The pandemic has put much of the world on pause over the past year, including funerals and memorial services. Whether you plan to have a small, family-only gathering or a large service, your funeral director, celebrant, or cremation service provider can help.
5 Things to Know When Planning a Funeral During the Pandemic
During these unusual times, most funeral directors have been exercising caution to help ensure the safety of you and your family, guests, and the funeral home staff. Some of these include, but are not limited to, the following when making funeral arrangements.
- While your funeral director is setting up the conference arrangement, he or she may ask the members if anyone feels ill or has been exposed to any COVID-19 lately. If so, such members might be asked to stay at home and join in the conference only through teleconferencing facilities.
- You may also be asked to shrink down the list of your guests in order to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spread. Except for some close family members, others may be asked to join the funeral through teleconference.
- For safety purposes, you may be asked to sanitize your hands at the time of your arrival and departure from the funeral home The funeral director may also prohibit the shaking of hands in light of safety purposes. You may also have to maintain a distance of six feet from all other members at all times. The funeral director may ask the members to wear a protective mask.
- For your safety and the safety of funeral home staff, the funeral director may opt to make the funeral arrangements via video teleconferencing using webcasting, live streaming, zoom, or facetime.
- The funeral director may also mandate you to follow the directions issued by the local, federal, and state authorities including the guidelines issued for local cemeteries.
In addition to these, if you have lost a loved one due to COVID-19, some extra precautionary measures may also need to be exercised for the safety of you, your family, and the funeral home staff. This includes your loved one’s body – it must be handled and prepared for its last rites with extra care and precaution. And, if you choose to embalm the body, you must take note of the current state-level guidelines and of any internal guidelines being followed by the funeral home.
Rely on Your Funeral Director for Help
When you lose a loved one, it is natural to want to honor the deceased with a formal farewell with a gathering of friends and family (whether small or large). A funeral or memorial service also lets family members gather with their friends and relatives and share their grief, thoughts, and feelings. Not being able to have the type of funeral or memorial service you prefer due to the pandemic can be frustrating and disappointing.
The importance of arranging a funeral service and honoring the life of the deceased is unquestionably important for many. Your funeral director is here to help you honor the life of a loved one and to allow your friends and family to do the same, even during the times of a global pandemic. The unpredictability of COVID-19, however, requires funeral homes and funeral directors to balance their commitments with their responsibility to protect attendees and funeral home workers against the spread of the coronavirus.
If you have a funeral to plan during these critical times, your funeral director is likely to restrict the event to the local precautionary guidelines (which vary per area and change quite frequently - so be sure to ask your funeral director to find out the latest).
Social Distancing During Funerals and Visitations
Many communities across the globe have began opening and relaxing certain rules and regulations related to COVID. However, the number of attendees allowed at a single gathering still varies from place to place. No matter if the number of attendees allowed is 10, 20, 50, or a few hundred, the need to exercise due care and observe social distancing is still critical.
Proper social distancing and vigilance at an individual level are essential to stop the spread of COVID-19. The risk of COVID-19 spreading at gatherings and events varies depending on a number of factors.
Lowest risk: Virtual activities, events, and gatherings.
More risk: Outdoors and in-person gatherings are arranged at a smaller scale, whereby individuals are distanced by 6 feet. Such gatherings observe a strict usage of protective masks, no sharing of objects, and most members of such gatherings are from the same local place (town, area, city, etc.).
Higher risk: Medium-sized physical gatherings, whereby individuals are allowed to interact at a distance of 6 feet, and attendees are usually from diversified locations.
Highest risk: Large physical gatherings, whereby it is not possible to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet and attendees are not from the local area.
While there can be various methods to achieve proper social distancing, these are only meant to complement and not replace any standard local safety laws, guidelines, rules, and regulations passed for gatherings.
The following guidelines should be followed at all gatherings, visitations, and funerals in areas with highly active COVID-19 spread.
- Funeral services and gatherings should be arranged in large, open-air outdoor spaces or indoor ventilated spaces.
- A distance of at least six feet should be maintained between seats of individuals not from the same home.
- Attendees who do not live in the same house must observe a distance of six feet and should only interact with others after wearing protective face masks.
- Guests must not make direct contact with each other – avoiding shaking hands, hugging, kissing etc.
We understand following these limits and restrictions can add to the difficulty at an already difficult time of bearing the grief of losing a loved one. Funeral directors will continue to fulfill all their commitments and responsibilities towards you and towards the exceptional demands of these extraordinary times. However, we all must understand the limited options we have for commemorating the life of a loved one in a safe and secure way.
Postponing Funerals and Memorial Services
Depending on where you plan to have a funeral service or memorial event, the amount of restrictions in place can vary significantly – from not being able to have the service at all to having as many people as you want in close proximity in an indoor setting.
Many families who have significant restrictions in place where they live (including the amount of people who can be present, ability to do it indoors, etc.) are electing to delay the funeral service until a later date when the restrictions are relaxed. This is especially common with cremation, as the ashes can be easily kept until the date of an event at a future date.
Questions You May Have for your Funeral Director
What are the available options for arranging a funeral during the pandemic?
If you are only allowed to have your immediate family members at a memorial or funeral service or the local regulations in your region prohibit you from having a funeral service at all, discuss the situation with your funeral director to learn of better available options. You may even consider postponing the memorial service for the future - it's never too late to commemorate the life of your loved one.
Does the funeral home offer teleconferencing, virtual funeral services, or webcasting?
Most of the funeral homes these days are well-equipped with teleconferencing and other virtual funeral facilities. That way, you can have your family and friends involved in the service from the safety and comfort of their homes.
What precautions can we expect from funeral homes to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Funeral homes should be following all the local precautionary guidelines to ensure the safety of all the funeral service attendees. You can seek better advice and more specific details from your funeral director.
Should I be concerned about attending the funeral of a loved one who died of COVID-19?
General guidelines at this point state that there is no specific risk associated with attending the funeral of someone who dies of COVID-19. That means you can be in the same room at a visitation or funeral with the body of someone who died of COVID-19. However, coming in contact with the body could potentially pose some risks and should be avoided.