How funeral directors are giving control back to families under lockdown
Webcasts, cortege routes lined with friends and colleagues, and personalised clothing are just some of the ways funeral directors are giving control of services back to mourners.
Coronavirus restrictions have had a huge impact on all aspects of life, and none more so than funerals, where restrictions limit the number of people who can attend, and have even stopped the singing of hymns or songs.
Chris Adams of Perry and Phillips Funeral Directors of Bridgnorth, said they have come up with a series of measures to help people pay their respects, while the restrictions remain in place.
It comes as he said they have found it "increasingly frustrating in providing meaningful and personal funeral services for families", and have had to put a "great deal of thought" into how people can remember their loved ones.
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The changes in regulations have had a huge impact on services, with no hymns or songs due to risk of infections spreading and no collection boxes.
Most local crematorium will only accommodate a maximum of 10 mourners inside their service chapels. Council cemeteries will accommodate between five and 10 mourners.
Because all church services are now suspended until further notice, grave-side ceremonies in churchyards can accept up to an absolute maximum of 10 mourners, who must be immediate family members only, and no mourners over 70.
Mr Adams said: "We are very much a family-run business that has served the families of Bridgnorth and the surrounding districts since 1835, and we are finding it increasingly frustrating in providing meaningful and personal funeral services for families, given the strict regulations imposed on funeral services currently in force during this national covid-19 pandemic emergency and are putting a great deal of thought into how we can empower a family, giving them back some control, to make funeral services a personal and fitting tribute to that individual and an occasion that will be remembered."
Mr Adams said that they, along with many other funeral directors in Shropshire, are coming up with all sorts of ideas to personalise each ceremony and try to make services special.
He said: "Examples that have been very helpful locally include arranging for family, friends, neighbours and workmates to line the route of the cortege, to pay their respects to the deceased and to that family as the cortege passes, some standing quietly and reflecting, on other occasions a round of applause as the hearse goes by.
"Music at those ceremonies, often important songs in the lives of that family, which mourners can sit and listen to.
"Webcasts of services, for mourners not permitted to attend to take part in, this enabling mourners to watch from their homes through computers.
"Special routes for the cortege. Because funeral directors are not permitted to provide mourning coaches for families during this time, because of social distancing, novel forms of transport for mourners, some even following the hearse on their bicycles, others walking behind the hearse in the very traditional way.
"Encouraging mourners to write letters to the deceased which can be placed into the coffin, putting everything into that letter that they would want the deceased to know, in an attempt to clear any ‘unfinished business’.
"Personalising clothing for mourners to wear, making it memorable for mourners present. Thinking carefully about poems and secular readings that may be required in the ceremony. Who is going to read. What is to be said about the deceased, particularly important when the service is going live on a webcast, for ‘other’ mourners to share."
Mr Adams said that despite the restrictions they are determined to make sure people can remember their loved ones until the restrictions are lifted.
He said: "There are many ways that a funeral service can be personalised during this terribly difficult time. Funeral directors cannot make a funeral service ‘not sad’, every funeral service is terribly sad, some more than others, but they certainly do not have to be miserable, grim occasions, and with a bit of guidance from the funeral director, some goodwill from the officiant and some tolerance from the crematorium, burial authority or diocese, funeral services can still be meaningful, personal and important."
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