Unprecedented times…challenging times…difficult times…the coronavirus pandemic has changed our world dramatically in just a few weeks. This has led to pressures and worries that we have never faced before.
The restrictions in place to prevent spread of the virus have had a huge impact on us all.
In some very sad cases, this means the harsh reality of not being able to be with loved ones when they are ill or dying. This grief is then compounded by the ban on gatherings which has put a limit on the number of people allowed to attend funerals. A “proper send off”, as the saying goes, is looking very different right now.
At Woodvale Crematorium, the maximum number of funeral attendees is 12 people and those most at risk from the virus are asked to stay away. Social distancing is also in place at funerals, for example chairs are places apart from each other during the service. The details are on our website.
These measures make sure we do all we can to prevent the spread of the virus. The changes will hopefully help reduce the number of people falling ill at any one time so the NHS can cope with the demands.
I work in the NHS and I will do all I can to support this amazing institution to give all those on the frontline a fighting chance to save lives.
But knowing that we are doing what’s best and right doesn’t stop the pain of loss being overwhelming when someone dies. Families and friends want to hug and console each other in a way that is perfectly human but not safe right now.
There is hope to be had too. This time will pass. We will be able to celebrate our loved ones together in whatever style suits them best when the pandemic is over.
Until then, there are ways we can mourn and be involved with remembrance even if not able to attend a funeral.
Here are some options to consider.
Contribute to the service from afar
It might be possible to send in thoughts, memories or a favourite reading to be included in the service. These could be on display or read out as appropriate.
Peaceful reflection at the time of the service
Family and friends not able to attend can take a quiet moment at the time of the service to remember all that is special about their loved one who died.
Light a candle
A lit candle can symbolise the ongoing brightness someone leaves behind them after they have died. Lighting a candle at the time of the funeral can help people to feel close to the person who has died and their final goodbye service.
If no one can attend
If no one close to the deceased can attend due to staying at home or illness this can be quite upsetting for family and friends. It is often possible for a photo of the coffin on the stand in the crematorium to be taken by those carrying out the funeral. This can be a comfort for people to know the service was a dignified and respectful occasion.
Plan for the future when everyone can get together to celebrate the person who has died and remember their life. Talk with family and friends about how best to create a memorial event for when the restrictions are lifted. There is time to be creative about what this might look like and to involve people in a way that isn’t always possible when funeral arrangements need to be made swiftly.
Look after each other
Most of all look after yourself and those close to you during the emotional turmoil of grief. There are difficult conversations to be had about what is best to do and how to cope with the additional pressures of the restrictions. If possible, share the heavy load, both emotional and practical, with others. Seek help from support services if needed.
Councillor Dan Yates
Lead councillor for life events services
NHS guide to grief after bereavement or loss
Samaritans or call 116 123
Brighton & Hove City Council information on what to do when someone dies