Son 'angry' at being moved away from mum at dad's funeral

  • Published
Media caption,

Milton Keynes funeral official separates mother and sons

A son was left "angry and upset" when he was told to move while comforting his mother at his father's funeral, because of social distancing rules.

Craig Bicknell said a Crownhill Crematorium staff member stopped the service to tell him and his brother to put their chairs back.

He made the decision to sit next to his "vulnerable" mother as she was "lost".

Milton Keynes Council, which runs the building, said it was sorry and a more "considered approach" was required.

Image source, Craig Bicknell
Image caption,
Alan Wright was 78 when he died

Mr Bicknell, 43, who lives in Milton Keynes, said: "I made everyone aware that I [would] need to comfort my mum at some point.

"When I saw my mum break as she did, it just took over that I had to comfort her and put my arm around her."

At the start of his father Alan Wright's service on Friday the chairs were set out separately, but he decided to move his to comfort his mother as she was "lost, empty and she was so upset".

When his brother followed suit, an employee rushed in and told them, "you have to put them back, I'm afraid".

"You can't move the chairs, you were told," he added.

Image caption,
Craig Bicknell wants the rules at funerals to change so families of six can closely comfort each other

Mr Bicknell said the experience had left him "angry, upset; it was just an empty feeling".

He said it "totally ruined the day" as he still had to deliver his eulogy after the confrontation, so he just moved and carried on so it would not be cancelled.

"It was very hard to do. I needed the service to carry on for my dad," he said.

"It was a really scary feeling, I've never felt [it] before."

Image source, Craig Bicknell
Image caption,
The family were seated 2m away from each other at the start of Alan Wright's service

A spokesman for Milton Keynes Council said: "We are sorry to have upset this family.

"We don't usually step in if a guest needs to be comforted by another family member and in this instance should have taken a more considered approach.

"We ask funeral directors to let us know whether any chairs should be grouped in advance, and from now on this includes guests who are in the same household or bubbles, as well as people who need extra support."

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The current Covid government guidelines allow up to 30 people to attend a funeral, and say social distancing must be "strictly adhered to".

Image source, Craig Bicknell
Image caption,
Craig Bicknell said "nobody should experience" what he and his family did at his father's funeral

Melanie Hannibal, from the National Association of Funeral directors in East Anglia, said: "I am so sorry that Craig had that experience, it wasn't the normal experience that we are seeing on a daily basis.

"I think this is a one off incident."

She said its members had to "abide by guidelines" and sometimes they find themselves between "a rock and a hard place".

Mr Bicknell wants the rule of six to be changed to include people who are not from the same household at funerals so they are "able to comfort each other and not have to worry".

"We know this is the new way of living, we know there are rules to adhere to, but if we can change this, we have achieved something," he said.

He said if this happened it would be in honour of his father.

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