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Funeral’s face drastic changes during COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

A funeral is one of the most heartbreaking experiences we as humans face, as we gather to commemorate life and acknowledge the loss of the people closest to us. The only thing that makes the funeral of a loved one even the slightest bit bearable is having your support network around you and seeing how many people were also touched by the person who has passed away.

COVID-19 has taken over our world at a rate never-seen-before. If has forced the closure of workplaces, schools, entire industries, and our government has imposed a home confinement direction on Australian residents. But by far the cruellest thing this virus has taken from us is the opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of a loved one.

Under current Australian lockdown laws, no more than 10 mourners can attend a funeral. The total number includes a funeral director and celebrant. Some families are opting to hold small ceremonies that are livestreamed to family and friends, but this comes at an emotional cost. It will mean you can’t all come together as a community to pay tribute.

Alternatively, families are choosing to privately cremate their loved one, then postpone the service to a time when they can have the whole family together with friends and hold a Memorial service or a life celebration instead.

This is where as a celebrant I can assist.

Planning a ceremony begins with one primary decision. Will the event be a traditional memorial service or a more contemporary life celebration? I have put together a planning guide on how to do a memorial service or life celebration.

A memorial service is typically focused around a recent loss and often has religious overtones. A life celebration is centred on the joy of having been blessed by a person’s presence, and is often nonreligious in nature. When considering these options, it may be helpful to think about the culture of the family, religious preferences, circumstances leading up to death and any wishes previously indicated by the deceased.

For either style of service you choose to hold, below is a summarised checklist as a planning tool to assist.

+ Determine the type of service or celebration

+ Decide on location, date and time, and who will attend

+ Outline a budget that cover’s catering, invitations, celebrant, flowers/decorations etc

+ If desired, publish details about the service with the obituary in local papers

+ Compile a guest list and send invitations. Make sure you include an RSVP

+ Choose a celebrant to help you design and to facilitate your service

+ Write an eulogy, consider family and/or close friends to speak, as well

+ Select music, you may want a friend to play, or hire a musician

+ Create a program or design keepsake handout for guests i.e. bookmarks

+ If cremation has been chosen, consider a memorial urn for the service and or a photo of your loved one

+ Arrange catering, alternatively ask family and close friends to bring a plate of your loved one’s favourite dishes

+ Consider important final touches: photos, flowers, planting of a tree, a memory table or board, and a memory chest for written notes

+ Write thank-you notes for help received

As a celebrant, being able to help a family say goodbye to a loved one and celebrate their life is a privilege. I will support you to plan a beautiful personalised ceremony that will allow you to share memories, express your love and gratitude as you celebrate a life and reconnect with family and friends.

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