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 about 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.

Most of the country has been in a medium level lockdown since 12th April 2021.  I hope to explain the current rules as they applies to us.  The maximum of 30 people permitted at a funeral service has been lifted from 17th May but each crematorium and cemetery will decide their own numbers. Significant gatherings after a service inside a home, hall, pub or restaurant are still not possible.  Coronavirus rules still apply

Since 12th April there has been a possibility of gathering with more people than your household and bubble in outdoor public places like crematorium gardens and parks, but it is quite cold at the moment so it’s difficult to plan for this especially where food cannot be yet communally shared outside your household and bubble.

Before a service, if friends and neighbours would like to pay their respects to a hearse from their doors, windows or front gardens from the road where the funeral procession begins, where they might not be able to go to a service, please ask us about cards to invite them to that event, to help make it more special.

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 Funeral Services remain open during the coronavirus pandemic?

For your safety and comfort, conversations about funerals, plans, urns and headstones are taking place on the telephone (and by video Skype/Facetime/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:

  • signatures of cemetery documents, and cremation documents where you don’t have a scanner for signatures
  • collection of ashes containers – urns, caskets, keepsakes and jewellery
  • chapel of rest, closed and open coffins

In line with new government guidelines, we ask that you use a face mask when you come into our premises, and on funerals, unless you have a medical reason, and we also wear also masks in our offices when with applicants and on funerals too.

Because of track and trace requirements all callers to offices must leave contact details in case you stay for longer than 15 minutes, which we wish to avoid.  Each office has a registration book and you will be given a receipt with our contact details and the date and time of your visit should the NHS need to ask you.  Where we are following all advice it’s unlikely any visits should come under track and trace rules.

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 it is no problem for us to deliver documentation or ashes items on appointment.

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.

Appointments will be conducted either over the phone or video phone 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 office colleagues are available Monday-Friday 9am-4.30pm and Saturdays 10am-Midday. There may be occasions that you are asked to leave an answerphone message, but we will respond to you within the hour.

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

Unless families have been recently affected by covid we strongly recommend that funerals are not delayed.

Some deaths will be subject to coroner’s jurisdictions which will have naturally longer timescales.

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

How will funeral arrangements 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 as physically separated as possible 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 for ourselves and for the deceased.

Death Registration

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 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.

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

Washing and dressing by families – because of current limitations, family participation in washing is not available, but one or two people might be able to help dress their Loved Ones.  We will carry out your washing and dressing wishes just as you ask.  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. IF THE DECEASED WAS AFFECTED BY COVID – embalming (full hygienic preparation) has to be carried out at extra cost – this can take place 7 days after a death. This can affect Hindu//Sikh/Buddhist/Muslim/Jewish religious obligations.  

Chapel of Rest  – There is the possibility of an open coffin in a chapel of rest, with social distancing in place, but at increased cost due to a higher level of care needed (embalming necessary for covid cases and for most other cases strongly advised).  On request a “zoom” 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?

Priests, ministers and celebrants will still help your family with the content of the funeral service as they are able, which may be by telephone, through letter boxes, and through new technology video conferencing.  It being a “work” meeting, it will be up to the individuals if they will come to your home, or possibly meet in a church or place of worship.

Can the funeral coffin come to my home during coronavirus?

A coffin can be brought inside a house with some planning, but only those who live in the house (plus the social bubble as defined by the government) would be able to see a coffin in your home.

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.  We have cards for you to invite mourners.

Can I attend a funeral service if I am isolating?

Please delay a funeral if you suspect you might be at risk of spreading the virus.

It is the law to isolate if you are suffering from covid symptoms so please do not attend a funeral if you have covid symptoms.

We also advise against anybody attending a funeral who has tested positive for covid in the last ten days but unsymptomatic.    

Please do not attend a funeral if you might be in any way possible an infection risk to others

Here is the link to the current government advice on attendance

How many people can attend a funeral? 

It varies from one place to another, to a maximum of 30 whilst still maintaining social distancing of 6ft/2m between people of different households.  There is a guideline from government that only close family members attend, to keep numbers low.

An NHS track and trace QR code poster is also available at all crematoria and cemeteries for smart phones for those who have them, but the funeral director has to keep details of the applicant who would in turn have to provide details of mourners to NHS if requested, for a set period of days.  Churches may ask the applicant for a list of up to 30 people attending, with telephone numbers



This will be 30 at most depending on size and local decisions. Each place of worship, if they have chosen to open for funerals at present, has a different number of people who can be safely accommodated, so we will check each time for you.


