The Latest local coronavirus funeral advice

To all in their bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic

There is nothing we can do or say to mitigate your pain of separation, except we will treat your Loved One in our care the same as we would our own, in these unprecedented times.  We have had so many sensitive and difficult conversations with the bereaved, many of whom have been separated from hospitalised family members during final days, and who now find that they are unable to say goodbye in the way they expected.

Directors and colleagues in our company recognise that we are in the middle of an unprecedented international situation.  We are still making good funeral services from an ever changing situation.  We work to the most careful of conflicting advice, to keep any possible cross-transmission minimal between your family, the wider community and ourselves.  Safety informs every decision we make.  There is no loss of dignity and care to your Loved One.

We update this website page about as changes happen which affect our local funeral arrangements – please look at it for advice. www.hwfunerals.co.uk/coronavirus

Thank you so much for reading

Mrs Carol Lawrence BSc (Hons) Cert FAA (Distinction)

On behalf of all Directors

Frequently Asked Questions About Planning a Funeral During Coronavirus 

Will Harold Wood remain open during the coronavirus pandemic?

In order to prevent the spread of infection, our four funeral homes will only remain open for administration and telephone appointments only.

Can I still make an appointment during the lockdown?

The way in which we are able to communicate with our customers has changed until lockdown measures are over. For example, most documents are being exchanged by email. We recommend that a member of your family provide us with their email address if you do not have use of a computer.

Where appointments will be conducted either over the phone or through video chat through Whatsapp, Zoom or Skype to try and maintain the personal connection with you. 

Our telephone lines are always staffed for emergencies by our own local call-out team, and our four funeral homes are still manned (and “womanned”) Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and Saturdays 10am-Midday. There may be occasions that you may be asked to leave an answerphone message, but we will respond to you usually within the hour.

Can I delay a funeral until the coronavirus pandemic has passed?

We strongly recommend that funerals take place at the soonest possible time.  Further restrictions on attendance may come into force if the normal timescales are stretched because of public health concerns.

How will funeral planning be affected by social distancing?

Firstly, each of our funeral homes behaves as its own household, which means that your household and our own “work households” need to remain separated physically based on government advice. All hospitals and care homes have this policy, to protect transmission from each other unknowingly, especially with regards to key workers like ourselves, and so this is our policy too.

When the deceased are brought into our care from private homes and residential homes after a GP has confirmed an expected death, we will use protective clothing in all cases as well as protective covering for the deceased.

At present local registrars are producing death certificates via telephone calls. Respondents may not necessarily be next of kin, and the registrars will advise you accordingly. Please attend to death registration at the earliest time, giving our email address voicemail@hwfunerals.co.uk so registrars can provide us with documentation.

Currently we cannot invite families to wash and dress their Loved Ones because of social distancing limitations, but this will be carefully carried out as per your instructions.  We will light candles and incense when preparing the deceased on request and play any music or prayers if you are able to send us a link to a piece of music from the internet. Your loved one will be well taken care of in our funeral homes.

From the first week in June there is now the possibility of an open coffin in a chapel of rest, with 2 mourners at any one time, but at increased cost due to a higher level of embalming required (which is a current company policy.)

Priests, ministers and celebrants can help your family with the content of the funeral service by telephone, through letter boxes, and through new technology to keep in person contact to a minimum at present.

Can I attend a funeral service if I am social distancing?

While self isolation is recommended for at-risk groups, these groups are now permitted to attend the funeral service of an immediate family member if you are able to keep the recommended social distance and are free of symptoms. 

Here is the link to the current government advice on attendance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/covid-19-guidance-for-managing-a-funeral-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic.

How will funerals be affected by social distancing?

Overall, we ask if you can consider making very simple arrangements and particularly consider alternative crematoriums eg City of London has local widest choice of times available for a funeral in a short time because of the larger amount of service chapels available and space within each.

Can the funeral coffin come to my home during coronavirus?

The coffin in the hearse can stop for a while outside your home immediately prior a funeral service, for prayers to be said and for neighbours to pay respects.   This is also really helpful if there are close family members too frail to attend the funeral or if they are self-isolating.

How many people can attend a funeral during the lockdown?

Larger venues may be able to accommodate a higher number of people whilst still maintaining social distancing of 6ft/2m between people of different households. These include:

  • City of London Crematorium and Chelmsford Crematorium chapels can accommodate up to 20 immediate family.
  • South Essex Crematorium at Upminster can accommodate 10 immediate family
  • Forest Park Crematorium in Hainault can now accommodate 19 
  • Bentley Crematorium in Brentwood can now accommodate 16
  • Bowers Gifford in Basildon is 24, Parndon Wood in Harlow TBC

On arrival and departure to crematoria and cemeteries, mourners are asked to thoroughly sanitise hands with their own supply, or use hand washing facilities on site.

It’s not permitted to touch the coffin once in position on the crematorium stand to keep down transmission risk.

