Like many people across the country, I recently suffered a family bereavement from Coronavirus. Unable to attend the funeral at the time due to lockdown restrictions, I had the strange experience of watching a live-streamed service from afar.
Hope that the pandemic is coming to an end may be creeping across the country, as shown in the crowds flocking to beaches in close quarters, but the losses from the virus continue. The death rate, although falling, is still stark and any easing of restrictions offers scant comfort to the families who have suffered a loss.
With this in mind, I thought that it may be of use to those in a similar position, having suffered a loss – whether due to Coronavirus or anything else - to learn a little about how they can attend from afar. What is it like to say goodbye at a distance?
Attending a funeral
As mentioned in a previous article, the rules about who is able to come in person are generally set by the local authority. Often, there are restrictions on the number of ‘places’ available with, most frequently, only 10 or even 5 people being allowed. The restrictions are of course designed to minimise contact but, for large families in particular, there may come the heart-breaking decision about which of you can attend the funeral in person.
On the other hand, it may simply be a question of risk. In some cases, distance, symptoms or other family commitments may mean that attendance in person is not on the cards.
The wonders of technology do at least allow one option: a live-streamed funeral. This is a service that many funeral directors have started to provide and one which ours thankfully did offer.
As I sat at home on the day itself, I wondered how things would pan out. Would the online service give me comfort, as it would be to say goodbye in person? Should I still wear black? Do I join in the hymns or would that feel a bit foolish, all by myself?
In the end, it of course came down to what I felt comfortable with. Wearing black and joining in gave me the sense of contemplation and reflection that I needed, but it was still strange to see my family there, at a distance, and be unable to comfort them.
Of course, with restrictions in place, one other difference was that the service, and a shortened version at that, had to take place outside. A marquee had been provided in case of rain but the day itself was bright and sunny – completely at odds with the situation, as so often can be the case. Instead of a sombre chapel, the birds were singing and the sun shining outside, but it was so strange to see the final portion of anyone’s journey being a march into the building accompanied only by funeral attendants.
And, how did things play out in the end? Unfortunately, the ‘wonders’ of technology became rather less miraculous part-way through and the most I could see for a portion of the service was that insufferable ‘buffering’ circle with the funeral attendants, like actors in a paused drama, stuck in place.
As you can imagine, this added frustration to grief in the middle of such a solemn occasion and yet, in the strange way that grief and laughter can sometimes go hand-in-hand, and as a funeral can be both a focus for bereavement but a celebration of life and mirth, it was also somewhat fitting.