A Cork priest has highlighted the hardship facing families who lost loved ones in the early days of the initial lockdown last year as they face into the first anniversaries of the deaths of their loved ones without traditional support from their wider communities.
Rolling restrictions, first introduced to reduce the spread of Covid-19 last March, have meant that many families have not been able to mark the passing of a loved one in the way they traditionally would have done.
Attendance at funerals has been significantly curtailed and people have not been able to ask neighbours or family members into their homes.
Speaking to The Echo, Fr Tom Hayes, who is parish priest in Enniskeane, said that many people who lost loved ones at the start of the first lockdown had planned to instead mark their loved one’s death on their first anniversary.
However, with significant numbers of Covid cases still being reported, Fr Hayes said it looked unlikely that people would be able to mark these anniversaries with their neighbours, friends and community in the way that they may have planned.
He said this would prove very difficult for some.
“The first anniversary is a very significant moment, a very significant day, a very significant week.
"Not to be able to mark that with contact with people and to go to a first-anniversary mass adds another layer of hardship for people,” Fr Hayes said.
The Cork priest said that it was important that this is acknowledged and that grieving families are supported in the weeks and months ahead.
Fr Hayes’ comments came as the bishop of Cork and Ross, Fintan Gavin, wrote to clergy members and undertakers to restate the current guidance on funerals.
The letter followed a meeting of the Catholic bishops of the Cashel province on the matter.
In the letter, the bishop set out the public health guidance around funerals, including the current restriction that just 10 people can attend a funeral.
He also noted the difficulties in providing support for loved ones at this time and suggested that support for those bereaved can be expressed through social media as an alternative to attending the funeral.
Fr Hayes said that the current restrictions, although necessary, can be difficult, but he said people are very understanding.
“Our instinct is to be with people at times like this. We are battling with our first instincts, but it is important to keep people safe.”