Support for the bereaved during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic
We have made a change to our cremation policy today. Up to ten mourners will now be able to attend cremations in Kirklees from outside the chapel, allowing people to pay their respects whilst following social distancing rules.
We had previously announced that from 6 April all new bookings for cremation ceremonies would be carried out without family members to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
What will happen at cremation ceremonies now?
Up to ten mourners will now be allowed to stand outside the chapel and pay their respects whilst the minister of religion or civil celebrant conducts a short service, as long as they maintain the government’s social distancing guidelines and keep two metres apart. The new approach brings cremations in line with burials which will still be restricted to ten mourners with strict social distancing measures.
The policy will be kept under review as the situation on coronavirus develops.
Alternatively, families selecting cremation for their loved ones, are able to ask a vicar or celebrant to carry out a short committal ceremony on their behalf in the chapel, whilst they watch live from their home using the chapel’s webcasting software.
What else is the council doing to support people who have lost a loved one?
We recognise that whilst a committal ceremony is an important part of the bereavement process, there are other opportunities for memorials to celebrate the life of a loved one. As such, we are developing a number of proposals for alternative memorials that could take place once restrictions are lifted, focusing on the ashes of the deceased, rather than the coffin.
We are also looking to enhance our bereavement support package to help people who’ve lost a loved one during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The team will work with both funeral directors and families to make sure everyone is able to respectfully mark the loss of a loved one.
Once Coronavirus restrictions are lifted and large gatherings are once again part of normal life, we intend to facilitate a Kirklees Day of Remembrance for all those lost during the pandemic.
Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said:
“Losing a loved one at any time is a difficult and heart-breaking experience to go through. However, losing someone during the current social restrictions we face can make this so much harder – I know this from personal experience. You want to say goodbye and celebrate their life the best you can but feel as though you can’t.
“Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, my promise to residents has always been that we will do everything within our power to make this as easy as we can for you. Whilst we will unfortunately have to keep certain restrictions within our bereavement services in place for the time being, I’m really happy that we’ve been able to look at our crematorium services and change our position.
“Public health and containing coronavirus have to remain our key priorities but I hope that allowing up to ten people to be outside the crematorium during the service will make the process a little bit less painful for many of our residents. We’ve carefully reflected on this and have found a way of being able to do this whilst ensuring social distancing is in place. Allowing mourners inside the chapel is sadly something that could not be safely done.
“The bereavement support team we are setting up will also do everything they can to work with those who have lost a loved one during this difficult time.”
Cllr Rob Walker, Cabinet Member for Environment said:
“I totally understand the depth of feeling there is in our local communities about the recent changes to the bereavement service. Taking something from people who are already grieving seems heartless. However these changes are in place to protect more people from this deadly virus, to limit the pressure on the NHS and to make sure we can continue to offer an essential service to the people of Kirklees.
“As this pandemic impacts how we work, shop and socialise, we are all learning to live in new ways, and unfortunately we are having to learn how to deal with death differently as well. By enhancing our bereavement support package we hope to make this transition as painless as possible, so that whilst you may not be able to be in the room, you are still part of that important ceremony.
“We are all looking to the future, when this terrible time is behind us, when we are able to come together and comfort each other, to share stories of those we have lost and celebrate their lives. At this time we will do everything we can to support families and funeral directors to hold alternative memorial services.
“We will also be working with councillors, partners, funeral directors, faith networks and the bereaved to develop a day of remembrance where all bereaved families will be able to pay their respects to family members who pass away during the pandemic, and share this with others who have been through this sad experience.”