A flower is placed on seats in Ballina to signify those who would love to be there but simply cannot due to COVID-19 restrictions.
A flower is placed on seats in Ballina to signify those who would love to be there but simply cannot due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Northern Rivers funeral industry softens blow for families

THE Northern Rivers funeral industry has adapted quickly to soften the blow of COVID-19 restrictions for grieving families.

Guardian Funerals regional manager Scott Steenson said they were working to ensure funerals remained personal and meaningful.

Livestreaming services are available at no extra cost to ensure relatives and friends are able to watch funerals in real time.

"We can only have up to 10 mourners in the chapel, but we've had up to 200 people watching a service while it happens," Mr Steenson said.

People have tuned into Northern Rivers funeral services from other countries, and family members who would have otherwise been unable to attend due to medical reasons have been able to get there virtually.

"From a grief perspective, in my personal opinion, watching a livestream won't replace being there, but it certainly allows them to be there real time," Mr Steenson said.

Any number of family members can be involved in planning the funeral, as Guardian has been using conference calling technology to arrange funerals.

Guardian offers to place flowers or balloons on seats in the chapel, as a physical representation of those who would love to be there, but cannot due to restrictions.

The company is able to drive the hearse slowly past homes of local family members unable to attend the service.

Some families have opted for a direct cremation, and to hold a memorial service later, when restrictions are lifted.

"If we have a burial at a cemetery, we can have two ceremonies, where part of the family does the coffin bearing, and the other part does the lowering," Mr Steenson said.

"Families have loved that."

Mr Steenson said local families had successfully obtained exemptions to the 10-person limit, and Guardian would happily help others pursue that avenue.

"Families can apply to the local health state department for an exemption, it's an avenue available to larger families," Mr Steenson said.

"We might be able to have up to 20 people, while still adhering to social distancing rules in the chapel.

"The government has been very good at trying to meet needs of families."



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