Everyone has experienced a massive transition since the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic started. Many lost their jobs, businesses; some missed great opportunities; plans and travels were either postponed or cancelled for good; and the most heartbreaking part is, many lost their loved ones.
The “new normal” forced people to wear uncomfortable face masks when outside, to be distant from their friends and relatives, to cancel big events and celebrations, to stay at home and temporarily forget about the fun outside.
One of the things that also changed during the new normal is the burial—especially when the deceased person submitted of Covid-19 infection. Patients whose lives were claimed by the virus are either buried within 24 hours or cremated at the earliest time possible.
Although it is always painful to lose someone, it could be the hardest when it is caused by this life-threatening virus. This is because, first, when a loved one is infected, they are isolated right away. He cannot be with his family and friends or communicate with them face to face during the process.
And if unfortunately, he does not make it, his loved ones can only get a glimpse of him or have a one last look but cannot really give him a proper burial or the usual sendoff memorials people are used to doing. Safety protocols must be set in place which includes restrictions from several burial arrangements.
One of the safety measures that must be practiced in a funeral of a Covid-19 patient if he is not cremated, is that his body must be placed in a closed casket during the burial gathering and must be buried within 24 hours. Aside from that, due to social distancing, only the immediate family members—spouse/partner, parents, brothers/sisters, and children (and their partners)—are permitted to attend the funeral.
These changes are very difficult for mourners. With this situation and with the limited time permitted, how can they make ‘farewells’ count? How can they grieve and ensure safety at the same time? Here are some great ideas.
1. Have a short but meaningful funeral service.
Even with the short time, acknowledging the loss of a loved one, publicly honoring him, and expressing love for the last time would be a meaningful way to say goodbye. This may not be the traditional ritual that mourners used to do, but it can still be a great way to honor their loved one.
Although touching the body of the deceased Covid-19 patient is prohibited, viewing it can be permitted given the limited time. The same way with sending beautiful words, sweet letters, fresh flowers, and other funeral rituals that are safe for everyone. There is no harm in making the most of the situation, but one must keep in mind that everyone’s safety is the utmost priority.
2. Record the funeral service and prayer.
Since only immediate family members can attend the funeral service, video recording it would be a great way for those who were not able to attend—like that departed loved one’s friends and relatives—to witness the service. A live streaming of the service can also be done if the bereaved family allows it.
The loss of a loved one is not only painful for his immediate family, but even for those whom he treated like his family such as his friends, co-workers, or anyone else close to his heart. Witnessing the last moments with this person can mean so much to these people, even virtually. The video can also be accessed and replayed at any time, which is a good way to treasure the last moments.
3. Remember the things that remind you of that person.
During the service, the mourners can pick the music that always reminds them of this person and play it during the last honors. They can also display something at the funeral venue—while making sure that the item is disinfected accordingly—that describes the person’s personality like his hobbies, passion, favorite food, and even the organization he belongs to, or the community he is active in.
Another idea is to organize a creative photo gallery of him, choosing the photos where he is happiest. Since only immediate family members can attend, his friends and relatives can also record a video of themselves sharing all these wonderful or any unforgettable memories they had with him.
The videos can be played during the short service or—due to time constraints—can be compiled in a memorial tribute video that shall be accessed even after the gathering. Having a memorial stone is also a great way to remember that loved one. Family members can write their names and their messages on stones with a permanent marker. They shall place them all in a glass container and display them in his burial chamber or his memorial station at home, wherever the family prefers
4. Find an urn or a keepsake representing that family member.
Since a lot would also prefer a cremation, the good thing is, there are urns and keepsakes that would best represent that love one's character. Urns vary in sizes, designs, materials, and shapes. Having a wide range of options can allow the bereaved family members to choose the best one for their deceased loved one. Keepsakes on the other hand are in the form of a jewelry or a framed memorial art where a portion of ashes is hidden there.
Being reminded of that family member through these beautifully designed urns and wonderfully crafted keepsakes would make one feel that their loved one is just close to them. The good thing with urns or keepsakes is that family members have the liberty to choose where they want to keep or display it. They can keep it at home where they can see it more often, they can display it at the person’s memorial chamber, they can bury it, or they can scatter the ashes from the urn—of course, in a very safe procedure. There are plenty of accessible business websites to choose from, that sell urns and keepsakes and help families to pick the best one.
5. Make a memorial tribute website.
With the current situation today, having virtual access to important things is the best thing to do. One example is having a memorial tribute website for deceased family members. This will be a platform where people can visit and remember their departed loved ones through the power of technology, when they cannot physically visit their burial sites.
