Castleford funeral celebrant reflects on changes to services to allow unlimited mourners, as bereaved families plan larger memorials

Hundreds of thousands of families across the UK have been faced with a heartbreaking dilemma of how to appropriately mark a loved one’s life during the pandemic.

Louise Dougill, a humanist funeral celebrant based in Methley, near Castleford, believes that the impact of covid funerals will stay with grieving families for months to come.

Funerals have faced restrictions which at their most extreme saw just five mourners able to accompany someone on their final journey.

But from Monday legal limits on funeral numbers will no longer exist, although social distancing rules in churches and crematoria mean that packed-out services will still be some way off.

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The lifting comes ahead of schedule and other life events including weddings and baptisms will continue to be restricted until June 21.

Louise Dougill, a humanist funeral celebrant based in Methley, near Castleford believes that the impact of covid funerals will stay with grieving families for months to come.

She said: “Funerals are a very symbolic part of our grieving process. So, we would naturally come together in our culture to say goodbye and mix with other people who knew the person. So not having been able to do this with some people will massively take its toll psychologically, now and for a long time into the future.

“The most natural thing in a funeral ceremony is that you want put your arm around someone, sit beside them, hold their hand, give them a hug.”

Mrs Dougill said she is looking forward to being able to meet with bereaved families in person again to plan services together.

“It's a very privileged and a very personal thing to do. And that's how more celebrants would work but obviously we've been having to work remotely,” she said.

And many families who had to bid farewell with smaller numbers present are now choosing to plan larger memorial services, including Mrs Dougill herself, after the death of her mother last year.

She said: “I've spoken to a number of families where they are now planning to hold a private memorial event or a scattering of ashes. Whilst some people feel the moment’s passed, actually it hasn't, it's still important to do that formal goodbye. I know first hand how it feels to do a funeral that is compromised, and we’re planning to come together in the summer.”