Ban on funerals adding to family grief

The lockdown ban on funerals is having a devastating impact on South Australian families at a time of immense grief, with one heartbroken daughter saying she and her siblings just want to “say goodbye and honour” their dad.

Nov 19, 2020, updated Nov 19, 2020
Melissa Vakulin with dad Michael Simmonds on her wedding day in 2015. Photo supplied

Melissa Vakulin with dad Michael Simmonds on her wedding day in 2015. Photo supplied

Melissa Vakulin and her three siblings had organised a funeral for their dad Michael Simmonds this Saturday – and were expecting more than 40 people to attend – but they’ve had to abruptly cancel because of the sudden lockdown.

Vakulin said she broke down in tears when she heard news of the shutdown and impact on planned funerals.

“I am so upset because it’s just the build-up of all the emotion,” she told InDaily.

“We were mentally preparing for this goodbye, to be with family, to be close, to say goodbye.”

Her 68-year-old dad died of cancer last week and “it was the most traumatic thing we have gone through”.

“We wanted to honour his life,” she said.

“We want to be able to honour him and let him go and to heal through that experience.

“I’m feeling quite down about it all.”

Vakulin said the funeral had symbolised a “new beginning” after so much trauma.

“Now it feels like we are still in that traumatic phase,” she said.

“We feel like it’s important that a person is honoured soon after their death.

“The longer we leave it, it’s harder on us and we feel like it’s disrespectful. We need to say goodbye.”

Vakulin said she couldn’t understand why funerals were banned “yet 50 or 60 people can gather in a supermarket”.

“I understand the restriction on weddings, but funerals I don’t,” she said.

“To me, funerals should be important and they should be allowed. Not the wakes and ceremonies after, but the funerals should be allowed.

“It’s almost like we are being so disrespectful to the people who have lived.

“Do we only care about COVID people now? Do we not care about people who have cancer?

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“They should be recognised as well.

“Maybe the people in government haven’t experienced what I have just experienced.

“To have lost someone and have to wait and have those feelings still there.”

Vakulin said her family was now planning a funeral for the following Saturday but they still didn’t know if that would even be permitted or how many people would be allowed to attend.

Her dad has four siblings, based around South Australia and interstate. He also has a partner in Mt Gambier.

Travel restrictions will already prevent some of them attending and many others may also now not be able to attend depending on limits.

“Everything is just up in the air,” Vakulin said.

“We just don’t know what’s going on. It’s so hard.

“If we can only have five people we’ll probably have to rely on Zoom for the rest of the family to watch.

“I’m just going to pray that next Saturday we can do it.

“My heart is a little bit broken for anyone that can’t come.”

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