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Because family life matters

Ten suggestions for planning a funeral during the COVID-19 pandemic

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  1. When planning the funeral, it may be helpful to remind the bereaved family to include things that they will not have a second chance to do. For example, seeing the body; taking a photograph of the coffin; photographs of the family during and after the service.
  2. Do be aware that as lockdown is eased, regulations as to where funerals can be held and who can attend are changing, and may differ depending on location.  The links at the end of this article provide helpful current guidance on this. Make sure that the service is broadcast online and recorded so people can either watch it live or later on if they wish.
  3. Don’t worry too much about it being perfect, especially if parts of the service have to be pre-recorded. The raw emotion and grief demonstrated by those speaking are a normal part of a funeral, and give others permission to release their emotions too.
  4. Remember the friends of the deceased, the ‘remote mourners’ who are unable to be at the service in person due to limitations on the number of attendees or their requirement to shield or self-isolate, but need to able to express their grief in some way that acknowledges the very special relationship they had.
  5. If you are participating in the service, try to maintain some sense of intimacy and informality with those who are grieving. This may mean not standing behind a lectern or other fixture, but moving closer to the family whilst maintaining social distancing rules.
  6. Try to ensure that anyone speaking during the service relates what they say very closely to the deceased person. When people are watching online from a different physical location, they need to feel a strong sense of identification with what is being said.
  7. Many chapels and crematoriums now broadcast live. If possible vary the camera position to ensure that viewers get as realistic a feeling of being ‘present’ as they can. For example, if you were physically present you would see the family members as well as the face of the person speaking.
  8. Many of those watching online will want be there in person. Try to think of things you can include which will create some sense of community.
  9. Are there those who you are aware of who don’t have online access and thus can’t participate in the funeral? Consider what you can do to help in that situation.
  10. Plan a celebration of the person’s life to take place once the physical distancing restrictions are lifted, even if it seems to be a long time away. Invite all those who would have normally attended the funeral and make sure that close friends are able to have an input. Allowing them to give their recollections about the person who has died is a good way to do that, as it can reflect their character and the impact they had in the world. It is important to guard against it becoming just another party or gathering of friends, so do allow those who would normally have played a key role in helping with the funeral to have a hand in organising it.

Here are some helpful resources and suggestions from bereavement support organisations regarding funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic:

For those attending a funeral online, you may find the Little Box of Big Thoughts a useful aid.  It can be downloaded free of charge and consists of a number of unfinished sentences which you can then complete in relation to the person who has died.  You may find them helpful in describing your unique relationship with that person.  You can either fill them in online or print them out and write on them.  Once printed, they can be cut into squares and kept safe to remind you of that special person.

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