Funeral home’s tech savvy solution to virus restrictions

FUNERAL companies on the Gold Coast are offering virtual funeral options as a nationwide crackdown on social gatherings was expanded to include a ban on funeral ceremonies of more than 10 people.

Tim Connolly, Director at Newhaven Funerals Burleigh Heads and Stapylton said grieving families had the option of live streaming services to the comfort of their own homes.

As grieving families come to grips with the loss of their loved one, they also have to face the fact they won't get have the usual goodbye - something Mr Connolly could never have predicted.

Newhaven Funerals at Burleigh and Stapylton are doing virtual funerals in the wake of COVID19 restrictions.
Newhaven Funerals at Burleigh and Stapylton are doing virtual funerals in the wake of COVID19 restrictions.

He said putting restrictions on something as socially and culturally important as a funeral was "not something anyone could have ever dreamt of".

"I didn't (think it would happen), but it is really important," he said.

"All we are doing is providing a new service that has evolved out of this situation. We don't want to change culture in anyway.

"The only difference is, we will be caring for their loved one at our place without them.

"To a degree, it may seem impersonal at this stage, but many people who have historically viewed our live streams and not attended have said that they felt part of the service anyway."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new restrictions late on Tuesday following a National Cabinet conference call with state and territory leaders, limiting funerals to a maximum of 10 people who still needed to stand at least four metres apart.

Pictured is Funeral Director Tim Connolly, who will now conduct virtual funerals. Photo by Russell Shakespeare.
Pictured is Funeral Director Tim Connolly, who will now conduct virtual funerals. Photo by Russell Shakespeare.

He has since backtracked slightly on the restrictions saying additional family members might be able to attend a funeral under special circumstances.

"Also it was noted that in hardship cases, states and territories can provide exemptions in relation to attendance at funerals, but only at the margin," he said.

Mr Connolly said the company understood the severity of the situation and made a decision to take it a step further and close the crematorium chapel to the public.

"Firstly to protect our staff, secondly to avoid having to restrict and control individuals and thirdly to avoid having to deal with the onerous task of helping the Government with contact tracing," he said.

"I'd had several conversations with industry colleagues who were struggling to control larger gatherings on the Saturday after the four metre rule was imposed.

"We then began to understand the problems that would be associated with crowd control which further influenced our decision."

Mr Connolly said they had only proposed the virtual funerals on Tuesday but had already been live streaming funerals for more than a decade.

"We expect during this time people will take up this option which will allow them to still have some form of service and reflection of the loved ones life," he said.

In unprecedented times, funeral home are thinking ahead to give families another option. Funeral Director Tim Connolly. Photograph by Russell Shakespeare.
In unprecedented times, funeral home are thinking ahead to give families another option. Funeral Director Tim Connolly. Photograph by Russell Shakespeare.

"Who knows, tomorrow all of us may not be allowed outside. I hope it doesn't come to that.

"Our concern moving into the future will be the effect on people of no physical contact.

"What we are trying to do is provide an option for people who understand the importance of social distancing and also allow the deceased a measure of public respect and remembrance.

He said families could make the most of a virtual funeral by providing quality eulogies and stories of the loved one which will be shared during the service.

"We encourage children to write something for the reader to share and gather pictures for us to present as a slide show during the service," he said.

"These are uncharted waters and we want to be able to offer additional service to our community at this most difficult time."

 

What is a virtual funeral?

File photo of a previous live-streamed funeral before the coronavirus outbreak.
File photo of a previous live-streamed funeral before the coronavirus outbreak.

 

A virtual funeral is when a funeral service is live streamed when circumstances may not allow members of the family and public to attend a funeral service in person.

The loved one will be prepared and placed in a coffin centre stage in a chapel.

A funeral director and celebrant or religious minister will conduct the funeral as if the room were full of family and friends.

The service will be live streamed to those invited by family members.

Family will be encouraged to provide pictures and words to personalise the service.

The funeral director will phone a key member of the family during the service and share the call with the virtual guests.

An online tribute page is prepared to allow virtual guests to share their thoughts and condolences.

Originally published as Funeral home's tech savvy solution to virus restrictions



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