Funeral restrictions stopped families giving loved ones the send-off they feel they deserve, the head of a firm of funeral directors said, but technology has helped mourners pay their respects.
One year on from the first coronavirus death in Scotland, Dom Maguire, chairman of Anderson Maguire Funeral Directors in Glasgow and a former president of the UK Association of Funeral Directors, reflects on the impact of the pandemic on services and the bereaved.
The restriction on the number of people who can attend funeral services in person has been the “principal problem” for families organising funerals, he believes.
The limit currently stands at 20 but was restricted to immediate family only when Scotland first went into lockdown on March 23.
Mr Maguire said: “Earlier in the pandemic people could neither organise the funeral that they would like to organise, nor give the person the funeral they felt they rightly deserved to commemorate their lives.”
He said families are “not long” getting past the current limit and it then falls on the person organising the funeral to decide who can and cannot attend – something which he and his staff have witnessed leading to family difficulties.
Wider family, colleagues, and friends have taken to lining the route of the cortege in some instances and applauding, he said, giving them an opportunity to celebrate the life of the deceased as well enabling the family to see the turnout for their loved one.
Mr Maguire said funeral directors have adapted to the restrictions to provide the best service possible in the circumstances. Technology has been employed as an alternative and live streaming of services is being offered.
He said: “We’ve seen people sitting outside in their cars with their mobile phones and laptops watching the service.
“Quite often people watching it will post a message.”
His firm also held an online memorial service last December with music and readings where the names of more than 400 people were individually screened which was watched by thousands around the world.
“We had families joining together home – and relatives who are London or in Australia also joining in, ” he said.
“We had an unprecedented number of calls, emails, letters and texts from families saying how much they appreciated it.”
The firm plans to hold another memorial event this year.
One problem technology could not overcome was the further restrictions in place for people who had died from coronavirus.
Mr Maguire said they were not able to offer viewings or have open coffins.
He said: “For people who were unable to hold them, cuddle them or even hold their hand in hospital or at the care home, they were then denied the opportunity to see them laid out in their coffin and the opportunity to say a final farewell.”
Mr Maguire praised his staff for adapting amid the pandemic, adding: “We all know the family of someone who has died as a result of this cruel disease. It’s been tough on us all.”