Funeral providers imposing 'unnecessary' pandemic-related restrictions

Unnecessary pandemic-related restrictions by some funeral providers are preventing the bereaved from visiting the dead or carrying out their loved ones’ last wishes, according to grieving families.

The family of grandfather of four Kenneth Malét, 67, who died with Covid-19 in early January, said their funeral director’s refusal to dress him in the clothes they wanted was “heartbreaking” and an additional stress at a painful time.

When Malét’s family went to prepare his send-off, his son Jordan, a mortgage broker, said the Co-op barred them from a farewell viewing. He added that the Maidstone branch refused to change his father out of a hospital gown before cremation as he would have wished, because of infection fears.

Government guidance permits rituals such as washing and dressing provided that trained professionals take appropriate safety precautions such as wearing personal protective equipment.

“For his whole life, my dad was a very proud and dignified man, so it just didn’t sit right with us,” said Jordan Malét. Unable to reach a compromise with the Co-op, he opted to cancel the plan and instead used an independent undertaker that could wash and dress his father in his favourite clothes.

“We don’t want other families to be bullied into thinking that they – or their loved ones who have sadly passed away – don’t have any rights.”

The family said that while they were pleased that the Co-op eventually agreed to fund the new arrangement, they should never have had to go through this ordeal in the first place.

Co-op Funeralcare said: “Over the past year, we have had to make some tough but responsible decisions in order to limit the spread of coronavirus. Given the unique elements of this situation and the restrictions currently in place to protect our colleagues and bereaved families during the pandemic, we were sadly unable to fulfil all aspects of Mr Malét’s funeral plan.

“In order to honour our commitment to Mr Malét, we arranged for his funeral plan to be fulfilled via a third-party funeral director, and therefore provide Mr Malét with the send-off he wished for. We apologise for any further upset this caused Mr Malét’s family.”

Deborah Doyle, from Sunderland, lost her mother from suspected Covid-19. “I was not allowed to see her before or after her death," lei disse. “It is so hard to come to terms with.”

Rick Moore, an independent funeral director from Barming, said he had encountered several similar cases. Before discovering that Moore could carry out their wishes, one family of a Covid-19 victim had contacted five other local undertakers, all of whom gave the same answer: no washing, no dressing, no viewing. “We are all under pressure and busy, but that doesn’t mean you should let the quality of the service you give to the family slip," Egli ha detto.

Yvonne Richmond Tulloch, CEO of bereavement charity At A Loss, disse: “All the rituals around death are important for enabling mourners to accept the loss of their loved one – the first step of the grief journey.”

She said denying families the chance to view and prepare the deceased could lead to their grief being put on hold. This could lead to isolation and mental health problems, as mourners might feel they must “put a lid” on their grief.

Jon Levett, CEO of the National Association of Funeral Directors, disse: “Some firms have taken the decision that they can offer these services, while others have decided they are still not able to at present.

“This is something that should be discussed at the outset between the client family and funeral director to make sure the funeral director can meet their needs.”

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