Each cemetery has its own policies and procedures for application of social distancing.

  • Havering cemeteries can accommodate 10 immediate family in Upminster Cemetery Chapel,
  • The Romford Crow Lane Cemetery Chapel is currently closed – but services can be held in Upminster prior to burial if available.  
  • Forest Park and Manor Park Cemeteries specify outdoor graveside services only, comprising very low numbers of immediate family.
  • Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery in Five Oaks Lane Chigwell has a 5 family member only limit at graveside only.  

Does coronavirus restrict the type of funeral coffin I can have?

Coffin and casket choice is limited due to both individual and supply.  Woven and plain cardboard caskets are not currently permitted in many venues. In order to avoid disappointment, we will ask you for a first and second choice.

Do I have to wear a face mask?

This is the first paragraph of the latest government advice, with the link below for more detail.  It’s advisable.

If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet. This is most relevant for short periods indoors in crowded areas.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/staying-safe-outside-your-home/staying-safe-outside-your-home#face-coverings

and here is the government advice about making own masks, which can be as simple as a clean scarf or bandana.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-wear-and-make-a-cloth-face-covering

Can we help carry the coffin?

In order to maintain social distance, family members who wish to carry their Loved Ones’ coffin can do so if there are at least four fit and healthy people from the same household. This may also be possible with a wheeled bier. We will provide disposable gloves.

Can my family sit together at a funeral while social distancing?

In chapels with moveable seating, they can be placed in household groups, and we would ask you to maintain your own household social distancing in chapels with fixed seating.

Can I have printed service sheets during coronavirus?

Small details throughout the funeral service may be different in order to preserve a more hygienic environment. For example, prayer books, bibles and song books are put away during the duration of the pandemic.  

Personalised funeral service sheets with songs and prayers can be used instead, for which we can help with production.

Service Booklets can still be printed in order to provide lovely mementoes during a time of sadness. These can be posted to those who aren’t able to attend. 

Is it possible to witness the cremation or full burial?

At this time, there will generally be a limit of two mourners permitted for witnessed cremation.  

Witnessed backfilling for burials is unfortunately suspended for the time being.

Can I hire limousines to take my family to the funeral during coronavirus?

There are limited services and options available to mourners in relation to what is safe and not increase the risk of infection.

From the first week of June there will be some limited availability of partitioned limousines

Dependent on booking at the time.

Currently, we are not using limousines because of being unable to maintain social distance. Please use your own family & friends’ cars and ensure to only travel with fewer people in each, leaving space in between each person. 

If you do not have family vehicles then London Black Cabs are recommended which have greater shielding between driver and passengers, and are more easily sanitised in between trips.  We have several licensed local black cab operators who have given us their details.

Can I still order floristry for a funeral during coronavirus?

We are still working with some good local florists who are happy to provide your loved one with floral tributes. However, please bear in mind that there may be limited choice of blooms and at least three working days notice is needed for order.

Are horse drawn funerals and dove releases available during the pandemic?

Horse and horse drawn hearse is a service that is still permitted at most sites (Bentley Cemetery and Crematorium is the exception to this) and can be a great option for families to add a personal touch to a funeral and create a special memory even if the day itself cannot be all that you’d hoped.

Doves can be released from cages rather than from cupped hands.

Can I live stream or record a funeral during the coronavirus pandemic?

For those unable to attend a funeral service during this time for whatever reason, technology can truly be a saving grace and a way to connect with those we love most to say goodbye to our loved ones. Many crematoria or cemetery chapels have audio and visual recording facilities to achieve this (but not all, for example, City of London Cemetery and Crematorium does not have webcasting and recording facilities).

However, it is always important to remember that recording and webcast facilities provided by venues may not be 100% reliable, and so it is advised that families provide other sources to avoid disappointment.  Recordings sent by email are usually achievable if webcast is difficult due to technical limitations.

There are no restrictions in recording funeral services on telephones and personal cameras, which can also be broadcast through applications like Facebook Live, FaceTime, WhatsApp. Even bringing a selfie stick can allow you to achieve the best recording possible to share with your loved ones who are unable to attend the service.

Can I have an unattended funeral during the coronavirus pandemic?

An unattended service may be a viable option for some families, especially where all loved ones are unable to attend due to illness. During this kind of funeral, there are no mourners present. However, we are still able to stop outside a family home with the hearse, with coffin and flowers in order to provide that more personal connection.  

A minister can still attend on your family’s behalf to give a chapel service at the place of funeral, or outside one of our funeral homes with the hearse, or outside a family home, even if there are no mourners present.  One of our own colleagues can say personal messages on your behalf.  All these events can be recorded by venues’ systems or by telephone.

We know how important funerals are for remembering someone who has passed and so we are more than happy to record any unattended service on a company phone to send to you immediately. We can also take photos of flowers, return floral tribute cards or even place a local newspaper announcement where you can thank everyone for their support.

