At the end of January, the UK marked the loss of more than 100,000 people to have died within 28 days of an infection with COVID-19. This was a terrible milestone that none of us could have imagined we would reach even just a year ago.
The pandemic has hit everyone hard and every one of us has had our own battles to face. Our thoughts go out to you all and to everyone who has lost a loved one to this awful disease.
Here at Austin’s we continue to do our best to give those in our care the farewell that they deserve, while also supporting their families. Our staff work hard with care and compassion despite the added pressure that we, as so many other essential services, have experienced over the last year.
What has changed for the funeral sector?
The National Association of Funeral Directors has carried out some research, which paints a picture of the increased pressure on our industry.
Across our UK workforce of 20,000 people, we have seen a 30% increase in our services compared to what we would usually expect in a typical January.
Some areas of the UK have a wait of up to five weeks between someone passing away and their funeral taking place. Similarly, some crematoriums have a three week wait and mortuary space is also at full capacity in some areas.
Of course, none of this comes without increased emotional and mental stress for funeral staff, but we’re pleased that this has been recognised and that specialist helpline support is available should staff need it. We are, after all, only human and deeply affected by seeing the scale of this pandemic first hand – both on those who have lost their lives and those left behind.
The importance of funerals
Unlike other life events, such as weddings or christenings, funerals can’t be delayed or repeated in the future. It is for this reason, as well as the inevitable burden on people’s mental health and wellbeing, that the government has allowed funerals to continue, albeit with restrictions in place. It is so important that people are able to grieve properly and a funeral is pivotal to this.
As with all essential services at this time, it’s crucial to get the balance right so that mourners have their opportunity to say goodbye, while keeping themselves and those working in the sector safe.
What has stayed the same with funerals?
When a loved one dies, you can still select your funeral director as usual and talk through all the funeral plans with them either over the phone, or in some cases in person. We currently have some of our branches open by appointment only.
You can still have beautiful flowers and an order of service, you can choose the coffin, have pre-recorded music play during the service and travel in a Covid-safe way to the ceremony in funeral cars.
And even though numbers are obviously limited, you can still invite everyone who would have attended the service in person to watch it live through a streaming service. We have found that more families are now streaming the service to family and friends. Although it’s not the same as paying your respects in person, it’s a wonderful way to celebrate the life of your loved one with as many people involved as possible.
How can you help to play your part?
You can help to ensure funerals continue to take place safely by making sure you remember a few key points.
Firstly, please only attend a funeral if you have been invited directly by an immediate family member. If you are not invited, ask if they are streaming the service. Please don’t gather outside the church as this will still cause public health issues.
On a similar note, if you are organising the funeral, do be careful around how you advertise the details such as the date and venue. People turning up unexpectedly will cause problems and no one wants to be turned away at the door. You could consider other alternatives such as an online condolence page that people can add their messages to.
If you are attending a funeral, please follow the guidance of your funeral director carefully. This includes wearing a facemask, limiting your numbers to the required amount and staying socially distanced.
Lastly, if you are having a charitable collection on behalf of your loved one then this should be done online only so that no cash has to be handled, therefore reducing the risk of transmission.
Those who represent funeral workers say we too are providers of care, but the very final care. We are here for you throughout the pandemic and beyond, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with any questions or concerns you may have.