  • South Essex Crematorium South Chapel at Upminster can accommodate 30 mourners
  • South Essex Crematorium East Chapel at Upminster can accommodate 15 mourners
  • Forest Park Crematorium in Hainault can accommodate 30 
  • City of London Crematorium modern chapels can accommodate up to 30 immediate family (only one in operation at the moment).
  • Bentley Crematorium in Brentwood can accommodate 30 
  • Bowers Gifford in Basildon is 30, Parndon Wood in Harlow is 30, Manor Park 12 Mourners (with speakers outside in addition)


  • Upminster and Rainham Cemetery Chapels can accommodate 18 mourners
  • The Romford Crow Lane Cemetery Chapel 20 mourners
  • Forest Park permits 30 in the chapel and at graveside
  • Bentley in Brentwood can accommodate 30 
  • Manor Park Cemetery 12 in burial chapel (with speakers outside too), 25 at graveside (token witness backfill if wanted, own shovels)
  • Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery in Five Oaks Lane Chigwell, 20 mourners to each burial
  • City of London service chapels can accommodate up to 30 depending on the space.


On arrival and departure to crematoria and cemeteries, mourners are asked to 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.

It’s not permitted to touch the coffin once in position in a chapel, to keep down transmission risk, so curtains will need to close.

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

Coffin and casket choice is sometimes limited due to frequency of supply.  Woven and plain cardboard caskets are not always permitted in some venues. In order to avoid disappointment, we will ask you for a first and second choice.

Do I have to wear a facemask?

Crematoria and cemeteries request everyone wear face masks inside service chapels unless there is a medical reason or someone is aged 10 or under.

There should be an exemption for ministers and conductors, who have to be able to make themselves heard and understood clearly.

We request that you wear a facemask in our partitioned limousines, and we always have extras available for anyone attending.

and 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.  We will provide disposable gloves and masks.  This may also be possible with a wheeled bier.  We also sanitise coffin surfaces before placing in the hearse for extra reassurance.

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

In chapels with moveable seating, they can be placed in household groups with their “social bubbles”.  We would ask you to maintain your own household social distancing in chapels with fixed seating.

Can I have printed service sheets during coronavirus?

Prayer books, bibles and song books are put away during the duration of the pandemic so it can be useful to provide something to guide fellow mourners as to the order of service.

Service Booklets can be printed, for which we can produce if wanted in order to provide lovely mementoes during a time of sadness, and provide hymn words where no hymn books are on display.  Service booklets can also be posted to those who aren’t able to attend. 

Are we allowed to sing hymns?

Congregational singing is disallowed in some venues at present because of the covid transmission risk.  Please ask your consultant for more advice for individual locations.

It might be possible to request a singer in churches where good distance can usually be maintained.

The playing of recorded choral music is another useful choice.

Is it possible to witness the cremation or full burial?

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

TBC – Witnessed backfilling for burials has been suspended at cemeteries all except a token amount, bring own tools, but please check with your consultant.

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

Yes these are available, pre-sanitised and partitioned from the driver.  Only people from the same household or their “bubble” are permitted in each vehicle.  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.

For helping with people in wheelchairs, we have several licensed local black cab operators who have given us their details, with fully partitioned and pre-sanitised seating areas.

Can I still order floristry for a funeral during coronavirus?

We work with very good local florists.  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 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).

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.

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 good to request to avoid disappointment. 

Company Zoom broadcast and recording a funeral service from a laptop is available if that is the only way of achieving a broadcast or recording.  A fee is charged for this due to subscriptions payable, and a member of staff needed to dedicate themselves to its operation, in indoor locations only.

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. We also have some tripod selfie sticks which can be borrowed (please ask in advance), which can allow you to achieve the recording 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 in many circumstances, especially where all relatives and close friends are unable to attend due to illness, frailty, distance or cost, and can even be webcast. During this kind of funeral, there are no mourners present. A visiting room with either open or closed coffin is still possible in one of our funeral homes.  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 broadcast.

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 computer or phone to send to you immediately. 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.

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

At the moment restaurants and pubs are closed unless for outdoor in non-mixing groups of 6, takeaway/delivery only, and gathering in households is permitted only for those who live there and their ‘bubble.’  Please see guidelines below for suggestions how to commemorate further during this very difficult time.  Sometimes families have even prepared food platters/cream teas for mourners to take away.

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?

Pre-funeral gatherings are still restricted to 15 people if a suitable venue can be found eg a church, as are ashes scattering/stone settings, the latter of which increases to 30 from 17th May.

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. Ashes collection at some 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.

Does coronavirus restrict cemeteries normal working?

Cemeteries are open for private visits of mourners to lay flowers and tend to graves.  Please check with each cemetery for current opening times, but they are largely back to normal.

Some accompanied on-site choice of graves may be restricted at present.

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 or lockdown measures prohibiting us from doing so.  It is permitted for close family to travel for a funeral, but not to stay in other people’s houses if they are not in your “bubble” and you may have trouble finding somewhere to stay.

These rules are, understandably, causing great emotional distress to thousands of people. But there are still ways 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.  Your local places of worship are always ready to help.  You could ask us about other 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, 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.  They have special counsellors for people affected by covid bereavement.