Peterborough funeral director describes heartbreak of families dealing with coronavirus bereavements

A Peterborough funeral director has spoken of the heartache families dealing with bereavement during the coronavirus pandemic are suffering.
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Social distancing rules mean family members may not be able too be present during loved ones’ final hours, and attendances at funerals are also limited to just 10 mourners - which can cause more heartache.

The pandemic has placed increased pressure on the bereavement system from hospitals, registrars, coroners’ services, funeral directors, crematoriums, cemeteries, but funeral workers are still striving to provide the best support possible to families.

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Ian Smith, director of Smiths Funeral Directors, an independent family funeral business based in Fletton, said: “First and foremost, our hearts go out to every family who have suffered a bereavement at this time. For a lot of families during this state of social distancing and lockdown, they have been unable to be present in the final hours and minutes of their loved one’s life. This has been traumatic and a very sad time for these families and with the current restriction with funeral services this results to added heartache.

Mark Smith ( left) and Ian Smith of Smiths Funeral DirectorsMark Smith ( left) and Ian Smith of Smiths Funeral Directors
Mark Smith ( left) and Ian Smith of Smiths Funeral Directors

“I have never seen anything like this in our profession and have been monitoring latest government guidelines announced by Public Health England and taking advise from SAIF our national trade association.

“My family Ruth, Mark, Naomi Smith and my company employees have remained steadfast in their commitment to provide the highest level of care to the bereaved, whilst working on the frontline.

“Adapting to the Covid-19 stringent precautions yet making sure everything runs smoothly throughout the arrangement and on the day of the funeral. The guidelines drawn up by the Government in consultation with the two main funeral trade associations the NAFD and SAIF, state that in order to reduce contact, face to face meetings for the arrangement of funerals should be replaced by remote options such as phone calls, email, and skype. 

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“We are finding that families are adapting well to this and we are still supporting them as much as needed. There are some families however, for various reasons, who are unable to use this type of communication so we have special measures and safe practices in place to give one to one support if necessary.

“The most notable and obvious impacts to funeral services is the attendance at a funeral service.

Peterborough Crematorium are doing their utmost to support families in a sympathetic manner and are currently allowing up to 10 mourners present to a service, with a minister or celebrant leading the service. The families are expected to adhere to the social distancing rules. Services are up to 30 minutes with a web streaming service provided.

Churches are closed for all funeral services and burials incorporate a graveside service, which also falls under the social distancing guidelines.

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“The Coronavirus Act 2020 Government Bill has allowed changes to the registration process allowing families to register a death over the telephone, Medical Certificates Cause Of Deaths are sent by certifying General Practitioner’s to the registrar’s rather than the family collecting from local doctors surgery, or the hospital bereavement office.”

Mr Smith said it was difficult for everyone dealing with bereavements in Peterborough at the moment - but highlighted the lengths so many were going to to help families. He said: “Special mention should be made to the staff at Peterborough City Hospital bereavement centre, local GP surgeries, Peterborough City registrars, local coroner’s office and Peterborough Crematorium, who are all working tirelessly to ensure that paperwork is completed swiftly, allowing bereaved families to be reunited with their loved ones as soon as possible, at the chapel of rest and to proceed with their funeral arrangements.

“The current guidelines are to ensure the safety and wellbeing for all involved in the funeral sector and need to be adhered too, but there is scope for funeral directors to use safe discretion to provide certain requests such as the care of the deceased, chapel of rest visits, carrying of the coffin, limousine requests, observing the culture and religious rituals and customs.

“These can be complex decisions, but can be made safely in keeping with guidelines and using common sense.

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“On a positive note it is encouraging to see those small gestures of respect being shown when travelling in the funeral cortege. From the family homes neighbours and friends standing along the pathway acknowledging the deceased and the bereaved family, on route seeing strangers respectful observing the hearse as it travels by, these small gestures are very comforting to the families.

“Some families who have had their restricted family funeral service, are preparing for memorial and celebration of life services at a later date, when the current situation improves, to enable all family and friends to attend.