What to do when someone dies during the COVID-19 pandemic

Yellow Primroses at Arnos Vale in April
Gaia, Spring and the Cemetery Wildlife
April 6, 2020
Listen to our Dawn Chorus
May 3, 2020

What to do when someone dies during the COVID-19 pandemic

We are currently facing uncertain times as the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold across the UK. The current restrictions mean many people are unable to attend funerals, cremations and wakes. This is a very distressing reality for thousands of people.

You may have come to this page because you have heard about the restrictions and are desperate to know how you can still grieve and honour the life of the person who has died. You may also be on your own, self-isolating, feeling the waves of grief even more acutely. Or, you may be coming here because you want to help a friend and need some practical information.

Rest assured that we remain committed to caring for your loved one, your family and you during these uncertain times. You are not alone, we’re here to support you in every way we can.

When someone dies there are several things that you must do in the first few days:

  1. Obtain a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD), you will need this to register a death. The hospital or GP can send the MCCD to Bristol City Council Register Office or your local office. If you have the MCCD, take a photo of it just in case you need to send it by email.
  2. Register the death. Bristol City Council have made some temporary arrangements and you are now able to do this over the phone, call 0117 9222800. They’ll take your contact details and a registrar will call you back. They may ask you to use the government’s Tell Us Once service. After you’ve registered the death, they’ll send you the death certificate by post (you will not be able to collect it from the Register Office)
  3. Decide on cremation/direct cremation, burial/direct burial or natural burial. A natural burial is simply the choice to be buried in an environmentally friendly, green woodland setting rather than a traditional cemetery plot. We can offer a natural burial in our Natural Burial Woodland
  4. Choose the type of ceremony or funeral. At the time of writing we are only offering graveside services for a maximum of six people. Our chapels are closed. Attendees should be close family only, such as spouse/partner, brother/sister or son/daughter. If the attendees are not from the same household then we would require everyone to observe the 2-metre distancing rule, as per government guidelines. We have experience of holding unattended funerals, interment of ashes and scatterings for families that do not wish to attend due to ill health and travel impediments. Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, who is self-isolating after being exposed, or who is in a high-risk group, is not able to attend.
  5. You may wish to appoint a funeral director to support you with the practicalities and emotional strain of going through this process. Funeral directors coordinate the funeral and bring your loved one to the cemetery. Choose a funeral director who’s a member of either the National Association of Funeral Directors or the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) or talk to us about the Funeral Directors that we have worked with before.
  6. For information about arranging a funeral without a funeral director please see the Bristol Births and Deaths page
  7. Choose your type of ceremony. This may be online using a video and audio collaboration platform like Zoom, Google Hangout or FaceTime.  Or look at live streaming from The Sanctuary at Divine Ceremony on Gloucester Road, Bristol. All of these platforms can help people connect using technology. The ceremony can have a date and each attendee can log in at the same time, maybe light a candle and share a moment with other friends and family. You can record the ceremony and keep a copy to pass onto others or keep to re-watch in the future.
  8. You may wish to choose a celebrant, minister or officiate to help guide you through the ceremony.
  9. Arrange a Memorial Service or Celebration of Life for a date in the future. You can hold a religious or non-religious memorial gathering in our Grade II listed Anglican Chapel or Spielman Centre. Or in our outdoor Underwood Centre, nestled in the heart of Arnos Vale. You can hire the buildings for as long as you need – from an hour to a full day. We can help to arrange music and catering on your behalf.

We pride ourselves on our ability to remain caring, compassionate and flexible at all times and we will continue to be so during these challenging and changing circumstances.

If you would like to chat through what options we can offer please call 0117 971 9117 or email vanessa.spencer@arnosvale.org.uk

The Guardian photographer Murdo MacLeod was granted access to the funeral of Eddie Goodall, who died from Covid-19 aged 84. The family could only have a scaled-down funeral, having completed self-isolation themselves. To see the article click here

Other useful websites include:

The  Government has produced this very useful guide “what to do when someone dies”

Cruse Bereavement Care – Coronavirus: funerals and memorials

The Natural Death Centre Independent Funeral Advice –  http://www.naturaldeath.org.uk/

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