By Christopher Morgan
Kirklees Council has once again changed its stance on how people can attend cremations in Kirklees.
Up to ten mourners will now be able to attend cremations in Kirklees, allowing people to pay their respects whilst following social distancing rules.
However, people will only be able to attend from outside the chapel.
The council had previously announced that from 6 April all new bookings for cremation ceremonies would be carried out without family members to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As of last week that policy has now been changed. Up to ten mourners will now be allowed to stand outside the chapel and pay their respects whilst the minister of religion or civil celebrant conducts a short service.
Social distancing guidelines must still be followed and attendees will be required to keep two meters apart.
The new approach brings cremations in line with burials which will still be restricted to ten mourners with strict social distancing measures.
The Council added that the policy will be kept under review as the situation on COVID-19 develops.
Alternatively, families selecting cremation for their loved ones, are able to ask a vicar or celebrant to carry out a short committal ceremony on their behalf in the chapel, whilst they watch live from their home using the chapel’s webcasting software.
The council says they are also developing a number of proposals for alternative memorials that could take place once restrictions are lifted, focusing on the ashes of the deceased, rather than the coffin.
Once Coronavirus restrictions are lifted and large gatherings are once again part of normal life, the council also intends to facilitate what they are calling a ‘Kirklees Day of Remembrance’ for all those lost during the pandemic.
Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “Losing a loved one at any time is a difficult and heartbreaking experience to go through.
“However, losing someone during the current social restrictions we face can make this so much harder – I know this from personal experience.
“You want to say goodbye and celebrate their life the best you can but feel as though you can’t.”
Cllr Pandor has promised residents that the council is doing everything it can to make the situation as easy as possible so that people can focus on remembrance.
He added: “Whilst we will, unfortunately, have to keep certain restrictions within our bereavement services in place, for the time being, I’m really happy that we’ve been able to look at our crematorium services and change our position.
“Public health and containing coronavirus have to remain our key priorities but I hope that allowing up to ten people to be outside the crematorium during the service will make the process a little bit less painful for many of our residents.
“We’ve carefully reflected on this and have found a way of being able to do this whilst ensuring social distancing is in place.
“Allowing mourners inside the chapel is sadly something that could not be safely done”.
“The bereavement support team we are setting up will also do everything they can to work with those who have lost a loved one during this difficult time.”
Cllr Rob Walker, Cabinet Member for Environment said he understands the depth of feeling there is in local communities about the recent changes to the bereavement service.
He said: “Taking something from people who are already grieving seems heartless.
“However these changes are in place to protect more people from this deadly virus, to limit the pressure on the NHS and to make sure we can continue to offer an essential service to the people of Kirklees.
“As this pandemic impacts how we work, shop and socialise, we are all learning to live in new ways, and unfortunately we are having to learn how to deal with death differently as well.
“By enhancing our bereavement support package we hope to make this transition as painless as possible, so that whilst you may not be able to be in the room, you are still part of that important ceremony.”
Cllr Walker added that while the council is also looking to the future when people will be able to properly come together and comfort each other, it’s important for them to do what they can to help those currently grieving.
“We are all looking to the future, when this terrible time is behind us, when we are able to come together and comfort each other, to share stories of those we have lost and celebrate their lives.
“At this time we will do everything we can to support families and funeral directors to hold alternative memorial services.
“We will also be working with councilors, partners, funeral directors, faith networks and the bereaved to develop a day of remembrance where all bereaved families will be able to pay their respects to family members who pass away during the pandemic and share this with others who have been through this sad experience.”