Crematorium manager reflects on ‘a very challenging year’

A Suffolk crematorium manager has described the heart-breaking realities of funerals during the coronavirus crisis.

While the Waveney Memorial Park and Crematorium used to be able to welcome up to 200 mourners at one time, it has been very different over the past year.

The team at the site in Ellough – which is owned and operated by the Memoria Group – has worked hard to ensure that grieving families are comforted and supported, as their loved ones have been given a service with dignity and respect.

With hymns replaced by recordings, mourners sitting two metres apart, and with only 10 people allowed into each service at one point, manager Gillian Hyde said: “It has been a very challenging year.

“We have had to put procedures in place very, very quickly.

“One week a family had planned 100 people coming to a service and overnight they were told they could only have 10 due to the Government restrictions.”

Waveney Crematoria Team
Stephen Fathers, Lucy Hughes, Gillian Hyde and Ashley Langner – the team at the Waveney Memorial Park and Crematorium in Ellough.

With a small team rising to the challenge, they’ve worked split shifts to keep the site running while supporting grieving families at some of the toughest times in their lives.

Mrs Hyde said: “It must have been absolutely dreadful for families.

“The restrictions have just added to their stress and distress.

“If you see someone crying you automatically want to hug them but you can’t.

“We always have compassion at the heart of everything we do but we also need to be safe at the same time.”

Waveney Memorial Park
The Waveney Memorial Park and Crematorium in Ellough.

Admitting that mourners had been “exceptional in their acceptance and gratitude” she said that once restrictions are fully lifted – hopefully by June – many families are expected to hold celebrations for their loved ones.

And despite the immense challenges of the last 12 months, she added: “People have been observing the tradition of lining the streets as a funeral procession goes past.

“That has been one of the loveliest things that has happened.

“It’s lovely for the families to know how much their loved one meant to people and that their drive up to the crematorium is less lonely. I hope that stays.”

Admitting she was proud of how the funeral industry had responded to the challenges, she said: “The team here is so dedicated and committed and it’s the only way we could have got through this.”

About the Author