‘The times they are a changing’

04/06/2020   //   No Comments

Or are they? And not as most would think! There have certainly been many changes since 23rd March this year to the way funerals are arranged. The majority of the changes have of course been enforced changes with churches closing their doors, crematoria and cemeteries limiting attendance to a handful and some even not allowing any attendance at all.

Many people are reporting that funerals are likely to continue to be different after the lockdown that we currently face is lifted. But in what way will they be different? There have perhaps been an increased number of direct cremations at this time, but I still don’t believe that this will become the normal practice without there being some form of ceremony.

Many families have chosen to hold a small shortened form of service with the intention to hold a memorial or thanksgiving service at a later date at their chosen church or other venue. Others have chosen to hold one ceremony now but with only immediate family in attendance. In both of these scenarios and through the trauma of this terrible time, I have witnessed some of the most moving and meaningful services of my entire career.

I have always been an advocate for encouraging the gathering of extended family and friends, if only to offer support to those closest to the deceased. In the majority of cases I believe this would still be hugely beneficial, but for others the intimacy of only having the closest, most loved people around them, has given them the freedom to act more naturally. I have seen people, who may have been more restrained in front of a large gathering, open up in both voice and emotion.

A number of family members have shared their memories when they would otherwise have not felt able. It has also been noticeable that some people have been able to mourn appropriately without the feeling of the need to withhold their emotions and do the very British thing of keeping a stiff upper lip. There is no doubt in my mind that this has proved beneficial to many individuals and groups of family and close friends.

It may be that this change is one which will continue as it offers people the opportunity to do what they feel is right for them rather than arranging what they think society expects of them. Often through times of adversity, lessons are learned and things change for the better. We should not be afraid of change, so long as everyone retains their freedom of choice and the ability to do the right thing as they see it.

This has been a very difficult time for everyone, including funeral directors, of which I am one. But it is the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost someone they love to this dreadful disease who need and deserve the support and love of those of us who have been lucky enough to avoid losing someone close to us. Please spare a thought or offer a prayer for those who need it most.

SAIF thanks Paul Allcock for his thoughts. Paul is a member of SAIF’s Executive Committee & is SAIF’s Government Liaison representative

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