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Arranging a funeral – coronavirus advice

Arranging or attending a funeral is a very personal and emotional time and knowing what to do at the moment can be tricky. So, what should you do during the coronavirus outbreak? 

Can I still go to a funeral?

There’s specific guidance about who can attend funerals at the moment. The guidance outlines that a modest number of family and friends may attend, with social distancing measures, and hand and respiratory hygiene requirements maintained at all times.

However, there are certain things to consider: 

You shouldn’t attend a funeral if:

  • you’re displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, even very mild symptoms.

Those arranging the funeral should do their best to enable you to attend if:

  • you’re a family member or friend who has been advised to shield but, having carefully considered the risks of attending, would like to do so
  • you’re a family member or friend self-isolating for 14-days because someone you live with or in your support bubble is displaying symptoms, or because you have been contacted by NHS ‘test and trace
  • you have returned to the UK, need to quarantine for 14 days but, as permitted on compassionate grounds by government guidance, can leave your place of quarantine to attend a funeral

If you are normally self-isolating and someone who is shielding or clinically vulnerable is to attend the funeral, you are advised not to attend at the same time as them. When attending, you should advise others that you would normally be self-isolating.

Everyone attending must wear a face covering in any places of worship, the crematorium and burial group chapel – unless they have a good reason not to.  

Travelling to the venue

If you’ve been advised to shield or been self-isolating because you live with someone or someone in your support bubble is displaying symptoms, then you should consider your travel to and from the venue (ideally in a car by yourself).

If using shared transport with mourners you don't live with or share a bubble with, and where social distancing between passengers via the seating positions is not possible, you should all consider wearing a face covering. 

The latest funeral guidance aims to balance the needs of the bereaved to mourn appropriately while limiting the spread of coronavirus. It outlines where exceptions can be made to the current guidance to stay at home. These exceptions only relate to the death of someone you live with, a family member or a close friend. And if you are self-isolating or shielding and want to attend, special considerations should be made. 

Can I still arrange a funeral?

Currently, guidelines say that funerals should continue as normally as possible and shouldn't be delayed. You can invite a modest number of family and friends.

However, individual crematoriums and cemeteries may have their own guidance based on their facilities and a risk assessment and considered when arranging a funeral. The crematorium may provide online broadcasting so mourners can watch the service without attending in person.

If the funeral is being held at a place of worship, attendees should be restricted to 30 people. Though it may need to be fewer than 30 people to allow for social distancing and in line with guidance issued for places of worship.

You must consider the wider guidelines in place at the moment, including staying alert and safe social distancing guidance, practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding physical contact and being particularly mindful of those in at-risk groups (such as those over 70, who are self-isolating or who are shielding).

For more information about who is considered in a high-risk group, you can visit our page here.

What do I need to think about when arranging a funeral?

When arranging a funeral at the moment, it's worth considering the following before you contact a funeral director:

  • who you want to attend, being mindful of those in high-risk groups who may want to attend
  • arranging service sheets as service books are unlikely to be available – though no singing will be allowed
  • recording the eulogy on a phone or other recording device so those not in attendance can listen or watch at another time
  • services may need to be shorter so the venue can be cleaned between services
  • whether you might organise a celebration of life or memorial for a later date, when it's safe to do so
  • social distancing requirements
  • whether it's appropriate to have family members bearing the coffin
  • giving particular consideration if anyone attending has been self-isolating as they live with someone displaying symptoms, or anyone advised to shield
  • those considered vulnerable or advised to shield are advised to avoid any contact with the body of the person that's died, including washing, preparing and dressing.

You can now hold a gathering before or after the funeral. However, to do this safely there are certain things to consider, including:

  • you must follow social distancing guidance on meeting up with family and friends, which can vary according to the chosen venue, whether indoors or outdoors and whether people attending are shielding or part of a social bubble
  • if using any business to help with arrangements, there will venue specific rules and Covid-19 secure guidelines and they must follow
  • you should specifically avoid activities such as singing, chanting or playing of instruments that are blown into. Also, any activity requiring people to raise their voice. This is because these activities pose a possible additional risk of infection even if social distancing is being observed or face coverings used.

Even though gatherings are allowed, you may want to consider waiting to hold a gathering when more restrictions are lifted and it's safer to do so.

Coping with a bereavement at this time

The death of someone close to us can be one of the hardest things we ever have to deal with – grief is never easy. But at the moment it may seem just that bit harder as we feel more detached from our usual support networks. Cruse Bereavement Care have more information on dealing with a bereavement during the coronavirus outbreak

What changes on the day?

As well as the considerations above, there are certain things you should do on the day to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

  1. Wait outside in the car until you're asked to enter the building by the celebrant, chapel attendant or funeral director.
  2. Don't shake hands with anyone, including the minister, funeral director or other mourners.
  3. Bring hand sanitiser and use hygiene products made available at the venue.
  4. Allow staff to open and close doors to the service to restrict the number of people touching door handles.
  5. Numbers in the venue are likely to be limited. Stick to any assigned seating plans and keep your distance from other mourners.
  6. You may be advised not to touch the coffin as you leave the service. 

If you can’t be at the funeral there are things you can do to help you feel like you’re a part of it. You could light a candle, or sit in quiet reflection, or do a reading. These can help you feel like you are saying goodbye.

For more information

For more information about the current guidelines you can visit the following websites:

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Last updated: Aug 20 2020

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