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  • Writer's pictureRuth Jewell

Funerals During a Pandemic

Our world has turned upside down in the last week, and we are all coming to terms with what this means for us.

For those who had a Funeral planned, or those whose loved one has died this week, things are changing by the day and that is extremely hard to cope with.

Generally we all have a plan in our head of how things should happen. Someone dies, the death is registered and paperwork completed. A Funeral Director/Undertaker is appointed, and a Celebrant or member of the Clergy is booked. The service is booked, and plans are made for the service and wake.

In the last week this has been tossed on its head. Plans made have had to change, numbers of attendees have reduced, and no wakes are allowed. These really are unprecedented times.

I want to reassure you that myself, and my fellow Celebrants, are working tirelessly to support our families. We are working closely with the Funeral Directors/Undertakers, Crematoriums and our official bodies (in my case the Institute of Civil Funerals).

We all need to say goodbye, of that there is no doubt at all, however it doesn't have to be in the same way it has been done in the past. If there is one good thing that has come out of this situation already, is how we are all thinking creatively, embracing new ideas (even my Mum now has an i-pad, and can receive FaceTime calls), and we are making the best of the situation.

Often I find that my families are so weighed down with their grief, and all the official stuff, that they struggle to think clearly about how exactly they would like to say goodbye. They don't have the luxury of time. If there is something good to come out of this, for my families, it will be that luxury of time. Time to think about exactly how they wish to remember their loved one. Time to think about an appropriate venue for a memorial service. Time to gather memories and information. Time to choose the very best photos. Time. A valuable commodity that we are always short of.

It is my role to support and guide my families throughout this time. Where possible I am still delivering a service at the Crematorium, although it is heartbreaking to see people from different households separated, and unable to support each other, to only hold a service where there are a handful of people in attendance, when the family were expecting 200, for the family members not to be able to approach the lectern to speak, for the curtains to close, when the family wanted them to remain open, for there to be no flowers on the coffin, no orders of service, and the coffin to remain untouched by those who just want to place a kiss on their hand and rest it, quietly.

What I am able to do is to offer a choice of other ways to hold the service, other ways to say goodbye, and the support to arrange a memorial service in the future. I'd like to say that I can be there for my families, and I can, but sadly not in a physical sense. This is so hard for me. I find my families need a hug, or just a hand on a shoulder or arm, or a squeeze of the hand. I am still there though, through a video call, down the phone or at the end of a message. I am there in spirit and thought, and I will be there for my families, for as long as it takes, just as I always am.


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