As our President noted recently, funerals have become a death trap for many South Africans. Although it is deeply ingrained in all of us to provide a fitting send-off for our departed loved one, we are in the grip of a deadly pandemic. The typical funeral activities that usually occur are increasing everyone’s exposure to risk.

Accordingly, the COVID pandemic has changed funeral rituals, not only in South Africa but all over the world. The South African government was forced to introduce new measures to reduce the disease’s risk by curtailing traditionally large funerals.

Level 3 Funeral Arrangements

Some of the measures include limiting funeral attendance to a maximum of 50 people – all of whom must socially distance and wear masks. Night vigils and after tears/wakes are no longer allowed. The deceased must be buried or cremated quicker than before, and mortal remains are treated more clinically.

How Traditional African Funeral Rituals Are Affected

This change to long-standing traditions is particularly difficult for the African culture who embrace social support and community kinship. Most black South African funerals combine traditional African and Christian rituals, with many people in attendance. These people may or may not be known to the bereaved. They could be anyone from friends, family members, colleagues, or strangers who merely want to show their support and respect. All are welcome and often travel great distances to attend both the funeral and the rituals leading up to the funeral. The reason for these social calls includes repeated family visits, helping with funeral and catering preparations, counselling, etc. and are all performed in close quarters. In rural villages, graves sometimes need to be dug, with people often sharing the same picks and shovels.

Curtailing the Celebration Of The Deceased’s Life

Whatever the culture, whether the mourners gather to attend the church service or eat communally afterwards, these events are, without a doubt, ripe for transmission of COVID. Funeral services have adapted from virtually all-day events to a one to two-hour service attended by no more than 50 people. People can no longer embrace each other due to social distancing. The full splendour of funerals has been overshadowed by rules and regulations to ensure all mourners’ health and safety.

Missing Out on Important Closure

Every culture has its rituals and services when it comes to mourning. These rituals bring comfort, and notably, closure. One of the main challenges experienced by people who are grieving the death of one who has departed is the inability to mourn in the usual way and experience the traditional rituals that slowly help bring acceptance of death. This new normal may bring a need for professional counselling to help people gain closure in another way. Not being able to provide a proper sendoff for your loved ones, may result in Deferred or Complicated Grief in time to come. Emotions such as guilt and self-blame may also come to the surface for not being in a position to pay a proper last tribute due to the restrictions. We can refer you to qualified Grief & Bereavement Specialists on our panel.

Financial Impact of The Pandemic On Funerals

From a more positive perspective, the COVID pandemic has possibly reduced a family’s financial burdens by making funerals much cheaper. Elaborate and large funerals, which come with a high cost that is borne by the deceased’s family, are now no longer allowed. Families often expose themselves to enormous debt to pay for a funeral – especially if they don’t have a funeral policy or funeral cover. Traditional leaders often have to intervene in disputes between families and service providers when they are unable to meet their financial commitment to the service provider. COVID lockdown may well have positively intervened in a time where incomes are stretched to the limit, and financial respite is welcome in any form.

However, while costs are to be saved on catering, tents and smaller funerals, other expenses are cropping up. Some funeral parlours have had to increase their prices by up to 25% to cover COVID-related expenses such as; protection equipment, sanitising products, additional staff costs due to more workers being hired as deaths increase, and even additional cemetery charges by municipalities. Funeral parlours have also had to modify their vehicles to increase safety precautions during COVID which increases their overheads.

Will Funerals Return to Normal Post-Pandemic?

Nobody is sure if the “new normal” type of funeral created under COVID restrictions will last forever. Perhaps the financial relief from curtailed cultural expectations of an elaborate funeral will result in some permanent changes to how funerals are conducted once COVID is over? Or perhaps everything will revert to normal?

Secure Your Family’s Future After Your Passing

Whatever the outcome, having a funeral policy will always provide a safeguard against funeral expenses and provide loved ones with a measure of relief and the ability to mourn in peace without the financial burden of a funeral hanging over their shoulders. Life insurance will provide additional comfort in taking care of those financially dependent on the deceased and is often combined with funeral cover. When a loved one passes away, there are many financial matters that will need to be addressed pertaining to tax, legal and financial administration.

Funeral Policies in South Africa

Sonja Smith Funeral Group, which has branches across Gauteng, assists bereaved families with funeral arrangements, bringing the deceased into care, burials, cremations, financial matters after the funeral and offers unique funeral services and memorials. They also provide comprehensive funeral insurance plans that include;

Benefits of Elite Funeral Insurance Plan*:

  • Instantly paid claims
  • No medical examinations
  • Free repatriation of remains
  • Discount on coffin and services for policyholders
  • 6-month waiting period for death claims as a result of Natural Causes
  • Maximum entry age 85 years

Additional Benefits of Elite Funeral Insurance Plan*:

  • Income protection
  • Refreshments benefits
  • Tombstones
  • Bereavement- & Trauma Counselling
  • Accidental death insurance

The Sonja Smith Funeral Group ensures that families receive the style and quality of service that their loved ones deserve. Our personalised service will guide you through all the planning and arrangements for a funeral. For further information or to obtain advice, contact Sonja Smith Funeral Group for empathy, efficiency and most of all, compassion.

Our offices are located across Gauteng in Benoni, Centurion,  Fourways, Mayville, Meyerspark, Midstream, Montana, Moot, Moreleta Park and Roodepoort.

*Terms and Conditions apply to the Elite Funeral Insurance Plan. These are available on request.