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Coping with bereavement during the COVID-19 pandemic

An award-winning Cumbrian funeral director says her and her staff are doing everything they can to help people cope with the loss of a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic.

Government regulations brought in to stem the spread of pandemic have meant there is a set number of people who can physically attend a funeral or service, meaning many people cannot say goodbye to their loved ones in person.

Jill Glencross, Independent Funeral Director of Dalston, said since starting her own family business in 2018, her and her staff strive to help families by going above and beyond, caring for loved ones like they were their own and the pandemic has made this ethos even more important.

She said: “Our care is always second to none. All of our families are treated like our own and the first family is as important as the last.

Jill Glencross

“During the pandemic we have made sure our families and our staff are all protected and cared for to the highest standard.

“We keep in regular contact with all of our families even though we can’t physically see them face-to-face. Zoom calls, daily messages and emails let them know we are always there.”

Due to the restrictions of numbers allowed to attend funerals or services, Jill and her team have been securely livestreaming ceremonies with a private company so mourners who cannot attend have the opportunity to say their final goodbyes.

Jill added: “Even though the services have been restricted to 20 minutes and the numbers able to attend reduced we have strived to provide very intimate and meaningful services.

“We have provided afternoon tea boxes when requested and other personal requests from families like miniature tipples and daffodil bulbs.”

Jill added: “We want to make sure that our families feel they have given their loved ones the perfect send-off, especially in these difficult times.”

As well as the live streaming of services, Jill and her team use social media to update people on services and let the community know what routes they will be taking in case people want to pay their final respects by lining the route.

Her links on social media also allow people to donate online to the family’s chosen charity.

Jill said: “I opened the business in October 2018 after 24 years in pathology and then training to become a funeral director with Dignity.

Jill said: “I opened the business in October 2018 after 24 years in pathology and then training to become a funeral director with Dignity. In the first year I cared for 82 families.

“In the second year Peter Watson, experienced funeral director – having conducted and cared for 1,100 families – came to work alongside me and due to our excellent reputation and extremely personal service we cared for 201 families.

“Sadly, in the last three months and partly due to the pandemic we have cared for 96 families.”

Jill stressed how serious the current situation was.

During the first lockdown seeing about 14 positive cases in her care in a matter of months to seeing more than 10 in the last two weeks in her care alone.

Jill is highly involved in the local community.

When all face-to-face remembrance services were cancelled, she decided to place a Remembrance Tree outside her premises in Dalston.

They placed the names of all the loved ones they had cared for during the last year on the tree and invited people to come any time and place their own memorial baubles on the tree.

Jill said: “We had people come from miles to see and place something on the tree. We also had people who could not get out contact us to place their loved ones’ names on the tree and we then sent them a photo.”

Jill Glencross is also q business partner of Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakes and also Carlisle Youth Zone.

Jill said: “I would like to say a huge thank you to all of my staff, local Crematoriums, the staff at the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital, all staff in the community, celebrants, ministers and anyone else who is putting their own health and family at risk during this awful time. Stay safe and stay at home.”