Funeral director says Covid-19 makes grieving harder for families

·3-min read
Ernest said many were now unable to say their final goodbyes to family members or close friends properly, while others make the decision to stay away from Covid-19 related deaths. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Ernest said many were now unable to say their final goodbyes to family members or close friends properly, while others make the decision to stay away from Covid-19 related deaths. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, June 15 — The Covid-19 pandemic has made it hard and tragic for the family members of victims to say goodbye to their loved ones.

The New Straits Times reported funeral director Richard D. Ernest as saying funerals have changed during the pandemic.

Many were now unable to say their final goodbyes to family members or close friends properly, while others make the decision to stay away from Covid-19 related deaths.

Ernest, with Heaven Funeral Care, said deaths caused by accidents have declined since the movement order control (MCO) began, although the number of funerals being held still remains high, particularly in the past few months due to Covid-19.

“We had cases where families preferred to assign the undertaker to conduct a full service and to collect the ashes.

“In some cases, the ashes are even scattered in the sea on their behalf because of the MCO. For Covid-19 related deaths, we assure them that once the deceased has been cremated, the ashes are no longer infectious,” he said.

Ernest added that for the first few Covid-19 funerals he managed, some of the deceased’s family members were unable to say their final goodbyes due to the standard operating procedures or otherwise unable to participate in the funeral rituals out of a concern of contracting Covid-19.

“A few families have asked us to collect the ashes and seal them in an urn before handing it over to them.

“Once that is done, the family can choose to hold a memorial service for the deceased at a suitable date, with their photograph,” he said.

The funeral director said all Covid-19 related funerals are conducted under the supervision of an official from the Health Ministry, with the staff required to wear full personal protective gear when handling such deaths.

Nobody is allowed to come into contact with the deceased once he or she has been brought to the mortuary, including immediate family members.

“Only one or two persons from the family are allowed into the mortuary to view and identify the remains. Such persons must be in full personal protective equipment, and is only allowed to stand at a safe distance during the process.

“The person is normally accompanied by a health official and barely gets five minutes to grieve near the body, which is heart-wrenching,” Ernest said.

Ordinarily the remains of Covid-19 patients are prepared by hospital staff, prior to being wrapped and placed in a body bag. The body will be disinfected with sanitisers on all layers before being placed in a coffin and sealed.

“In a day, four to eight Covid-19 victims are cremated, with the cremation normally done at a time set by the crematorium.

“Family members are asked to go straight to the crematorium, wait for the allotted time and watch from a distance. Some will pray from the window or even via video calls,” he said.


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