Can I have ashes returned quickly during coronavirus?

One of the most important parts of the funeral process for many families is the receiving of their loved ones ashes and the subsequent scattering of them. During the pandemic, ashes collection at most crematoria is now unfortunately restricted to funeral directors, and ashes burials will be delayed.

However, we can look after ashes at no cost until the situation is over, and where local we are able to deliver ashes to your doorstep. Of course, if for whatever reason you would prefer an unattended ashes burial at the crematorium where the funeral took place, this can be arranged free of charge after the restrictions are lifted.

Does coronavirus restrict cemeteries?

When it comes to burials, during the pandemic, pre-purchasing and on-site choice of graves is very restricted or suspended at present depending on the cemetery. 

Memorial re-fixing or fitting in all cemeteries is also suspended until further notice.

What if I am not able to attend a funeral due to coronavirus?

During this time, there are many reasons why we may not be able to attend the funerals of our loved ones, whether it be due to illness, time constraints or lockdown measures prohibiting us from doing so.

These rules are, understandably, causing great emotional distress to thousands of people. But there is still a way to bring meaning and find solace in these difficult times. Compiled with the support of independent funeral directors from around the UK, here is our advice for remembering a loved one, if you’re unable to attend a funeral or want to do something beyond watching a service on FaceTime or via a webcast.

  • If the hearse is going to the family home before a funeral
    • you could greet the hearse (with social distancing in place)
    • perhaps clap with others as the hearse departs
    • or follow the hearse in procession to the place of service (even if not able to go onto the site).
    • If you are the applicant, please ask us for some specially made cards to invite friends and neighbours to join in with this.
  • Hold a virtual wake. Gather a selection of friends via Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp. Have a glass of something ready to raise a toast to the deceased and have a good old chinwag about the person, reflecting on happy memories. To help break the ice with people who might not be used to talking on video apps, ask everyone to think of something that reminds them of the deceased before the call. It could be a memory of an occasion, something they said, or what you liked about them.
  • You could also light a candle in their memory and sit quietly for 15 minutes – or as long as you want – with the person in mind.
  • There may be an online tribute if the family are donating to a particular charity and share it with friends and family on social media.
  • Quiet, undisturbed contemplation is incredibly therapeutic when you are grieving. So why not place a bouquet of the deceased’s favourite flowers in a corner of the garden if you have one, or a room in your home, and set aside time to sit with the flowers and remember the person. If flowers are unavailable, perhaps there’s a particular plant your friend or loved one was fond of. 
  • Read some poetry, prayers, or verse, or maybe a section from the deceased’s favourite book, then video it and post it on social media and tag other mourners. Read the passage and then talk about why those words are important and what they meant to your relationship with, or opinion of the deceased.
  • Ask friends and family to send stories and thoughts of your loved one along with photographs. Look through these whilst playing a piece of personal music in the background at the time of the funeral. If you’re not there in person you can still be present emotionally. Also, ask those who did attend to take pictures of the coffin and share these with you and perhaps let you know about anything that was placed in the coffin, what readings there were and which music was played.
  • Write a letter to the person who has died and include everything you would have said, or perhaps should have said but didn’t have the time or a suitable opportunity to do so. Keep the letter safe where it may be possible to to inter it with the ashes, or perhaps bury in a favourite part of your garden. Each time you look at that spot, you will be reminded of the person, creating a lasting, positive mental legacy.
  • Get creative. Find your peace in music, writing, drawing, or reading. There is great comfort in artistic expression. And if you are at home with children due to the school closures, get little ones to paint a picture that makes them think of the person and hang it on the fridge or somewhere for all to see. Not only is it really important to involve children to help them express their emotions and understand grief, but it will also bring a smile to your face.
  • For a set day, wear an item of clothing in the deceased’s favourite colour. By doing this you’ll be able to give the deceased a personalised funeral and you’ll think positively about them all day.
  • Help create a plan for a larger meaningful thanksgiving event after social distancing restrictions have passed – this is something we will be able to assist with. We also have several annual memorial events in local churches to watch out for in our facebook page and website.
  • Use your daily exercise as a chance to go for a walk in a space (if open) that the deceased loved. Be mindful of social distancing rules and avoid lingering in one place for too long if the area is busy.
  • Many local independent garden centres are still open online and are offering a delivery service. If you have a garden with some space, order a bench and ask your funeral director to create a plaque commemorating the deceased. With the summer approaching, spend the warm evenings sitting outside enjoying the fond memories of your loved one or friend.

And remember, don’t be alone during this time of isolation. Keep in touch with friends and family even if you don’t feel like it. If this isn’t an option, ask us about local bereavement support. Whilst these groups won’t be meeting in person at the moment, there is likely to be some who will talk on the phone or via video conference call. As a result of social distancing measures, r bereavement support is being adapted, meaning support is still available. There are also free online bereavement services, such as SAIF Care Chat, which is available at saif.org.uk.