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How to grieve loved ones if you can't say goodbye


No more than 10 people should attend funerals of loved ones, Government advises

No more than 10 people should attend funerals of loved ones, Government advises

No more than 10 people should attend funerals of loved ones, Government advises

THERE is no corner of society that is exempt from the hurt cause by the coronavirus.

Experts have now been giving advice on how to deal with grief in this time of crisis.

Don't wait until a postponed memorial to tell the family of a person who has died how much you care for them and share their loss.

That is the message from a bereavement counsellor during a time when funerals are severely restricted to 10 people or fewer because of restrictions surrounding the Covid-19 virus, and other relatives, neighbours and friends have to be excluded.

Families are now having to conduct very small funerals with the hope of having some sort of memorial for the deceased at an unknown future date.

However, Orla Keegan, the head of education and bereavement with the Irish Hospice Foundation, has said it is important that people who would ordinarily attend the funeral, but cannot, still let the family of the deceased know they are thinking of them

"All our assumptions about how we deal with death have been swept from under us. A funeral is a script. A wake is a script, and the meal after, and the getting together," she said

"People are having to rethink what they took for granted.

"The funeral has purposes from a cultural and psychological level, and one of the real functions is to help to bring about an understanding about the reality of the death.

"With a removal from the house, and maybe a night over in the church, a person is gradually being removed and the grieving person is coming to the real conclusion that this is a more permanent separation.

"They have transitioned from the physical world into your heart, and the funeral helps with that.

"A funeral also allows a community to be there for the bereaved family.

"A community is witness to the change and they all come out and can comfort people from a real place of solidarity, but a lot of the functions of a funeral have been usurped by the sacrifice that people are making with Covid-19.

"We need to think how we can replace those functions in other ways. How can we still mark the life, let a bereaved person know that their life was important, and share stories.

"Work colleagues are not always known by family members, so it could be good for a work colleague to reach out.

"They would have gone to the funeral so they need to make sure they put something up on RIP.ie, make sure they write a card, try to contact the family and say this person was important to their life, too, and they are sorry for your loss.

"So it's about finding other ways but not losing the function of comfort."

The Government and HSE rules on funerals are stark, but necessary if we are to control the pandemic.

One question that crops up regularly is whether or not funeral arrangements are different for victims of Covid-19 and people who did not have the virus.

The Government has advised that families may arrange a funeral for their loved one for up to a maximum of 10 mourners, irrespective of the cause of death.

Regional variations may apply in respect of what is acceptable to churches, funeral homes and crematoria, and social distancing guidance must be adhered to by those who wish to attend.

There are no public advertisements of funeral arrangements, but death notices can be placed without details of the arrangements.

Families can advise friends and relations privately of funeral arrangements, and there should be no provision for a condolence book and pen at the funeral.

Public reposing is discouraged, as are funeral home gatherings.

The restrictions are also changing regularly.

While family gatherings were initially restricted to below 100, this number has since been reduced to 10.

Other mourners beyond immediate family can express their condolences online at RIP.ie and send condolence or mass cards by post.

The provision of limousines, evening removals to church are also restricted.

Funerals of those who have died from Covid-19 are subject to further restrictions and will usually have to exclude even immediate family who are likely to be close contacts of the deceased.

"We do not wish to alarm the public, or add to the trauma that grieving families may be suffering, nor does this mean that the standard of our care or quality of our service is diminished," said Colm Kieran, of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors.

"We are continuing to offer our services and our professionalism to families in the cases of non Covid-19 deaths by giving them our attention and expertise in providing them, where possible, with the services of the funeral home, considering local restrictions."

How to honour someone who has died without attending the funeral.

  • Be the person who organises friends and neighbours to stand at their gates (observing physical distancing) to show support to the grieving family.

  • Do post condolences and messages of support online on RIP.ie or on social media.

  • Do take time to write letters of support and condolences – expressing your thoughts is very meaningful.

  • Do phone/text the bereaved person to keep in touch – not just immediately but in the weeks and months ahead.

  • Do share photos, memories, and stories virtually with each other.

Irish Hospice Foundation recommendations on planning a funeral in Covid-19 times

  • Do contact your preferred funeral director as soon as you are able. Your funeral director will be equipped with the most up-to-date information and procedures during the COVID-19 response period. They will guide you through the process, and ensure you are cared for and minded.

  • Do ask as many questions as you need to.

  • Do let people know of the death – you can still place a death notice, but no times or venues of the funeral will be published online, by radio or in print.

  • Do remember the funeral will be planned as private, for close family only. However, you can request a reading or poem to remember them by, even if the service is short

  • Do remember that everybody will understand how difficult a funeral is at this exceptional time – people will respect and support you as best they can.

  • Do make use of RIP.ie online condolence book to record messages of love and appreciation.

  • Do think about hosting a memorial service at a later time, and plan that, in time, when you feel able.

  • Do ask people to send you a letter with their memories of the person who has died

  • Do encourage children draw pictures or write poems.

  • Do talk about the person who has died, within your household and beyond through telephone calls.

  • Do seek to keep in contact and try to be open to others contacting you – we can still be together when we are not together.

  • Do seek out the latest technology to help. You can use video conferencing (Google hangouts, WhatsApp, Zoom etc) to come together with special people who cannot physically be with you.

  • Do stay in contact. But be mindful of the amount of contact you are able for.