WHEN Jan Claridge's "amazing" mum died at nearly 90, COVID-19 meant her family was unable to say goodbye the way they would have chosen.
They were one of many central Victorian families to farewell a loved one with tight restrictions in place on numbers at funerals.
But funeral directors hope ceremonies may soon be open to more people, after Premier Daniel Andrews flagged further easing of COVID-19 restrictions in regional Victoria.
Limits on funeral attendance ranked the second highest among restrictions Bendigo Advertiser readers would like changed in a recent poll. It followed only restrictions on household bubbles.
Up to 20 people may attend funerals currently, as well as those required to conduct the ceremony.
At Ms Claridge's mother's funeral, then-restrictions meant only 10 people were allowed.
Ms Claridge's mother Faye Ellingsen passed away on September 7. She was buried on September 14.
I felt really sad to think the last thing I could do for her, I couldn't do as well as I wanted to.Jan Claridge
Her brothers - Ms Claridge's uncles - chose not to attend the funeral, giving their places to her grandchildren.
It was challenging for Ms Claridge to have so few people present to say goodbye to her mother, despite a lovely ceremony.
"I felt really sad to think the last thing I could do for her, I couldn't do as well as I wanted to," she said.
"She's been such an amazing Mum, she had so many connections, she was very well known around town, had lots of friends and extended family. To have a graveside service with only 10 people ..."
Ms Claridge said the silver living was livestreaming the service. About 200-300 people watched the live video of her mother's funeral, sending kind comments.
But Ms Claridge said a livestream was just not the same as being at the funeral for those who were close.
The family thought about holding a memorial service when restrictions lifted, but decided against it. Instead they hope to organise an outdoor picnic in a few weeks time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, if the rules are looser then.
As a funeral celebrant herself Ms Claridge has seen the angst restrictions have caused among families. They've even driven tension, as families worked through who could attend and who couldn't.
Ms Claridge said families would be better able to honour their loved ones if more people were allowed at funerals.
"Someone said, funerals are not for the dead, they're for the living. That's such a true thing," she said.
"To me a funeral is more about a celebration of a life, rather than the sadness of dying.
"People have really missed out ... on really being able to come together."
William Farmer funeral director Jesse Cattell said larger numbers at funerals would mean people could share more memories, helping them to grieve.
Mr Cattell said the support of others was incredibly important during the grieving process.
He said it was hard on families to have such a restricted number of people at funeral services. In some larger families, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were unable to attend ceremonies, let alone friends.
Mr Cattell said 20 - the current maximum - was better than 10, but still might not include every family member.
"When you have families and friends come together at a funeral service, families hear stories that they've never heard before," he said.
But Mr Cattell said the business now livestreamed most funerals, which generally had hundreds of people watch.
Mulqueen Family Funerals director Peter Mulqueen said he would like to see the same restrictions as in NSW, which are the lesser of 100 people, or one person per four square metres.
Mr Mulqueen said they had embraced webcasting, but it was just not the same for families.
"It's part of the grieving process that people comfort each other. You can't do that with webcasting," he said.
"You can't help people through the grieving process. People need to actually be present and they need to see the coffin leave ... As part of the finality of the grieving process.
"It's not just important for the immediate family, it's important for every person that's acquainted with the person who passed away. Being at a funeral is part of that process."
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