The past few months have been a heart-breaking time. It's not been easy to preside over funerals during this time for a lot of reasons. The worst part is that there has been a marked increase in the number of funerals because of the pandemic. This has meant the enforcement of many changes and some very difficult times.
Here at Special Moments Celebrant, I also handle funerals and have had to deal with some of these changes. Here are my views on how funerals in the UK have gone so far. I have also included some simple steps that Celebrants often carry out to soothe loved ones during funerals.
· The Restrictions
Saying goodbye to a loved one who has passed is difficult. The restrictions in place, however, have made it even harder. For one thing, not every family could be in physical attendance. It's not been easy for families who have been affected to cope with this situation.
There is also the fact that you could even be available for the physical ceremony and unable to connect. It isn't deemed safe for you to physically comfort someone who is crying or hold their hand. It's hard to maintain the two-meter social distance required and watch your loved one break down while giving their speech. It's hard, but we've had to do it.
· The Rise in Number of Funerals
The rise in the number of deaths and funerals this year has been much due to the pandemic. We've seen the huge numbers across the screen with every COVID-19 announcement on the news. The first few months of the pandemic is when the increase in the number of funerals began. I've had to handle quite a bit myself.
The death toll is still of concern these days with rising numbers of cases. It is also going to be a thing of concern as we find ourselves approaching the winter months.
· The Role of Celebrants During the Pandemic
Before the pandemic, the role of celebrants has been about putting families at ease. We do this by creating a comfortable space for them to talk about their loved ones. Meeting with the family and talking about the person who has passed away takes tact. You have to be emphatic, sensitive, calm, and professional because they need you to get through their trauma. The pandemic has, however, caused a shift.
The funerals during this pandemic have not been the same. It is somehow more clinical, which makes it harder for the family grieving. I don't even get that chance to be there for the family like I would love to. Going to see them physically and talking about their loved one has been now out of the question, thought with social distancing all things are possible. It was during that visit time that I learn about this person over tears and laughter. I used these moments to build up to a lovely funeral service.
· Alternatives to Physical Visits
It hasn't been easy, but I've been trying to work with what we have. I just really feel for the family. They have to share this burden with a complete stranger, which I initially am to them. Now not only do they have to do it, but they also have to do so over a video call - if that’s their preferred way of contact. This adds to the difficulty because that intimacy that comes from being physically present is lost. You can't read silent cues and facial expressions the same. I've had to tell some of them that we can take as long as they need. It's been one of the hardest things I've had to do during this pandemic, and I wish it were not so.
· Funeral Services During the Pandemic
Right next to the difficulty that I've mentioned above is the lack of closeness at the services. Social distancing has to be followed, and it's been sad. At a time when we need to reach out and comfort each other the most, people have had to be socially distant. There really can't be any contact unless you both came from the same household.
Usually, I would be right next to a loved one giving a speech and comfort them if they need it. Watching a daughter or a wife read their eulogy or poem and break down in tears without being able to do a thing has been draining. The one time when you want to be a form of a solid support is when you have to step away. Like I said earlier, it's been a heart-breaking experience.
There is also the fact that this new normal is quite cruel. The average number of people who get to attend the funeral has been dropped. We've gone from about 40 to around 15 depending on the crematorium. This is also hard, but it's what we've had to work with because of restrictions. I am really worried about how the families are coping with this too. For example, if you have a large family, how do you get to choose who gets to come and who doesn't?
· Doing the Best That I Can in This Pandemic
It really hasn't been easy, but I've done my best. I feel holding an actual service like this is better than the direct cremation option. During that, nobody is present, and it's just sad. I feel that would be too much after the fact that the family couldn't see their loved one at the hospital either. I prefer these services where social distancing is observed strictly to that.
I don't know when these restrictions will be lifted. Like everyone else, I am hoping for relief, for a vaccine that works. I would love for people to be able to be there for each other and their families. Especially during a time as trying as a funeral can be.
In the meantime, however, we will continue to make do with what we have. A funeral is a milestone that should be marked despite how hard this new version of it might be. I have taken it upon myself to make this personal no matter how brief and intense my relationship with a family is. I'll be right there doing my best to guide everyone and do this right.
Here at Special Moments Celebrant, I understand how important milestones are. If you're having a ceremony here in the Essex and Southend area, I'd love to be a part of it. I bring to your event my years of experience as a celebrant and my passion for what I do. So why not give me a call on 07838921491 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org? I'd love to hear from you.