The current restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic mean many people are unable to attend funerals, cremations and wakes. This is a very distressing reality for thousands of people at this time. Each month in the UK there are around 50,000 deaths, so many people, maybe like yourself, are unable to say goodbye in the way they expected.
You may have come to this page because you have heard about the restrictions and are desperate to know how you can still grieve and honor the life of the person who has died. You may also be on your own, self-isolating, feeling the waves of grief even more acutely. You may be coming here because you want to help a friend and need some practical information.
Whatever the reason, we want to let you know you are not alone. We have trained experts available to help and support you on our helpline.
What are the rules?
As of 24 March 2020 in the UK funerals can only go ahead at a crematorium or graveside. Only 'immediate family' are able to attend (many funeral directors are limiting numbers to 10) and they must abide by social distancing rules. That means unless you are attending with the family you are isolating with, you need to stay two meters apart. We understand this will be heartbreaking – being unable even to reach out and give a loved one a hug – but it will save lives. Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, who is self-isolating after being exposed, or who is in a high risk group, is not able to attend.
It will also be really tough for anyone far away, or who doesn’t qualify as immediate family who also would want to be there. We have given some ways to try and help include them below. Funerals may be shorter than normal and likely to be delayed which for certain cultures will compound the distress.
The rules are the same whether or not the person died of coronavirus, and whether the funeral has been planned in advance or not.
If you are planning a funeral
Speak to your funeral director or celebrant to make sure you are clear on the rules (they can vary between providers). Discuss with them how you can share the service. They may be able to live stream it on facebook, or you could film it or take photos to share afterwards.
Contact all the people you would normally tell and let them know the date and time (the government ask that the place isn’t shared on social media). If you have chosen not to film it or it’s not possible then they will have the chance to mark the occasion at the right time in their homes. If it’s overwhelming to contact everyone yourself, ask people to call five people each or post on social media, or send an email (blind copied to avoid sharing everyone's address).
You could also ask people to share an anecdote of the person, and if you are attending you could read it out for them so they could feel their memory is honored.
You could set a time for the same day to hold a wake or gathering online or on the phone.
How you can help yourself if you can’t attend
Contact the next of kin and find out if they are streaming or filming the service. Even if you cannot watch in real time, or the funeral is delayed or reduced to a very short service you can still set some time aside to have your own private goodbye or memorial at home. Look at pictures, play some of the person’s favourite music, write a message to them, light a candle or follow any of your own cultural rituals.
Ask those who have been able to attend to call you afterwards so you can hear their account of the event, and take the time to share your memories of the person.
We will not be under these restrictions forever, and at some future point you may be able to hold a formal or informal memorial to those who have died. And we are here to speak to if you need us.
How you can help someone else who cannot attend, when you can
If you know that someone you care about is not able to attend a funeral, you may be able to help them at what is a very difficult time. If you are attending the funeral, find out if it is possible to take pictures, record the event or even live stream it. They may like to record their own message to read out or play at the funeral.
Offer to call them afterwards and let them know how it went. They may appreciate the chance to share their memories of the person who has died, and hear your memories too.
As time goes on after a funeral and people continue their lives, some bereaved people find that messages of support tail off. In times of social isolation it will be even more important that they have someone to talk to, so try and stay in touch and let them know you are thinking of them.
How you can help someone when you didn’t know the person who has died
If you can find it in yourself to reach out, please do. Especially if they are on their own. They may want to just share their favorite memories or how painful it is. We all struggle with what the right and wrong this to say but avoiding the subject can compound their grief and make them feel more alone. Acknowledge the person who has died, use their name, text, call and check in regularly.
You can offer them some practical advice too. Share the information and suggestions on this page, or offer to help tell people about the alternative funeral arrangements.
Listening to a distressed loved one, whether you knew the person who died or not, will be hard for you too. We are here to support you if you need to talk.
How we can help
Cruse is continuing to offer as much support as possible. While we have had to stop offering our face-to-face support, we do have 5000 bereavement trained volunteers in our network who are here to support you or someone you know.
- You can call our helpline. Our National Freephone Helpline remains open – call 0808 808 1677. Opening hours are Monday-Friday 9.30-5pm (excluding bank holidays), with extended hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings, when we’re open until 8pm.
- You can email us at email@example.com
- You can like our facebook page, which has lots of tips on coping with bereavement.
- Our Local Services can also offer support over the phone at the present time.