positive and meaningful way that offers a sense of comfort and closure.

It is also an option to hold a memorial or celebration of life some time in the future when life is, hopefully,  a little bit easier for us all. 

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