The government should ban funeral services during the coronavirus pandemic because of increasing pressure on business owners to adhere to strict limits on the number of attendees, which led to the exclusion of grandchildren, experts said.
The Good Funeral Guide (GFG) highlighted the tension exerted on individuals including funeral directors and crematorium workers, who were given “impossible decisions to make”.
Last week the government banned large gatherings such as weddings or baptisms, but not funerals, leaving decisions on how many people can attend with individual crematoria.
Fran Hall, CEO of the nonprofit organization, said the lack of clear direction “is causing unspeakable anguish.”
He added: “The choice of who can or cannot attend a funeral should not be on the individual director of the funeral or on the celebrant. It is unbearable and unfair to everyone.
“Nobody can apply these rules, so we ask people to monitor the situation. If 10 people are admitted and 50 introduce themselves, what happens then?
“There is only tiredness and emotional overload in the sector, as they have to sit with families and explain that you cannot have all the grandchildren, only a few immediate families but you cannot get close enough to comfort them.
“If there were directives that no funeral should be attended by anyone, it would be fairer and safer for everyone. “It sounds brutal, but what people are getting now is half a funeral. If we are approaching a situation where the number of deaths is rising, we will have to ban them.
“If the directives were issued by the government, everyone would be on the same boat and could organize something more special in the future.”
A group of funeral organizations published a guide in the wake of Boris Johnson’s announcement last week. He said that only spouses, parents, siblings and children are an immediate family, but went on to clarify that if numbers allow grandchildren, they should be allowed to participate.
The families whose grandchildren were unable to attend the funeral of their beloved grandfather said how “heartbreaking” the situation is for everyone involved.
Funeral professionals supported the GFG, saying that the pressure they are under is making their job impossible and that their safety is at risk.
Jo Williamson of Albany Funerals in Kent said: “This week I had a funeral where the family would have had 300, but we ended up with six.
“The grandchildren could not go, it was absolutely excruciating to have to argue with them.
“It goes against every bone in your body so as not to comfort someone in the moment of pain. I have been close to tears every day, I haven’t slept a whole night in two weeks.
“The safety indications around the body of someone who has coronavirus continue to change, PPE is becoming more difficult to find and we will end.
“I have to decide when to wear PPE and when not to.” We are at the end and we know it will get worse. “
A government spokesman said: “We want to maintain the right of a person or loved ones to have their death preferences respected and to support the wishes of the deceased wherever possible is of utmost importance.
“The funeral will continue to go on, but the number of mourners should be limited to the immediate family only with adequate social removal measures in place.”