Seeing them online would make people feel that their family members and relatives who have passed away are still with them. The website can have the photos of them and the pictures of symbolic and meaningful items. People can post their messages and expressions of love to these departed souls on that website too. They can also post beautiful memories they have with them so others who can view these will be comforted.
The website could also be a good way to track family members who have gone decades ago. One of the great things about it is that people will no longer be hindered from visiting their deceased relatives who were buried in distant places because they can now visit them with one click. The platform can also bridge the gap between distant relatives as they connect to each other and share the same sentiments.
6. Choose the right funeral venue.
It is important to find a funeral venue that adheres to the safety guidelines in holding a funeral service. If a funeral home is not following measures against the spread of Covid-19 it can be risky to the bereaved family. The goal is for the bereaved to mourn while not risking their health as well.
Families must choose the funeral venue that maintains good hygiene practices and venue cleaning. One must make sure that the area is cleaned and disinfected, especially objects and surfaces that may be frequently touched. Cleaning should be done by the management on a regular schedule and the area must be disinfected before and after the service.
A safe funeral venue also includes having handwashing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitizer. One way system and using signs and posters must be applied as well to build awareness of good hygiene and physical distancing practices. One must see to it that the area also has a proper ventilation to reduce the transmission of the airborne virus.
There are loads of funeral parlors that offer great services and can be reached online. Being available virtually is a great help for mourners as this will ease their burden.
7. Acknowledge the meaning of life.
Regardless of religion or personal beliefs, it is good to have someone to speak about the value of life during the memorial gathering. It can be a brief sermon from a pastor, a minister, a priest, or an inspirational message by a trusted speaker or a relative—whatever the family may prefer.
Acknowledging the value of life gives people the meaning and the reason to live. It helps them appreciate their life while they still have it and prepares them when it is already their time to depart. Having someone to speak these comforting words can be healing to the bereaved family.
Through this, they are reminded as well that their departed loved ones are already resting in a beautiful place, and that one day, they will all be reunited.
With the number of helpful ideas listed here, it is still the family’s call to do what they think is best.
The passing of a loved one is an inevitable circumstance and a fact of life. However, wisdom from John Bachar shed a light that a loss is a gift and without such phenomenon, people would not truly value life.
Accepting that a passing of an individual exists and can happen to anyone in the most unexpected time, does not mean living life as it is and not taking actions to preserve it. The same way, promoting everyone’s safety neither means defying or fearing this circumstance but rather it is understanding the value of life.
Observing safety measures is not only an appreciation to one’s own life, but to the life of others as well. The passing of someone may not be reverted, but the life of the ones who are still alive may be protected. Even while grieving and expressing love to the departed family member, mourners can also express love to their loved ones who are still alive by following safety measures.
Here are some important guidelines to be observed if the family wishes to hold a funeral gathering.
The government of the United the Kingdom (UK) has recognized the sensitivity and pain of losing a family member and they believe that mourners must be treated with dignity and respect. Thus, they allow hosting of funeral services upon complying to the safety measures.
The UK government implements that funeral ceremonies must be attended by not more than 30 persons, whether indoors or outdoors. They require that people maintain a two-meters physical distance in burial services and other similar events. Regular washing or sanitation of hands for 20 seconds long must also be practiced.
Singing, chanting, and raising of voice while speaking is prohibited too as this may increase transmission of the airborne virus. Using microphones in spoken addresses is encouraged instead. Using instruments that are blown are also not allowed.
Of course, wearing facial covering is required. Persons who have Covid-19 symptoms such as continuous cough, high temperature, loss or change of sense of taste and smell, are prohibited to participate in such events. Instead, they must undergo a self-isolation right away and follow quarantine procedures at home.
Clinically vulnerable and clinically extremely vulnerable mourners are also not allowed to participate in such events, according to the UK government. Clinically vulnerable or people at moderate risk of Covid-19 are those aged 70 or older, people who have lung conditions that are not severe, have diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney, liver and heart disease, pregnant woman, and among others.
Clinically extremely vulnerable or people at high risk of Covid-19 are those that have had organ transplant, are having chemotherapy or antibody treatment for cancer including immunotherapy, having an intense course of radiotherapy, an adult with Down syndrome, an adult who is having dialysis or has severe (stage 5) long-term kidney disease, and many more.
To read more details about the mentioned guidelines, here are the links to their websites:
Heroes of today are no longer using weapons or going through a war as these enemies are microscopic terrors that go unseen in the naked eye. Heroes today are those people who protect each other by following the safety guidelines and advocating for them as well.