CATHERINE Barrett got dressed up in mourning clothes and set flowers and candles about her online device. Importantly for her, there was a photo of her father close-by.
This was not how Ms Barrett had ever envisaged saying goodbye to her father, well-loved Ballarat community man Newell Barrett. Alone, in her Melbourne apartment, kept far away from the hugs of her family by pandemic restrictions.
The Celebrate Ageing director was keenly attuned to the important of grieving and honouring lives. Everything felt askew in trying to grasp the vital connections she needed to face her father's death.
Ms Barrett is one of 14 children. Funerals only allow for 10 people.
As a Melburnian, conscious of fear for the virus in regional Victoria, Ms Barrett stayed home.
She shares what helped her through those moments, in a bid to help others caught in their own grief and bound by legal limitations in saying goodbye:
- a sister FaceTimed her the funeral procession
- the ceremony opened with photos and quotes from loved ones who could not be there
- grandchildren popped up along the funeral procession route
- friends and family shared photos of cups of tea and jelly slice afterwards in absence of a wake.
That night, Ms Barrett had a meal delivered and a friend ordered the same dish so they could catch-up online and debrief.
"It might seem like little things - the funeral procession was really watching the car in front travelling along - but it was powerful. I felt like I was there," Ms Barrett said.
"We've had deaths in the family before. The first thing you do is jump in the car and be together. You spontaneously hug and cry together. The act f grieving in person really helps stuff to shift.
"I wanted to grieve and wail because I couldn't be there for Dad, or to support Mum."
I wanted to grieve and wail because I couldn't be there for Dad, or to support Mum.Catherine Barrett
Helping families navigate a funeral amid a pandemic has been heartbreaking and gut-wrenching for FW Barnes and Sons general manager Karyn Williams.
Live-streaming and videoed eulogies are important but Ms Williams said enforcing the 10-person rule while delicately balancing respect for the loved one lost was incredibly emotionally tough. Those who do attend the funeral were separated according to social distancing rules, unable to reach out to each other.
Ms Williams said a lot of families were cutting back on services, instead opting to have a loved one buried or cremated straight away with plans for a memorial later. FW Barnes also offered families an open-casket package with time to sit in the chapel with the deceased and create a significant day of farewell.
It was difficult for the Barrett family to send word to friends when Newell had died. COVID-19 restrictions had cut off their usual channels, like church, and communication to his old work colleagues from the Buninyong shire.
Ms Barrett said the death notice became vital only, for the Barretts, this was sent out after the funeral. She felt many who knew him lost a chance to tune into the live-stream and pay tribute to Newell feeling some connection in watching the same time as others.
Civil celebrant Ron Egeberg has found the pandemic restrictions add to loved ones' trauma in a sad and solemn time.
Mr Egeberg said there had been a noticeable shift in funeral rituals from traditional religious rituals to paying tribute and celebrating a life. He said all rituals were important in both respecting the deceased but also for the living.
In a COVID situation there is no wake - that element is part of managing grief.Ron Egeberg, civil celebrant
"Gathering and sharing memories of the deceased does help a family. It leaves mourners comforted with the fact they have honoured that person," Mr Egeberg said.
"In a COVID situation there is no wake - that element is part of managing grief. Often after you've been to a wake, you can come away feeling good and knowing you have shared in paying tribute."
Music is an important element that often surprises Mr Egeberg as a celebrant. Music can be just as personal and poignant as prayers, poetry and tributes.
For the Barrett family, surrounding Newell with his favourite music was a way they could comfort him in palliative care. Knowing they could not all be with him at one, family members organised to pin photos to his wall, play music and send him video messages.
Photos of her father in care help Ms Barrett see and understand his decline.
"It helped with our grief to try and create a room where he could see us," Ms Barrett said. "We wanted him to feel love and be comforted."
For more information on grief and loss amid the pandemic, visit Ms Barrett's website The Kindness Pandemic here.
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