The Latest local coronavirus funeral advice

Please check with your funeral consultant for any last minute changes


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 as changes happen which affect our local funeral arrangements.

I strongly advise against funeral attendance if you know or suspect that you (or a person planning to attend at the same funeral) might be infectious, or have been in contact with someone infectious in the last ten days – it is better to delay a funeral.  It is very unlikely any costs will result – organisations will be glad you have let them know.

Locally we have no particular restrictions, at present but each crematorium and cemetery decides its own mourner limits, so please check with your funeral consultant.  Standing mourners can also be accommodated outside the crematoria and cemetery chapels, where some have speaker and screen systems outside too.

Mask wearing is currently advisory inside crematoria and cemetery chapels, unless medically contra-indicated.  There is a higher likelihood of being in the same proximity as someone testing positive on a funeral site because mourners could break advisory isolation to attend, with usual social distancing precautions.

Thank you for reading

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

On behalf of Directors and Colleagues

Frequently Asked Questions About Planning a Funeral During Coronavirus 

Will Harold Wood Funeral Services remain open during the coronavirus pandemic?

For your safety and comfort, most conversations about funerals, plans, urns and headstones will continue to take place on the telephone (and by video Zoom etc if preferred).

In order to prevent the spread of infection, our four funeral homes are open for short pre-booked appointments for the following purposes:

  • document signatures
  • collection of ashes containers – urns, caskets, keepsakes and jewellery
  • chapel of rest, closed and open coffins

In line with cautionary advice for retail and funeral premises, please use a face mask when you come into our premises, and on funerals, unless you have a medical reason.   Colleagues might also wear also masks or face shields in our offices when with applicants and on funerals too.

We have hand sanitiser and disposable face masks available at all our funeral homes, but please bring your own reusable face mask if you have one.

If you are local we can deliver documentation, collect items or deliver ashes items on appointment.  Alternatively we can use the postal and delivery systems.

Can I take my loved one to be buried in their country of birth (funeral repatriation)?

Yes, subject to varying wait times for carrier flights.  Please see our repatriation page

Death Registration

At present local registrars will produce death certificates recent resumption of a face to face meeting following telephone appointments. 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 so registrars can provide us with documentation.  

If your Loved One is in the care of Coroners, they will advise you when registration can take place.

Please call the appropriate registrar’s office (in the borough where your loved one died) or go onto their borough websites to make an appointment.  Please ask us for advice which local authority to call if you are not sure.

Can I see my Loved One again in the funeral home?

Our chapels of rest are available for visits from family and friends as instructed, at extra cost depending on the level of care required.   We encourage timed chapel of rest visits of small household groups, on appointment, during late afternoon or Saturday mornings.   We advise gathering your family for one late afternoon at a date to be decided with us, as soon as practical after death.

IF THE DECEASED WAS AFFECTED BY COVID – embalming (full hygienic preparation) can take place minimum 5 days after a death. This might affect some religious obligations.  

Washing and dressing by families – We have limited spaces available for families to help wash and dress deceased, with ourselves assisting as wanted, everyone wearing basic provided PPE.  Alternatively we will carry out your washing and dressing wishes as you ask.  During preparation we can light candles and incense 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.

On request a “zoom” webinar video link to chapel of rest can be provided for those unable to attend.

Will I be able to see a Priest/Minister/Celebrant to help me with the funeral service?

Yes, and each minister will advise their own level of precaution as to visiting in your home, or in a place of worship, elsewhere, or using phone and video calling.

Can the funeral coffin come to my home during coronavirus?

A coffin can be brought inside a house with some planning.

A hearse with coffin on board can stop for a while outside your home immediately prior to a funeral service, where prayers might be said and for neighbours to pay respects.  This could be helpful if there are close family members too frail to attend the funeral, or if they are self-isolating.

Can I attend a funeral service if I am isolating?

Please delay a funeral if you suspect there could be a risk of spreading the virus.

It is still the law for most mourners to self-isolate if they are suffering from covid symptoms, who have tested positive or have had close contact with someone else who has tested positive.

Here is the link to the current government advice on attendance

How many people can attend a funeral? 

There are currently no legal limits on attendance, but we would advise continuing caution on numbers.


On arrival and departure to crematoria and cemeteries, mourners are asked to wear masks, thoroughly sanitise hands with their own or chapel supply, or use hand washing facilities on site.  Our hearse and limousines always have a supply of hand sanitiser.

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

Driver partitioned 6 passenger limousines are fully sanitised before their arrival to your family home.  Disposable face masks are available for all passengers if you do not have your own.   We may also temperature test passengers with non-contact thermometers.

We have room for folded wheelchairs in the backs of our limousines, but please give notice.

