Losing a loved one in ‘normal’ times is upsetting enough, but the church is currently having to support and guide people through a different landscape of care for the deceased due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
Processes for the registration of death have changed and even the very look of a funeral is different. Our churches currently closed mean that burials are graveside only, but even when open again it is likely restrictions on mourner numbers will remain for a while. In this new landscape, the care and support that the church offers is
as important as ever, and remember it is not just about COVID-19 deaths as the natural cycle of life and death continues.
The role of bereavement support is a specialist one and care should be taken with what is said to those who are grieving. Although a listening ear can still be offered it must be done without comment or trying to ‘fix’ the grief. But there are things that the PCC can do to help those who are bereaved and those who support them. It is important that the PCC is aware of the additional challenges that ministers are currently facing and support them through understanding what they are dealing with.
Death registration is currently via telephone, and funeral services held as soon as possible. This means that ministers have less time to prepare for a funeral and of course are unable to visit to support the family. To keep funerals simple both at the crematorium and graveside, and because mourner numbers are reduced, it is being recommended that families consider a basic service and then have a fuller memorial when lockdown is over. This will have a later impact on our churches as they meet the needs for an increased number of memorials. There is also the financial aspects of funerals as the Diocese have confirmed that any minister’s and church fees for a reduced funeral and a subsequent memorial service, should be no more than the fee which would have been charged for a single service under more normal circumstances (excluding additional costs such as musicians and church bells). In that way families should not suffer financially by needing to have two separate services.
Once COVID-19 is over the church will be needed to continue to support the bereaved and enable them to grieve properly for their loved ones. This will take time and resources which, as usual, the PCC need to be aware of and be helped with by their church community.
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