Funerals and Covid-19
These are very uncertain times.
We all need to work to keep ourselves and other people safe. Advice is subject to rapid change. I will keep the information here as up to date as I can.
It is correct as of 24th March 2020. I will change it as policy changes.
Sadly, while the Covid-19 pandemic will cause many deaths, other deaths will still occur, and whatever your loved one dies of, a funeral will still need to be arranged.
It is important to acknowledge that, even more than usual, a funeral may feel both more important and impossible. Social distancing, self-isolation, shielding, and quarantine will all affect the kind of funeral it is possible to have BUT these need not stop everything: you still have a number of options.
In this post I will explain what changes may happen and how you can respond to them if you would still like to have a service to mark you loved one’s death. It can feel a bit confusing and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
As a celebrant, I am still working with Funeral Directors who may recommend my services to you. If this happens then things may feel fairly familiar to you if you have arranged a funeral before. The only change may be a restriction on the numbers that can attend (advice about this keeps changing).
However, things may change more drastically and funerals may have to happen without a service: this is called a ‘direct funeral’ or ‘direct to cremation’. Any such move will be temporary while the crisis is being managed. If this happens, you may need to contact a celebrant directly if you would still like some sort of funeral for your loved one – I describe the options below.
If you already know a celebrant you can contact them, ask a funeral professional for a recommendation or search for celebrants on the internet. There are also organisations with contacts for their professional members such as the Institute of Civil Funerals (www.iocf.org.uk).
So, if you find yourself having to arrange a funeral or wanting to plan a service when a direct cremation is having to take place, what can you do? What choices do you have? To make sense of your options, think of a funeral as having two parts: (1) preparation and (2) the service itself: in a crematorium or elsewhere.
I also explain my fees
Preparing for a funeral
A key aspect of the preparation for a celebrant-led service is the opportunity to talk about your loved one. Often people find that the family meeting plays an important part in coming to terms with loss so, whatever you do later, this phase can be experienced as healing – as part of the grieving process.
I will talk with you, take notes, prepare and send you a draft, and discuss and alter the draft until it is exactly right for you and your loved one.
While visiting your home is no longer possible, the family meeting can be done over the phone or via a video-call (using facetime, skype, zoom etc). In this way, several members of the family can take part and have input just as they usually would.
Drafts can be sent by email and discussed via email or on the phone – whatever is most convenient for you.
A service at the crematorium
While crematoria are still open to the public and services are still being conducted, there may an option to have a very small/limited numbers funeral (currently restricted to immediate family only: Spouse/Partner; parents/carers; brothers/sisters; children (and partners). While these limits may be distressing they have been put in place to ensure the safety of crematorium staff, funeral directors and your celebrant – as well as your fellow mourners.
If this is the situation, and if you feel safe to attend the funeral, you can:
Let friends and family know who will be able to attend – be clear about any limit that has been placed on numbers because it will be enforced!
Have a PDF file of the funeral script to share with mourners ahead of time so they can read at the same time and be with you ‘in spirit’
Live-stream and/or record the service (although not all chapels are equipped to do this)
If you have to have a very limited funeral, I can also conduct a memorial service for a bigger group at a later date when the rules have been relaxed (see below).
A service elsewhere
You may not be able to attend your loved one’s funeral because you are self-isolating, unwell or in quarantine. Indeed, there may come a time when attending funerals becomes impossible – they may be closed to the public (this has already happened in parts of the UK as well as abroad).
If this happens no one apart from the Funeral Director who is taking care of your loved one will be able to attend and there will be no service. But again, there are options:
At the time of the cremation (or at another mutually convenient time), as your celebrant, I can conduct the service with you on Zoom or Skype in real time. I am still exploring the software but many people are able to log in and view at the same time.
If this happens, you will also be able to record, keep and share the service.
This service will be carefully crafted to take into account the very different circumstances and will be discussed with you in full ahead of the service.
At the time of cremation you can read the script yourselves or do something else that feels appropriate.
You can also defer a larger gathering until such time as the rules are relaxed and hold a memorial service. This can take place anywhere you feel comfortable: in your home/garden or a pub/club and can happen in addition to any other, small service conducted in association with a cremation.
I will be happy to conduct a memorial service at a mutually convenient time using or adapting the script that was written at the time of the cremation. If you prefer, you can use the script and deliver it yourselves.
If no funeral script was prepared around the time of cremation, I can create a service for the memorial and deliver it.
My usual fee for a full funeral service is £190.
Usually I am paid by you via the Funeral Director (from the disbursements) so if we work together and the Funeral Director books me, that is still how I will be paid.
However, if you are not charged for the service of a celebrant by the Funeral Director (ie you pay for a ‘direct cremation’) then I will charge my fee pro-rata to enable you to work flexibly:
Family ‘meeting’ and creation of script: £130
Conducting service at the time or as a memorial: £ 60