Can I still order floristry for a funeral?

We work with very good local florists.  However, please bear in mind that there may be limited choice of blooms because of current international transport difficulties, 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 permitted and can be a great option for families to add a personal touch to a funeral to create a special memory even if the day itself cannot be all that you’d hoped.

“Homing” Doves can be released from cages (rather than from cupped hands).

Do I have to wear a facemask?

It is now advisory rather than mandatory.

We advise that facemasks are worn in our partitioned limousines, and we always have extras available for anyone attending.

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

Can we help carry the coffin?

It is possible for family members to carry their Loved Ones’ coffin into a chapel.  We provide masks if wanted.  This may also be possible with a wheeled bier.  We also sanitise coffin surfaces before placing in the hearse for extra reassurance.

Can we have open coffin during a service?

Each venue has its own rules.

Can I have printed service sheets during coronavirus?

Service Booklets can be printed, which we can produce if wanted in order to provide lovely mementoes during a time of sadness and can also reduce risk of transmission from hymn books etc.  Service booklets can also be posted to those who aren’t able to attend.  

Are we allowed to sing hymns?

Congregational singing is now allowed. The playing of recorded choral music is also a useful choice.

It is also possible to request a singer in churches.

Is it possible to witness the cremation or filling of the grave?

Mourner numbers are limited for witnessed cremation depending on location.  Please check with us for each crematorium.

Witnessed backfilling for burials is restricted at cemeteries, bring own tools, but please check with your consultant.

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 webcast, audio and visual recording facilities to achieve this.  Some churches have their own facilities.

Company Zoom broadcast and recording a funeral service from a laptop is available, only  if no integral facilities are available.  A fee is charged for this, in indoor locations only.

However, it is always important to remember that webcast from any sources are not 100% reliable because of variable broadband signal, so “watch again” services and recording is recommended to request to avoid disappointment. 

There are no restrictions for families to record funeral services on telephones and personal cameras, which can be broadcast through own applications like Zoom, Facebook Live, FaceTime, WhatsApp. 

Can I have an unattended funeral during the coronavirus pandemic?

An unattended service may be a viable option in many circumstances, especially where relatives and close friends are unable to attend due to illness, frailty, distance or cost, and sometimes can even be webcast. During this kind of funeral, there are no mourners present. A chapel of rest/visiting room with either open or closed coffin is still possible our funeral homes.  It’s also possible for us to pause outside a family home with the hearse, 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 could be broadcasted.

We know how important funerals are for remembering someone who has passed and so we are more than happy to record any unattended service to broadcast and send to you. We can also – take photos of flowers, return floral tribute cards, provide a free funeral tribute page, place a local newspaper announcement – where you can thank everyone for their support, produce memorial cards.

How can mourners gather safely after a funeral for a post-ceremony reception?

Restaurants, pubs and community halls may have their own risk management restrictions.  It’s best to choose a venue with good ventilation and plenty of room.

Inside your own home there are no current limits to numbers.

When serving food and drink in your home or garden, please follow the same guidelines as given to commercial organisations:

What if I want to have a pre-funeral gathering (otherwise known as a “wake”) or a memorial/ashes dispersal/stone-setting ceremony after the funeral?

Same guidelines apply as above.

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 their subsequent burying or scattering about which we can advise.

Ashes collection at most crematoria is currently restricted to funeral directors.

We can look after ashes at no cost until the situation is over, and if you live local to us we are able to deliver ashes to your doorstep. If you would prefer an unattended ashes burial at the crematorium where the funeral took place, this can be arranged free of charge.

We have a good range of ashes containers for transferral from functional environmental boxes used by crematoria depending on their eventual destination.

Does coronavirus restrict cemeteries normal working?

Cemeteries are now working as normal.

What if I am not able to attend a funeral?

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

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.
  • You could consider holding a virtual wake, at the same time as other family and friends, on the telephone, or via Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp, FaceTime. 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 that person’s memory and sit quietly with them in mind.


  • We have an online tribute page which can also include a donation link straight to a particular charity, and it can be shared 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 this period of concern is passed.


  • Use your daily exercise as a chance to go for a walk in a space that the deceased loved.


  • If you have a garden with some space, order a bench and ask your funeral director to create a plaque commemorating the deceased. When summer returns, 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 increased isolation. Keep in touch with friends and family even if you don’t feel like it.  Your local places of worship are always ready to help.  You could ask us about other local bereavement support. Whilst these groups may not 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, 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 or 9am-9pm weekdays 0800 917 7224.  

St Francis Hospice Orangeline is available on 01708 758649 9am-5pm weekdays for bereavement help and all local hospices offer similar services.