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Zoom funerals

The current climate of crisis, lockdown and the Covid-related death toll rising daily, both registered as official stats, and the extras you collect from private addresses and care- and nursing homes. Simply, the numbers are staggeringly high. 

Added to the toll, are the allied pressures of placating families, telling them the restrictions and the burden of their added grief due to the unusual circumstances and their inability to gather to celebrate a life that’s no more. 

To deal with this, we need new methods to get through, to fulfil family requirements and to supply love when it’s thin on the ground. The good news: there are ways forward where a difference can be made. Please read the below written by Simon Smith, who leads the Green Fuse Guild of Funeral Celebrants, with Jane Morrell, a member of the Funeral Celebrancy Council.

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To funeral directors

These are obviously very trying times for funeral directors and celebrants. There are many uncertainties to contend with, constantly changing guidelines, families with heightened emotions upset by the restrictions and perhaps not having been able to see the person who died in the last days of their life if they were in hospital or isolation at home. And it’s the funeral director or celebrant who has to deliver this bad news. We know that the strain is great, causing anxiety and a deep level of sadness as we watch families struggle more than normal.

It looks as though there are going to be fewer and fewer opportunities to have a funeral service, attended by even 10 mourners. Streaming facilities in crematoria are already being stretched with some now saying that they can only now provide a recording, which will not be available immediately. 

We need an alternative. The promise of a memorial service and sometime in the future does not provide much comfort now.

We have funerals for various reasons – to honour and celebrate a life; acknowledge a loss; bring a community together; provide hope and comfort; to say a final farewell and send off the person to whatever lies beyond; and of course to dispose of a body. A direct cremation only satisfies the last of these.

One important factor is the preparation of the funeral service during that 14 day period after the death. It gives an opportunity to talk about someone to a stranger, to tell stories, describe them, be proud of them, make a summation of their life, a biographical narrative to take into the future. This can be a therapeutic and cathartic act which helps at the beginning of the grieving process.

We now have the most amazing technologies for bringing people together without physical contact. Now we know this may be difficult for some of the elderly living alone, but if they have a younger person around as carer, or if they can use a telephone, they can be included. It can be used both for conducting meetings to decide the content of a funeral and for the delivery of the funeral itself.

The celebrants trained by Green Fuse have been putting our heads together to come up with good and viable ways to run funeral ceremonies on Zoom or another platform. The mourners can join by link and see each other in their respective places. They can be included in the service by reading a poem, grandchildren playing music or talking about the person who has died – perhaps even as an open space where memories can be shared. They could have a place which is a central focus, where they could have objects, food and other items to represent the person who has died. The link can even be left open after the service is over so they can have their ‘gathering after’, perhaps all having the same food or drink, Granny’s favourite.

We all fear technology working when we need it to, but if the celebrant has done their best and run several practices this can be done with a minimised risk. 

So, we have been creating, in our homes, a beautiful space in which a funeral can take place. Delivered to a good camera, it can feel live and intimate. With skill others can be included, even videos, photos and slideshows, and it can all be recorded for those who cannot be there at the time. Obviously, there would be no coffin present. But if the funeral director would allow the celebrant to use their chapel of rest, a funeral could be run with the coffin present. Otherwise the person can be represented with a photo, and there can be candles and flowers to enhance the beauty. You will be surprised how effective this can be.

The celebrant would give the family time and attention in the normal way, which can be helpful for the funeral director in busy periods. The family will have a funeral service they can cherish and remember, ‘attended’ by as many people as they like, and feel they have done their very best for the person who has died.

Now is the time we as professionals, working in an essential industry, need to adapt and adjust as never before. This combined with the increase of direct services and loss of limousines and other cash-generating products, it’s tough trading, under high pressure, as staff self-isolate or are off sick. 

Green Fuse celebrants are happy to lend a hand and to make our contribution to the vital differences required at this time. And to serve your families more effectively. To show how such a service can work for both yourselves and your families, Green Fuse celebrants have been hard at work creating sample virtual funeral services and ceremonies. You are most welcome to get in touch to request copies: simon@greenfuse.co.uk

How the new “normal” will shake out, no-one knows. The current is all-consuming, and teamwork all the more important. Let’s collaborate and look after (y)our families with all the extras we can do to make those essential differences.

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