Covid-19 may reveal what is most important around funeral care, researchers say

A study is to examine the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on funerals and those mourning the loss of loved ones.

The Aberdeen University study will gather the experiences of bereaved family and friends, funeral directors and celebrants, and look at the new practices that have emerged as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions.

Researchers will analyse the distress, adaptation and innovation brought on by the pandemic, and their findings will inform policy decisions in future.

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Researchers will interview bereaved families and funeral service providers of different faiths and none.

The number of people who can attend funerals in Scotland was limited during lockdown to reduce the spread of coronavirus (Photo: Shutterstock)

They will also analyse funeral artefacts, including online films, tribute pages, and written accounts.

Study leader and chair in Health Services Research and Philosophy at the university, Professor Vikki Entwistle, said the work of funeral directors, which can be considered a form of care for bereaved families, has been challenging during the period of restrictions.

She said: “Many of us have been bereaved, or know someone who has been bereaved, during the pandemic. In some cases the restrictions have added stress and a sense of injustice to the experience of funerals.

“Funeral directors and celebrants, as well as bereaved families and friends, have experienced the disruption as challenging.

Professor Vikki Entwistle

"Their work can be considered a form of care for people who have died, bereaved families, friends and communities – yet they have not been studied as professional groups to the same extent as those who are more typically considered part of health and social care services.

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“By speaking to bereaved families and to funeral professionals, and by analysing how funerals have been conducted during the pandemic period, we hope to gather information on what matters most in funeral provision for different social and faith groups.

"This will help develop a better understanding of what makes a funeral ‘good’ and of the ethical implications of different policies and practices.

"This work will be valuable because, in contrast with considerable research into care provided towards the end of life, the practices and ethics of care after death are under-explored. We will use what we learn to help produce recommendations for future funeral care.”

Those interested in taking part in the research can contact the team via email at [email protected]

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