Afterthoughts

Blog thumbnail

Lockdown funeral: what you need to know

A lockdown funeral is becoming in the norm for those wanting to say goodbye during the current pandemic.

Organising a funeral for loved ones can be a daunting process at the best of times and recent restrictions due to government attempts to contain COVID-19 have made this even harder, not only for individuals involved, but for the whole industry.

With different regulations across the home nations, plus ever changing regulatory systems both nationally and locally, it’s hard for families of the deceased to be clear on what is and isn’t allowed.  Equally, policies of funeral homes and crematoriums vary depending on risk assessments of vulnerable workers and the physical constraints of venues.

However, the main aim of all lockdown funeral regulation is to minimise the spread of the virus whilst balancing that with the need for the bereaved to mourn.  Here are a few key areas that have required most revision and may require you to think about alternatives to normal funeral practices:

Prior to the funeral

One of the key changes, that many hope will become permanent, is that you can now register a death remotely and get a death certificate issued.  Many funeral homes are also now offering appointments via Zoom, although most still allow visits to your home or the funeral home, if social distancing guidelines are adhered to.

A family may wish to provide clothing for the deceased and visit them at the chapel of rest.  In most circumstances, both of these are still possible, although numbers involved will be restricted and very sadly, if the cause of death is COVID-19, then neither is likely to be possible.

For religions where ritual washing of loved ones or practices that bring you into close contact with the body of the deceased is part of mourning, things can be difficult too.  Whilst some areas still allow them, most strongly advise against these rituals, especially for the clinically vulnerable, and recommend, at the very least, they are undertaken in a regulated environment like a funeral home.

On the day

The restrictions on numbers able to attend lockdown funeral have hit the headlines, but there are many other considerations that may affect your plans:

  • Hymn books and orders of service may not be allowed and so you might like to provide electronic copies in advance of the service.
  • The service itself may be required to be shorter than you’d normally expect to allow for cleaning in between ceremonies.
  • Limousine services have had to be adapted or even cancelled.  If this is something important to you, you may want to find out who is still providing this service locally before choosing a funeral home.
  • Coffin bearers – again, restrictions are being interpreted in different ways.  If the bearers you choose are from the same household, it is more likely to be possible.
  • Providing alternative participation – with funerals often restricted to 10-30 mourners, it has become increasingly important to cater for those who won’t be able to be present on the day.  Whilst some funeral homes will provide live streaming services, a simple mobile phone can be used to provide a recording of the service.  You may also wish to suggest how others can feel part of the service by providing a pre-recorded reading or lighting a candle during the service.
  • Wakes, ash scattering, stone setting and celebrations of life have also been curtailed.  The regulations around these tend to follow the standard social distancing rules at any one point in time.  There also seems to be more variation across the home nations in terms of what is and isn’t allowed beyond official ceremonies.  As a result, many people have decided to delay these events in the hope that restrictions may be lifted at some point in the future.

Grieving

Losing someone during restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 can be even more distressing than normal.  You may have not been able to visit a loved one in a care home or hospital prior to their death.  Because of social distancing guidelines, you may also not be able to have as many family and friends around you to support you in grief, or may find that the general curtailment of day to day life, that often provides distraction, is also making it harder to deal with your grief.  There are several organisations that are providing support during these exceptional times including Cruse Bereavement Care and At A Loss.

Other useful resources

For up to date and specific guidance on what is and isn’t allowed in a lockdown funeral, it’s important to check the published guidelines of each home nation:

England COVID-19: guidance for arranging or attending a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic

Scotland Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for funeral services

Wales Advice for the bereaved: coronavirus (COVID-19)

Northern Ireland Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations guidance: what the restrictions mean for you

For helpful advice from the industry’s trade body, the National Association of Funeral Directors, click here.

You might also like to read this blog.