We have put this information together based on recent announcements from the Government and advice from the National Association of Funeral Directors. Please bear in mind that funeral arrangements may have to change again in the future as the Government’s response to COVID-19 develops.
This guidance is aimed at parents/carers of children and young people who have experienced a recent death and who may need some support in helping their child at this very challenging time. Funerals (and the lead up to them) may not be what we expect due to the various restrictions that are currently having to be imposed in order to protect public health. It may be very upsetting for families to plan funerals in this limited way as it very unlikely they can have the funeral they would’ve wanted to say their goodbyes to their loved one. Children and young people are likely to have lots of questions so we hope this guide will help.
Some children might want to see the person who has died, not least as this would usually help them to understand what’s happened, give them a chance to say goodbye and allow them to accept the reality of the death. This may be more unlikely at the moment due to the viral outbreak. You will need to discuss this with your Funeral Director who will confirm if a visit to the Chapel of Rest is possible or not for family members. If a child cannot visit then perhaps encourage them to write a letter or draw a picture for their special person and ask them to share this with you. They may want it to be a private message where they get to say their own ‘goodbye’ to the person so you may have to respect their privacy. The letter or drawing could go in the coffin or the grave (with the help of your Funeral Director) or another special place e.g. a memory box.
Arranging a Funeral
Due to the current restrictions on having close contact, and the rules of social distancing, your communication with a Funeral Director may be limited, this may be done virtually (e.g. via Skype or Zoom) or by phone. Talk to your child about any questions they may have for the Funeral Director, ensure they have clear information as the arrangements progress and have the opportunity to think of other ways that you can all remember the person who has died. We have provided some suggestions for you below.
Funerals are usually an opportunity for families to come together and for people to pay their respects and say goodbye. In normal circumstances these can be attended by a lot of people. Unfortunately the virus means that the numbers of people allowed to attend a funeral will be limited and only a few direct family members will be permitted to attend. This may mean that children who wish to attend are unable to, which may be upsetting for them. Be honest with them and explain that it’s because of limited numbers and that families will have to decide who will attend based on their relationship to the person who’s died and whether some members of the family are in isolation and therefore not allowed to go. You could draw a family tree or diagram to help demonstrate who is/isn’t attending. Be careful to explain why a person is able to attend and the fact that there will be many other people who won’t have the opportunity to attend either. See example below.
Some Funeral Directors may provide the opportunity to have the funeral service streamed online, if not, discuss what other options may be available for recording the service. This is a good way to include any child/ren and other family members that can’t attend.
If children are attending, explain that they must be sitting with other members of their own household because of current social distancing guidelines. They will not be able to have close contact with people outside their household, which may be difficult for them as many of us seek comfort from others at funerals. This is also part of the Government guidance to prevent the spread of the virus. If they have attended a funeral before then this experience may feel very different, e.g. family are unlikely to travel in chauffeured funeral cars to the service.
Due to an interruption in supply of flowers at this time, you may not be able to order flowers for the funeral. Perhaps the child/ren could make paper flowers or cut some from your garden to create a special posy for you to take. Even a single flower chosen by them may provide some comfort.
After the funeral service it’s traditional to have a gathering (often called a wake) to celebrate the person’s life. This is unlikely to take place but it doesn’t stop you from celebrating the person’s life as a family. Here are some ideas to help you remember them and celebrate their life:
- Arrange a virtual meet up with family members and friends where you can share stories and memories together, perhaps think of a theme, maybe wear their favourite colour.
- Share the eulogies and readings from the service.
- Ask people to light a candle (at their home) in memory of the person who has died. You could organise it so everyone lights their candle on an agreed day and time to make it feel more special.
- Set up an online memorial page and encourage people to add their memories and photos.
- Create a memory box.
- Play the person’s favourite music and just take time to remember them.
- Arrange a celebration or memorial service for later in the year (perhaps on a significant date) so everyone has the opportunity to say goodbye.
- Consider an online fundraising page to support a charity of that person’s choice.
- When the current social distancing guidelines have been relaxed you could arrange to visit the grave.
Reassure your child that the current restrictions are only temporary, they won’t be forever. Keep in contact with the Funeral Director and be guided by what they say as they will know the current regulations and will be happy to help you.