How can we hold a funeral with Covid-19?

Just to be clear; Ceremonies are an important part of the grieving process. I think they should be among the very last thing to go in the lock down period. I shall continue to act as celebrant for grieving families as long as the law and my health allow.

The Crematoria in West Wales are still open as I write this,  but funerals feel very different now. Chairs are spaced out to allow just a handful of mourners, the first two rows reserved not for family, but to protect the officiant.

There’s no shaking hands or hugging before the ceremony.

My eyes sting as families Ieave with no embrace from me, just sad smiles through tears from a distance.

But, it’s still a very touching and meaningful rite of passage, and there are ways, usually, to link to other mourners who cannot attend.

Llanelli Crematorium empty of people

Llanelli Crematorium, before Covid-19, with the seats still in place.

Direct Cremations

As a member of the Institute of Civil Funerals, I’m working with incredibly supportive colleagues to find ways of helping in this crisis.

I’ve been thinking about how funerals are being conducted presently, and what happens if we’re moved to direct cremations, when no-one other than the funeral director attends the crematorium.

Holding a funeral ceremony is a vital part of the grieving process for many people. I’m regularly told by my families that having our long conversations about the departed to prepare for the funeral has been really helpful.

How can we “mark the moment”?

So, how can you still “mark the moment” if the formal funeral ceremony is severely restricted or indeed if you’re no longer allowed to attend a crematorium at all? Here are some ideas of what a funeral could look like over the coming weeks (and months, I’m afraid).

  • We could still create a “ceremony”. Celebrants are already meeting families online or by telephone. It’s when and how we use it which will change.
  • If you have Wi-Fi at home, I could live stream to you from my home at the time of cremation. Depending on how many of you there are, and your WiFi, we will all be able to see each other.
  • This could be quite “traditional” with tribute, readings and “words of farewell” to mark the moment.
  • We could include a visual tribute, a slide show depicting moments from your time with your loved one.
  • Or it could be a short ceremony. If you wanted to, we could create a more inclusive “memorial”, or celebratory ceremony later.
  • Or we could do something completely different – a “group chat” about the departed at the time of committal, for instance? I could follow this up with a written tribute.
  • The whole ceremony could be delayed until you’re free to have a full memorial/celebration ceremony in the future.

Above all, I wanted to let you know that as a member of the celebrant community, I’m trying to think of ways to support you as families in these incredibly difficult times.

Please just give me a call if you want to discuss any of the above.

Zoom for funeral meetings

There are numerous ways to meet online, this shows just one of them.

In the meantime, my best to you. Please stay safe.

The Funeral Directors are very much part of the “unsung” band of workers just continuing to do their thing to keep the wheels of society turning. Bravo to them, and thank you!

Funeral Celebrant at the lecturn

This is me at the lectern in a Swansea Chapel of Rest