Losing a loved one due to Covid-19
Many families across our province have had to face the tragic loss of their loved ones due to Covid-19. During the pandemic, the loss of a loved one is unfortunately complicated by the need to prevent coronavirus from spreading further. For this reason Western Cape Government Health have provided guidelines to ensure that as a community, we are all aware of the measures that can be taken in order to keep safe as preparations are made to lay our loved ones to rest.
How do I get clarity on what happened?
- Understanding what happened to your loved one may help. Speak to the health workers who cared for your loved one or any other person who knows about Covid-19.
- Contact the Bereavement Helpline on 082 925 5938 or 079 872 6408 to speak to someone who can guide and provide counsel to you and your family.
Can we view our loved one’s body if they passed away of Covid-19?
There are regulations to prevent coronavirus from spreading and these may not allow you to see your loved one’s body. If you are able to view the body, avoid touching or kissing your loved one’s body.
Can we hold a viewing?
If the family decides to hold a viewing, follow these guidelines:
- Do not let anyone touch the body.
- Keep apart from each other.
- Wear a mask.
- Sanitise hands afterwards.
Are there any precautions to take in preparing our loved one’s body?
- Washing and dressing your loved one should only be done by undertakers or those trained to use personal protective equipment.
- Your loved one’s body must remain at the undertaker until the funeral.
What must I do when I receive my loved one’s belongings?
Wash the clothing and linen with hot water and soap. Disinfect other items (phone, spectacles, toiletries) with diluted bleach solution. After handling unwashed laundry and objects, wash your hands well.
How can I hold a funeral or ritual that will be safe and not put my family and close friends at risk?
A funeral does provide an opportunity for family and loved ones to say goodbye, however it is important to note that that people may catch coronavirus from your loved one’s body and also from one another at the funeral.
If you are unable to prepare a funeral as you are used to, plan to hold a ritual when it is safe, to help say goodbye. These are some measures to ensure that the funeral/ritual will provide minimal risk to your family and friends:
- If there are no delays with family members travelling or home affairs, try to hold the funeral within three days of your loved one’s passing.
- Ensure that a maximum 50 people (family, guests and staff) will attend as this is the number permitted
- Consider live-streaming for those over 55 years or with chronic conditions as they are at risk of severe COVID-19.
- The funeral ceremony should last less than 30 minutes.
- Do not hold a gathering after the funeral - mourners should leave straight after the ceremony.
- Keep 1,5 metres apart from other mourners.
- Avoid handshakes, hugging or kissing.
How can I ensure mourners are coronavirus safe?
- Ask people not to attend if they are sick.
- Mourners must wear cloth masks at all times.
- Mourners must keep 1,5 metres apart from each other.
- Provide hand sanitiser or hand-washing stations.
- Keep a register of mourners. This will enable health authorities to trace them should someone develop COVID-19.
Is there any logistics I should be aware of?
- Register your loved one’s death. You will need their identity document and death notification from the hospital. Ask the undertaker to help you.
- Arrange the funeral. When someone passed away of COVID-19, it is recommended that their remains are cremated.
How do I take care of myself?
It is important to remember to take care of yourself. This includes prioritising your own health and finding ways to cope. Losing a loved one affects everyone differently; there is no right or wrong way to feel. It may help to talk about your feelings to a friend, relative or counsellor. Try and get enough sleep and avoid using alcohol and other substances to relieve your grief.
Remember, if you had close contact with your loved one in the past 14 days, you may have caught coronavirus. You should quarantine (separate) yourself for 14 days from last contact to prevent passing it on.
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Department of Health
Western Cape Government
Tel: 021 202 0947
Mobile: 081 277 0516