Today I officiated at my first alternative funeral under ‘lockdown’ rules. Last night the government asked us to stop ‘gathering’ with the exception of funerals.
So what does that actually mean?
Each council is setting their own rules at the moment but most are allowing immediate family only. That includes mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children. In some families that might be only 2 mourners but in larger families that could be up to 25 people!!
A whole lot of wrangling is currently taking place about acceptable numbers behind scenes. But in reality I am finding that people don’t want to place themselves into close contact space of a chapel. They don’t want to risk their own health or that of their family.
It is devastating to lose a family member but it is even more destructive not to be allowed to attend a funeral in it’s usual format. Ultimately though we have to keep ourselves safe.
And so, I contacted my family this morning to ask their expectations.
What do we need from a funeral?
They explained that they wanted to be able to attend a ‘place’ as a focus, in this case it will be our local crematorium. They also wanted some words to be said to recognise their fathers life. Finally, they wanted to see his coffin go into the chapel.
But above all else, they wanted to stay safe…
How can we ensure families emotional needs are met under lockdown?
The primary reason for restricting numbers at a service is to stop cross contamination. That can occur between mourners, the deceased (unfortunately possible) and staff.
Is it time to start thinking ‘outside of the box’
Following a conversation with my family and the Funeral Directors I work with, we have agreed an alternative funeral for today…
The family have chosen Processional music which will begin to play as the hearse arrives at the crematorium gates. The song will continue as the hearse drives toward the chapel entrance.
The official pall-bearers will open the tailgate of the hearse (families are no longer recommended to do this). They will then step back to a respectful distance allowing everyone to maintain social distancing.
I will conduct a brief service outside to include a favourite reading of their choice and the commital. The recessional music will be played as the coffin is accompanied into the chapel by pall bearers alone. The family will remain outside as the chapel doors will close behind the coffin.
Whilst this is in no way ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ – the harsh truth is that these are unprecedented times.
The psychological need for a funeral
As a celebrant I offer emotional support through the loss of your loved one. I know how much a service matters – how much it is needed. All celebrants must offer creative ideas and an alternative funeral to allow a family to say goodbye. And crucially whilst keeping themselves (and others) as safe as possible.
From a psychological perspective this will still offers a ‘place and time’ for grieving family to mark the occasion, say farewell and see the coffin leaving them.
I will be offering all of my clients a memorial service included in their package. This will be streamed so that they can share it with all of their family and friends.
Suggestions can be made for each ‘viewer’ to join in the ceremony. They could collect flowers from their own gardens and placing them in a vase. Alternatively they might prepare a candle to light during the service in memory of the deceased.
I have no doubt that many of my clients will also choose to book a ‘celebration of life’ for a future date. I really look forward to seeing them gather together in the summer with loved ones as they recall the memories of their loved ones in happier times.
If you would like any more details please contact me