How Can We Mourn During a Pandemic

There is no denying that coronavirus has changed the lives of almost every single one of us in some way or another. However, where some of us may be lucky enough to get through this pandemic and this lockdown and see the other side remaining happy and healthy, that certainly is not the case for everyone. 

The global toll for coronavirus infections has nearly reached over 5 million with over 300 thousand deaths globally. But of course, coronavirus is just one cause of death for people all over the world. People and loved ones are still dying every day in every country, from old age, illness, accidents and many other causes that are unrelated to the pandemic. 

And yet, regardless of how it is that people are leaving this earth, not a single one of them will be untouched by the effects of the pandemic and what it has done for our capability to mourn, celebrate and remember. 

How has coronavirus impacted the funeral process?

Funerals are a time for loved ones to come together during a time of both sadness and celebration. However, during this tragic time, we must try to find a way of experiencing the same love, the same catharsis and the same closeness whilst being very much apart. In the most heartbreaking circumstances, not only are loved ones not able to see their loved ones after their death, many are also forced to say goodbye without ever being allowed in the room with them in their last moments.

Funerals themselves can no longer be organised face-to-face as before, with a warm and friendly conversation over a cup of coffee and someone there for a hand to hold. Now, arrangements and meetings are done over the internet and even registering a death can be done on the phone in order to avoid unnecessary contact. 

Of course, one of the most upsetting and challenging changes to legislation on top of everything else, has been a ten-person limit for the attendance of funerals in most local chapels. Some larger areas and chapels have been able to extend this limit to twenty close friends or family. 

For many people, the funeral process may be an emotionally draining and difficult one, but is vital in the grieving process and the ability to try and move on after the loss of someone you love. The physical act of mourning alongside other people that loved and were loved by the person is a powerful and necessary one for so many and is why funerals hold such a vital role in almost every society around the world. 

If you are even lucky enough to be one of the few people permitted to attend a loved one’s funeral at all during the pandemic guidelines, social distancing measures will still be kept in place. This means that hugging, kissing or even standing near your family will be prohibited to avoid the spread of disease.

It is a way of mourning the likes of which none of us have ever had to witness before and the lack of physical contact, not only with our loved ones that have passed, but with each other in the aftermath can have a severe impact on our ability to grieve and our long term mental health as a whole. 

That’s why it’s so important for us to find healthy ways to mourn as we navigate these sad and trying times together. 

Delayed memorial services 

A funeral, of course, is not just for our loved one that has passed; it is also for those who remain to come together and find a way to celebrate their life and move on. But when we’re all separated for an unknown amount of time, that period of grieving can feel unbearable without a proper send-off, especially if you were one of the unfortunate members of the family that were not able to attend the service under the new social distancing measures. 

That’s why we are encouraging those struggling with their grief and bereavement to arrange a small funeral in accordance with the government guidelines and then organise a memorial for your loved one once the pandemic is over. This can give you a temporary sense of closure, while keeping your mind busy in planning and organising the perfect way to remember your loved one. 

So rare do we have more than just a couple of weeks to plan a whole funeral, unless a death was already expected. Therefore, while hosting a delayed memorial may seem like the worst case scenario, it may allow you a greater calm when making the necessary preparations and ensure that your loved one is remembered in the perfect way possible. 

Furthermore, family members who may have missed out on a funeral under normal circumstances, may be able to take time off work or arrange to come to a memorial if the date is set far enough in advance. So your loved one may even have even more people there to celebrate their life than they would have in any other circumstance.

Get creative 

If you are organising a funeral during the pandemic period, then you will likely be aware of the restrictions everyone is currently facing. From the number of people allowed in attendance, to what transport is permitted, to even casket materials, every decision must be made with the risk of unnecessary contact in mind. That’s why it’s important to make the most of the time you do have. After all, just because you may wish to host a memorial later on down the line, that doesn’t mean the funeral itself should be considered a waste of time. 

There are so many ways in which you can make the day special, even if it’s not everything you hoped it would be. For example, if your local florists are no longer available to offer their services, why not pick fresh flowers for your loved one during your daily exercise, or better yet, pick them from your loved one’s garden to symbolise their presence even after they are gone. Spend the time planning the funeral coming up with the most personal and poignant stories to tell them during the service. 

If you are a creative person, use this as a chance to create something special for the occasion to make sure it remains a memorable event, even during this time. Write a song or paint a picture. It’s these small touches that can transform the experience from something to be looked back on with nostalgia and love rather than sadness.

Utilise technology 

Technology has been our saviour in so many different ways during this pandemic, whether you are separated from loved ones by just a couple of streets or by entire continents. During a quarantine, how far apart you are matters not when we are expected to stay apart. This will be one of the hardest aspects of funeral planning in 2020 and there will be countless people around the world not permitted to attend a funeral, even if they have the ability to do so. These measures are, of course, necessary to protect the most vulnerable of us in society, and yet it does very little to help the heartbreak that must be felt when you are not able to say goodbye in person.

However, not only are many crematoria and chapels able to livestream your loved one’s funeral, every funeral venue is likely to permit the use of mobile phones, cameras and any electronic device you wish to record or stream the service from. 

As well as recording the funeral service itself, Zoom, Skype and other programmes can be used to host virtual wakes, funeral receptions and other gatherings with friends and family from around the world. In fact, it’s important to stay connected to our loved ones during hard times, not just during the events of the funeral. So getting into the habit of Skyping family members during the grieving process could be hugely important for your overall mental health. 

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Unfortunately, there is simply no way that everyone will come out of these current times unscathed somehow. The thought of being separated from our loved ones at all is a scary concept and to be apart during our most difficult moments can seem like the end of the world.

However, when it comes to funeral planning during a time of social distancing, it is important to remember that as hard as it is for us to accept that our loved ones may initially have a smaller, more intimate send-off than we might have wished for them, it is the act of remembrance that makes a funeral special and what binds us together. 

We may be physically apart from those we wish to hold and grieve with and we may not be able to fill an entire church to say goodbye to those we love, but we can still be together spiritually, emotionally and mentally. After all, it is simply through keeping our loved ones in our thoughts and our hearts that we carry their memories, even if those thoughts, for now, will have to come from miles away in the safety of our homes.

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We are a family-led business offering funeral services in Essex since 1958.

Please contact us at any of our four funeral homes, Harold HillHainaultHarold WoodCollier Row, for any queries, support or advice regarding the funeral planning process.