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Explains who can attend funerals, what you need to do if someone dies during the pandemic and where you can get support.

First published:
12 June 2020
Last updated:

The death of a loved one or friend can be an extremely difficult and challenging time. The restrictions, which have been put in place to control the spread of coronavirus, will make this time even more difficult for families experiencing bereavement and grief.

You may struggle with shock, not just of the initial bereavement, but with the social distancing measures and changes to funeral arrangements, which mean you may not be able to say goodbye to a loved one in the way you would have wanted. This may be particularly hard for those people who are alone, shielding or isolating, who may be finding it harder to connect with their normal support networks.

The grieving process and the related formal and informal rituals, during which we would mourn the passing of a loved one, are important for our health and wellbeing. 

This advice is designed to help everyone who is managing or organising a funeral during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. You will find information about the extra help and support available to help you to consider and plan alternative ways to remember and pay tribute to your loved ones.

What you need to do if a loved one dies

A first step following the death of a loved one is to choose a funeral director. You can find an industry-inspected local funeral director via the following organisations:

You will need to register your the death with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within five days. Once this has been completed, the registrar can issue you with the Certificate for Burial or Cremation and the Death Certificate. The funeral director will need this certificate.

Further details about how to contact your local Register Office and its services are available from your local council.

Financial assistance

During the pandemic, families may need extra financial support, particularly people who are not in receipt of income-related benefits, to help meet the cost of funeral expenses.

The Department for Work and Pension’s funeral expenses payments are available for people on a low income and claiming certain benefits or tax credits who need help to pay for a funeral they are arranging. It can help pay the burial fees for a particular plot; cremation fees, including the cost of the doctor’s certificate, the death certificate, travel to arrange or go to the funeral and the costs of moving the body within the UK if it is being moved more than 50 miles. In addition, financial assistance of up to £1,000 is available for other funeral expenses, such as the funeral director’s fees, flowers and coffin. 

The UK Government also offers bereavement support payments, which are a one-off tax-free payment provided to the spouse or civil partner of someone who has died.  This is a way to help with funeral costs, even for those not in receipt of benefits. The one-off payment is £2,500 or £3,500 if someone is in receipt of Child Benefit, followed by 18 monthly payments of £100 (£350 for those in receipt of Child Benefit).

Additional financial support might also be available to help from UK Government Budgeting Loans or Universal Credit Budgeting Advances.

Organising and attending funerals

The Welsh Government has put in place restrictions to control the spread of coronavirus in Wales and to protect people’s health. This includes temporary restrictions on gatherings and the movement of people in Wales. These have an impact on how funerals are organised but they do enable funerals to go ahead because we recognise it is important for people to say goodbye to a loved one.

Funeral directors have been given specific advice about how to organise funerals during the pandemic. They will be able to guide you through the process and help you make arrangements, making sure that you receive the advice and support you need. 

The following information will help you to understand some of the main restrictions that are in place.

People can attend a funeral if:

  • you are the person organising the funeral
  • you are invited to the funeral, or
  • you are the carer of a person who is attending the funeral (either because they are the organiser or they have been invited)

Everyone attending a funeral – whether at a crematorium, place of worship or cemetery – should take all reasonable measures to stay 2 metres away from someone they don’t live with or care for. This will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Those responsible for running the crematorium, place of worship or cemetery will make arrangements to maintain this distance between people. This will mean there are limits on the maximum number of people who can physically attend a funeral. This will be clearly communicated to you before the funeral takes place.

To help protect against the spread of coronavirus, please could funerals be by invitation only. The death of anyone close to you is a very distressing and sad event. But at this time, we ask you to only attend funerals of your closest family and friends and only if you have been invited. Please do not attend a funeral if it would involve extensive travel.

If you have symptoms of coronavirus – a high temperature, a new, persistent cough, or loss of taste or smell – you should not attend.

If you are self-isolating due to a possible case of coronavirus in your household, but do not have symptoms yourself, you can attend if you take steps to minimise the risk of transmission.

If you are extremely vulnerable or in a shielded group you should also be helped to attend, if you wish to.

It is important that you do not delay the funeral of your loved one. We understand how difficult this will be for their families and friends, however the current guidance will be in place for the foreseeable future for the safety of the public and to ensure that funeral directors, crematoriums and burial grounds can continue to offer as normal a service as possible.

Other ways to remember your loved one

The restrictions on visiting and contact during the pandemic are changing how we say goodbye to those we love. We are working with faith and community leaders to ensure that personal wishes are met wherever this is possible and we will always ensure that loved ones are treated with dignity and respect.

You may wish to consider other ways to pay your respects or remember your loved ones:

  • funerals can be broadcast and livestreamed so people who cannot be physically present can attend the ceremony virtually
  • books of condolence can be opened online and other tributes paid through electronic communications or social media
  • family and friends may also want to consider holding a memorial service or celebration of life once the coronavirus pandemic is over

Where to find emotional support

There are many practical considerations to take care of when someone you love dies but it is also important to recognise that you may need help and support. The restrictions the pandemic has placed on all our daily lives has a significant impact on our usual rituals and behaviours around death and this can make the experience even more upsetting and stressful.

Bereavement and the way we respond to it is a very personal matter. We have include the contact details of a number of organisations which offer additional support, if you need it.

Cruse Bereavement Care has online resources about how bereavement and grief may be affected by this pandemic and can be contacted via telephone on 0808 808 1677.

Bereavement Advice Centre is a national organisation offering advice about all aspects of bereavement and can be contacted via telephone on 0800 634 9494.

Good Grief Trust is an online search engine providing links to bereavement support across the country.

Samaritans is a charity organisation that supports people in extreme distress and can be contacted on 116 123. 

Silverline is a befriending service for older people providing 24-hour support and can be contacted via telephone on 0800 470 8090.

Child Bereavement UK  supports families when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, and when a child is facing bereavement and can also be contacted via telephone 0800 028 8840.

Winstons Wish provides support for grieving children and young people through an online chat facility or a freephone national helpline 08088 020 021.

2 wish upon a star provides bereavement support for families who have suddenly and traumatically lost a child or young adult aged 25 and under.

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