The ongoing situation of the Coronavirus is leaving many people feeling robbed of their opportunities to say goodbye to loved ones. People are being prevented from being with them at the end of life and then the funeral is also heavily restricted.

Funerals are an important way of celebrating the life of our loved one. Being with others who share your sadness whilst expressing your beliefs and feelings about their death is a healthy way to come to terms with your loss. The physical aspects of the ceremony, the hugging, the gentle touch on the arm, the kiss on the cheek allow us to demonstrate our love and support for each other and can be one of the most important healing aspects of meaningful funeral ceremonies.

In these early days of the changes to funeral services, reduced numbers and social distancing, there is a lot of discussion about hosting memorial services at a later date. But even where this does happen, it is still important to find ways of expressing your grief at the time of the loss even if you don’t have the opportunity to take part in the funeral service.

Awen Clement and Kathryn Day, both independent celebrants, put their heads together and came up with some ideas that you might find helpful if you have recently lost someone and can’t be part of the funeral.

  • Write a letter.  You could write a letter to the person who has died; tell them how you feel and share your memories on paper.  You might be able to arrange for the letter to be put in the person’s coffin on your behalf or maybe you might choose to symbolically burn it.  Or maybe you could read it out loud at the time of the funeral, imagine that you are reading it to them.
  • Alternatively, you might want to write a letter to the person’s family or other loved ones.  Tell them what you enjoyed about that person and let them know how much they will be missed.
  • Light a candle; either at the time of the funeral or at another pre-agreed time if you’re sharing it with others, or just at a time of your choice. Sit and think about them, play their favourite music.  Maybe enjoy your favourite drink or a cuppa as you might have done with them.
  • Create a Facebook memorial account as a safe area to visit, a place to remember your friend or family member fondly. Invite to write their memories, share their pictures and send messages, it can be a lovely way to learn more about your loved ones life.
  • If you are a lover of crafts then consider the idea of a memory patchwork quilt. Working with friends and family, each can decorate their own squares of fabric with pens, painting, appliqué or embroidery.  When sewn together it will be a beautiful memorial, that could be hung on a wall or over your bed.
  • If your loved one was a gardener, buy packets of their favourite flower or vegetable seeds and ask everyone to plant them in their honour. An annual seasonal reminder of your loved one.
  • Create a video tribute of memories, ask family and friends to record themselves relaying one of their favourite memories, and then put them all together. You could include a photo montage and perhaps some of your loved ones favourite music.
  • Make plans for a big party to celebrate their life when the lock down has finished.

Whatever you decide to do, whether it is a ceremony that just you on your own will take part in or whether you will involve others, remember this is a healthy time to share your grief with friends and family members grieving the same loss. The future for funerals is still unclear but what we do know is that we need the space to say goodbye and to grieve. Losing a family member or friend is never easy. We are aware that these unsettling times can amplify feelings of grief and anxiety and hope that we may have provided you with some ideas on how we can celebrate lives in this difficult and challenging time.

Awen and Kath