Banburyshire celebrant warns of possible Covid-19 bereavement 'timebomb'
James Hewison who covers Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and the Thames Valley, has added his voice to those who have raised concerns about the restrictions on attendances at funerals during the Covid-19 crisis. He has called for people to be allowed alternative methods of grieving.
Mr Hewison, who organises funeral services for people who would rather not have a formal religious ceremony, said: "“In almost two decades of experience of working with bereavement, one thing I’ve seen time and time again is the need for those left behind to gather in a communal farewell and celebration of the life of the deceased so they feel they have said goodbye properly, with a fitting act of remembrance.
"I’ve done funerals for people of all faiths and no faith in my time and this principle has held true across the board. Last month, for instance, I conducted a funeral service for a well-known lady, a civic dignitary in her community. Normally I would have expected over 100 mourners at such an event, but because they were limited to 10, it meant a great many people who would have otherwise come along were unable to say that final farewell.
"I am not a psychologist or an epidemiologist but I do worry that by denying people the right to say goodbye in a proper setting, we may be storing up problems for people’s mental health, given the many concerns that have been expressed generally about Covid-19 and mental health.”
Mr Hewison has offered a solution in suggesting that the bereaved family and friends of the deceased should all get together for some sort of gathering to mark their loved one’s passing once the Coronavirus lockdown rules are eased enough, to allow them to have the proper 'sendoff' they were denied at the time.
“Memorial services used to be the sole province of famous or wealthy people but I believe everybody is worthy of a fitting remembrance,” said Mr Hewison.
* Recent changes to the rules for funerals during the coronavirus crisis mean the number allowed at a funeral has risen from ten to 30 if social distancing can be accommodated. Mourners must social distance at two metres and wear masks. New government guidance can be found here.