When someone we love and respect has died it can be a very stressful time in anyone’s life.
The expectation from a funeral can be different from person to person and we always respect the needs and desires of the person that has passed away and the family we are serving.
In order to ensure that families and loved ones, funeral directors, the religious and others who officiate at services and other workers are protected, a number of restrictions have been put in place. Representatives of faith communities and cultural groups will provide guidance to their own communities on how they will organise revised funeral arrangements. These will take account of the restrictions that have to be put in place.
When arranging funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the key messages in the HSE guidance include:
• That the funeral director avoids direct contact with any family member who has been identified by public health authorities as being a close contact of the deceased. They may be established by telephone before meeting individual family members.
• In light of current restriction on mass gatherings and the requirement for physical distancing, public reposals and gatherings at funeral homes are discouraged. The funeral should be private and limited to a maximum of fifty people as advised by the public health authorities. Only the following should attend:
• members of the person’s household
• close family members
• close friends if the deceased has no household or family members.
A Guide for the Bereaved during the COVID-19 Pandemic
• Numbers attending funerals, however, may be restricted further in smaller enclosed places. Social distancing must be practiced at all times. Depending on local circumstances individual churches or other funeral locations may also put in place restrictions on numbers.
• Mourners should follow the advice on social distancing when travelling to and from the funeral gathering.
• Social distancing of at least 2m between identified groups is recommended for everyone.
• Physical interactions including shaking hands and hugging should be avoided.
• Arrangements should not be advertised in papers and online (the funeral notice can be placed but the arrangements should not appear).
• Families can advise relatives privately of the funeral arrangements. The following wording has been suggested as an example:
A private funeral will take place due to government advice regarding public gatherings. Those who would have liked to attend the funeral, but due to current restrictions cannot, please leave a personal message in the section below ‘Condolences’.
• In the papers, a similar message can be written with reference to www.rip.ie or funeral director company website to offer the family condolences.
• The use of condolence books is discouraged and people are recommended to send condolences through social media, online websites, text or by letter.
• The family should be advised that they may have a Memorial Service at a later date.
• Where possible, close contacts and relatives of the deceased should use their own transport for attendance at the funeral.
This guidance relates to all funerals, including bereavements that are COVID-19 related and non COVID-19 related. Families of the deceased are asked to respect any advice or restrictions that might be put in place during this difficult time.
Post Funeral Gatherings
Unfortunately, due to the restrictions in place at this time, family and friends of the deceased will not be able to have gatherings after the funeral service. While this will undoubtedly be difficult for all concerned, there will be an opportunity, in time, for family and friends and the wider community to come together to celebrate the life of the deceased
In these uncertain times people want to know what is the best way to express our sympathies?
Our culture is rich in traditions and ways to honour our dead. We are already seeing examples of how Irish people are finding new ways to support each other – some of the ‘oldʼ ways are also being revived.
Here are some ways you can help remember the person who has died:
Get friends and neighbours to stand at their gates as the hearse passes by. At this time of social distancing, we are asked not to line the road for a funeral
Be the person who organises friends and neighbours to leave food and meals for family members (adhering to social distancing)
Post condolences and messages of support online on RIP.ie or on social media
Take time to write letters of support and condolence – expressions of solidarity can be meaningful