New rules for funerals during pandemic must be followed
Restrictions and guidance on gatherings are having a huge impact on the way funerals can be conducted – presenting both emotional and logistical challenges for mourners, funeral directors and funeral venues.
Jeremy Field, Managing Director of CPJ Field, explains: “Funerals are about giving people emotional and physical support and the new rules are incompatible with these.”
Funerals are now are a very different experience. Relatives, in small numbers, are still allowed to visit the deceased in CPJ Field’s funeral homes but visitors must confirm whether they have had any contact with a COVID 19 case before entering. Anyone experiencing symptoms should refrain from going to the funeral or visiting the funeral home.
The company has had to adapt working practises to comply with social distancing rules. For instance funeral directors are using video conferencing to speak to families and forms can now be signed digitally.
“We are trying to hang on to some of the traditions, while keeping everyone as safe as we can. It’s about being reasonable and proportionate. For example, if a person doesn’t have their own transport to get to the funeral we will collect them in one of our vehicles which has privacy screens to keep our driver and passenger safe. We’ve recently had elderly widows who wouldn’t have been able to attend their husband’s funeral without our help.”
“We have had some people in our care die from COVID 19, but it’s hard to know where we are on the curve at the moment,” explains Jeremy.
The Government has asked that only immediate family members attend funerals such as the spouse, parents and children. There are no churches allowing funeral ceremonies but a few words at the graveside are permitted.
Jeremy added: “The hardest thing is watching people having to stand two metres apart and there are widows having to go back to their homes and be on their own because of social distancing. It’s heart-breaking. Our natural, human emotions make people want to reach out and it’s dehumanising for people to have to stay apart.
“We’re encouraging mourners to adhere to the rules – if we don’t then funeral gatherings may be banned. The idea that a body is just taken to a place of committal without relatives being able to see it is a horrifying thought, so we need to take collective responsibility to avoid this situation.”
When asked about wills and carrying out the deceased’s funeral wishes Jeremy explained that his team is doing its best. Arrangements have been made for funeral processions to set off from the family home allowing neighbours to show their support from their doorsteps. The company is still able to offer horse-drawn hearses while adapting to social distancing rules.
Sadly, funeral directors are seeing some funerals with no flowers as florists are struggling to get supplies and some of the other simple gestures normally seen at funerals have gone. But many crematoria now have video streaming services like Zoom so mourners can join the funeral remotely. Carrying the coffin and keeping two metres apart is presenting challenges and Jeremy’s team has had to use trollies to transport coffins for the first time in the company’s history.
“For my colleagues it’s the PPE that presents huge difficulties. We try to be as compassionate as we can but when our mouths and noses are covered it hinders communication. But families do seem to be understanding and we have to wear PPE so we don’t put them at risk or our colleagues,” said Jeremy.
Once the pandemic is over Jeremy expects to see a large number of memorial services and says his team will contact families about these. “The opportunity to raise a glass or a cup of tea is very important. I hope we can help make that happen for people further down the line.”
Wealden Crematorium and Eastbourne Crematorium are currently restricting attendance at funeral services. For the latest information go to https://wealdencrematorium.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Families-info-9th-April-2020-Wealden-Crematorium-Covid-19-update.pdf
For the latest details from Eastbourne Crematorium go to https://www.lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk/community/covid-19/crematorium-and-cemeteries/
Cooper & Son in Cross in Hand, as part of CPJ Field, is a family owned funeral directors who take pride in providing the highest calibre of care, commitment and service, both to those who are experiencing bereavement and those who are making provision for the future.