Funeral restriction reprieve a relief to grieving families under lockdown

Source: 1News

After lobbying from the funeral industry, the Government has back-tracked slightly on its rules around visiting loved ones who have died.

Now those within the same bubble as the deceased can say a last goodbye at a funeral home and some religious rituals are able to be carried out but there are still no funerals or tangihanga for wider friends and family.

It was a final farewell for 39-year-old Kimberly Dark after a long battle with Huntington’s disease.

For the first six days of lockdown, there was no way for family to see their loved one after they had died.

“This was so unexpected because we thought when we said our goodbyes yesterday, that was it,” says Ms Dark's mother, Dianne Collins.

But a change to the rules meant Ms Dark’s family were granted one last viewing.

“We've had so many messages overnight from people, that it's nice to be able come back and see her and tell her that everyone sends their love, so this has been a very special time and we are very grateful that we were able to do this,” Ms Collins says.

After days of confusion the Government has now clarified that a person may view the body or go to the cemetery or crematorium for the burial but only if they were originally in the deceased's bubble.

“It's not the ideal situation but under the current circumstances it's beautiful," says Francis Tipene of Tipene Funerals.

Around 100 people die every day in New Zealand and with large gatherings banned, some are holding online funerals in empty chapels.

Ninety-two-year-old Mary Beeby’s family opted for a virtual goodbye as family around the country could not attend.

Others are choosing to delay a send-off, including Māori and Pasifika where large tangi are a vital part of the grieving process.

“We’ve got loved ones here at the moment that we're going to hold until the restrictions are lifted so that we can have that mass gathering for family and whānau for a tangi but that’s a case by case scenario,” says Mr Tipene.

But there could be complications if the death toll rises.

“If we see a dramatic increase in deaths from the Covid-19 virus then storage will become an issue around the country,” says Gary Taylor, president of the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand.

Some religious rituals for example, for Muslims are still allowed in a limited form.

“It’s whats called the Gypsum, the washing and then the Janaza which is the prayer and then taking to the grave,” says Tony Green, Al Noor Mosque spokesman.

Ms Dark’s death is a double blow to her family as she was unable to fulfill her dying wish, to donate her brain to science.