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Funerals in the time of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic

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Can I give the funeral my loved one deserves if they die from the Coronavirus, COVID-19?

Your questions answered.


Nine years ago, I watched a herd of elephants mourning the death of a family member. They almost uniformly stood around the dead elephant while they scuffed up the dirt to cover the body. They wrapped their trunks around each other, as though to comfort each other and cried from glands at the side of their faces, showing upset and stress.

As humans, we have a similar ritual when one of our loved ones die. We gather together at funerals, cry together and comfort each other with a hug and holding hands; we may even find ourselves comforting a stranger letting them know they are not alone.

We usually have a get together after the funeral as a way of celebrating the life of a loved one, sharing our fondest memories. We honour their life with family and friends. We offer emotional support as well as physical support such as helping with shopping, jobs around the house or simply having a cup of tea together.


Who would ever think that the Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic would potentially destroy this human ritual that has lasted millennia leaving us all asking the same question… Can I give my loved one the funeral they deserve?


In these unprecedented times, I wanted to give my clients access to the latest and correct information during the Coronavirus, Covid-19 pandemic and caught up with Jo Parker-Prescott, Managing Director of award winning, Abbey Funeral Services Ltd in Tonbridge and Vice President of the National Society of Allied & Independent Funeral Directors to answer the important questions we all seem to be asking right now. (Last updated April 2020)


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My loved one has recently passed away of Coronavirus, Covid-19. Can I still give them a funeral?

Yes, services are still being held at crematoriums and graveside services in churchyards and cemeteries. Unfortunately, services cannot be held in churches at the moment. There are restrictions in place to limit the number of mourners and create social distancing. A member of the clergy or civil celebrant can still conduct a service that has been discussed with yourself and music personal to your family can still be played.


How many people can attend a funeral and what are the new measures in place that I should expect to happen on the day?

The restrictions in most crematoriums allow 10 people. The guideline says close family -i.e. spouse, siblings, children, grandchildren and if there are no close family then close friends, but this should not generally exceed 10 mourners. Every funeral director is different but most apply these general rules in line with trade association and government guidelines. To give an example, we are working to the following: On the day of the funeral the hearse will travel to the crematorium or cemetery, it can travel via a local address and we now have on several occasions driven to the family home and neighbours and friends have come to their gates and applauded as the hearse drives the deceased slowly to the funeral. It’s a very touching and moving gesture and one I hope will continue.

Once at the crematorium/cemetery the coffin is carried by our staff, once the coffin is in place the family will be invited to enter the chapel or move to the graveside. My staff wear black gloves and a grey/black face mask for your and their safety.

Flowers and order of services can still be provided, and we have an arrangement with our local florist and printer where both can be ordered and delivered safely to our premises.


Can I live stream the funeral service online for family members who cannot attend?

Yes, services can be streamed through the crematorium but not graveside services. 


Can I still choose between burying or cremating my loved one?

Yes, the choice is still yours as a family.


Is the Chapel of Rest still open so I can see my loved one before the funeral?

There are blurred lines with regards to preparing the deceased for viewing during this period. Each and every funeral director has had to make decisions which are very difficult. Collectively, funeral directors in our area of Tonbridge in Kent have made the very hard decision not to offer viewing in our Chapels of Rest during these strict social distancing times. It is a decision that is hard, however most families understand the reasonings. 


Can I visit the grave/memorial of my loved one after the funeral?

Yes, as long as social distancing is acknowledged, and large groups do not attend. Monumental masonry is slow at the moment. My mason is working on limited staff, most granite comes from abroad so shipments are delayed, and many cemeteries are not allowing masonry to be fitted but we can provide our families with oak crosses that can mark the grave until a stone is erected. 


Do you have any further advice for those that need to make funeral plans during this time?

In short, funerals are very different, but a life can still be celebrated with a bit of imagination. Although restricted numbers can attend the actual service; families and friends can come together via social platforms such as Zoom. Our company offers an online memorial page for families to make donations to charities and add messages of love. You can also light a virtual candle of remembrance. I would always advise that you call your funeral director and have a chat through your needs and let them guide you through all you need to know at this time.

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As a specialist bereavement counsellor, I’m pleased that there are still measures in place to practice the humanistic ritual of a funeral in the UK. However, the changes currently outlined can potentially complicate our grief process. In these difficult and complicated times, we can all help each other by listening to each other and encouraging our friends and family to seek a little extra support, which will have a more positive effect on our long term physical and mental wellbeing.

If you feel that you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, do not struggle alone. I can offer you a free 15 minute, no obligation telephone call to answer any questions you may have about bereavement and to see if I could help you.