Funeral Guidance Q&A during this COVID-19 Pandemic

As difficult as it may be, it is very important to discuss the advice and updates around funeral procedures for our community, during this COVID-19 pandemic.

This page lists some key questions and answers around funeral procedures, to show the relevant requirements for a funeral arrangement. Answers have been sourced from UK Government official COVID-19 guidance and from Sikh institutions & Gurdwaras. Further info click


Funeral Guidance Q & A

Arrangements: Can a funeral be arranged in person?

Funerals must only be arranged via telephone or via other electronic means.

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Arrangements: Can a funeral be delayed to allow a family member to attend?

Funerals can be delayed in Liaison with the Funeral Directors. However there may be practical problem with storage of the bodies especially if the death rates in the locality are high. Once again it is best to seek advice about coming out of self isolation and the timing of it.

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Arrangements: Can the family have a traditional wash and dress for their loved ones?

The guidance is that handling the body must wear PPE. In the current climate this would be the trainee staff of Funeral Directors. It is best to discuss with the Funeral Directors about any viewing and body dressing arrangements- they are very sensitive to the situation and helpful in this regard and aware of any changes to guidance.

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Arrangements: Can the family have darshan of the deceased before the cremation?

Best to discuss with the Funeral Directors as to what is possible. Once again they will follow local guidance from the local authorities .In most cases the advice tends be for the casket to go straight the crematorium and for it not to be opened for viewing.

However , viewing may be possible prior to the funeral – best discuss with the funeral directors

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Arrangements: Can we still have avsos (grief)?

In Punjabi culture it is common for family and friends to visit and express their grief.  This should not happen in this current climate, and any expression of grief (avsos) should be over the phone or postponed.

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Arrangements: Will the Gurdwara Granthi attend the funeral?

Under all normal circumstances a local Granthi would attend the funeral and conduct the follow up ceremony at the Gurdwara Sahib.

In the extreme circumstances another local Sikh can do the Kirtan Sohila and Anthem Ardas at the crematorium but if a local Granthi is attanding then it is advisable that the Granthi of the Gurdwara Sahib makes arrangements to travel straight to the cremation site to perform the Antem Ardaas. All briefings and attention to detail can take place in advance over the telephone.

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Attendance: How many people can attend a funeral?

The Local Authority , Funeral Directors and Gurdwaras can provide guidance as the variations in numbers can be site specific and are locally determined .The rule is social distancing standard and hygiene – so the least number possible would the rule of thumb in the current environment .

 

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Attendance: If the funeral is after 14 days, can families in isolation attend?

 After the 14 day isolation period those that who have fully recovered should be able to attend but care needs to be taken . It is recommended that medical advice is taken and usually the funeral directors will be in a position to advice based upon latest public health guidance .

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Attendance: What if other friends and family wish to attend?

Plans should be put in place to allow mourners to participate remotely where possible. Ask the Gurdwara or funeral director if they are able to provide a streaming service ( most can and many hand held devices can provide ways of transmitting via some social media platforms )

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Attendance: Who can attend a funeral?

The government guidance is given below . However this can change so therefore it is important to discuss with the Funeral Directors about the local position

The number of mourners should be limited so as to maintain a safe distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet). only the following should attend:

• Only immediate family should attend a funeral. Attendees should not have been in physical contact with the deceased for at least 14 days.
• close family members
• if the deceased has neither household or family members in attendance, then it is possible for a modest number of friends to attend

People over 70 and anyone vulnerable or pregnant should think carefully before attending a funeral. Follow handwashing guidance after the funeral (wash for 20 seconds with soap and hot water)

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Sehaj Paath: Can we still arrange a Sehaj Paath?

It is the Maryada for a Sehaj Paath to be held. Under the current circumstances there may be practical and timing issues . It is best to speak to your local Gurdwara Sahib as to how it is best conducted whilst observing the social distancing rules and hygiene considerations. These are local considerations determined by a no of factors such as availability of paat’s , layout and size of the Gurdwaras, any other funerals , timing etc

In any event it is important that anyone exposed to Covid-19 should remain in isolation in order to minimise infection risks to others. Those with pre health condition and over 60’s would also be cautioned from attending.

It may be possible to stream the service from the Gurdwara from time to time using a Tel or tablet for absent people .

 

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Sehaj Paath: If the Sehaj Paath can’t be done at this time then what are the options?

Due to the short timescales within which many funerals are currently having to take place it may not be practical to have a Sehaj Paath. Under these exceptional circumstances and in the current climate, it would be advisable to consider the following option

1) Alaahnhia (ਅਲਾਹਣੀਆਂ, ਅੰਗ 578)
2) Ramkali Sadh (ਰਾਮਕਲੀ ਸਦ, ਅੰਗ 923)
3) Anand Sahib (ਅਨੰਦ ਸਾਹਿਬ 6 ਪੌੜੀਆਂ, ਅੰਗ 917)
4) Ardaas

Deg should also to be prepared. To minimise risks, it would be advisable not to serve langar under these circumstances. A Sehaj Paath should then be conducted separately at a later date or once matters have settled relating to the infection risks of the virus.

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