• This article is about suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

A distraught Invercargill mum was forced to kneel down in mud and kiss her son goodbye through an unzipped body bag after he died in the first week of lockdown.

Police held up a blanket so neighbours could not see Angela clutching on to her 18-year-old son Brody, with tears streaming down her face, not wanting to let go.

It would be the last time she saw her youngest child - because of level 4 Covid-19 restrictions, funerals were banned.


Six weeks on, that "horrific" day still haunts Angela and her husband Warren.

"Every time I close my eyes I see my son in a body bag, not resting in peace, in a body bag," a tearful Angela told the Herald.

The Government is considering relaxing funeral restrictions to allow families the proper chance to say goodbye to their relatives.

But for the Invercargill family - who don't want their last name published - it's too late.

Angela wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday to say she wasn't coping and that the pain and struggle her family had experienced in the past six weeks had been incredible.

Ardern told the Herald she couldn't begin to comprehend the grief Angela and Warren were experiencing at this time and promised to personally respond to Angela's email.

"I want to check all the appropriate support services were in place for her and her family.

"I know nothing will replace the loss of her son but I always expect the rules to be applied compassionately and that we do all we can to assist people through such tragedy."

Ardern said she found the health protections around deaths and funerals the hardest but they were designed to safeguard people's health and avoid further tragedy.


"No one wants people who are grieving to suffer the double tragedy of the virus spreading among them."

But Angela and Warren feel as though the Government got it wrong and they were robbed of a basic human right.

"We haven't been able to grieve for our son - to remember the beautiful person he was and celebrate his life surrounded by friends and family.

"It's been six weeks and we haven't seen our other two children - we should be together as a family under one roof but we're not allowed," Angela said.

The couple want to share their story in a bid to prevent others from the pain of not being able to grieve.

"No one should have to go through this."


On the morning of Saturday, March 28 - day three of lockdown - Warren found his son. He is suspected to have taken his own life.

"He was our world. We were very close. Finding him like that, that's what I see when I go to bed at night," Warren said.

Brody left a note but his parents haven't been able to read it because police took it for forensic examination.

The teenager had two brothers - he was extremely close to both. His 23-year-old brother lives about 5km away and had to say goodbye to Brody via Facetime.

His 26-year-old brother lives in Wellington. "He's just pretending like it hasn't happened until he's able to come down."

Sharron Hanley, funeral director and owner of MacDonald and Weston, received a call from police that morning to transfer Brody to a funeral home.


She described the ordeal as the most horrendous she had ever seen in 20 years of work.

"I have never seen anything so horrible, it was really, really awful and it's just so wrong what this family have been through."

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It was not until Hanley was inside the house that she realised she knew the family.

"I met the mum when her dad died about two years ago. She works just a couple of doors down from me.

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"When I first got there the mum had her back to me and then she turned around and my heart just broke.


"She was bawling her eyes out and I just wanted to give her a cuddle but I wasn't allowed. It was really hard," Hanley said through tears.

Hanley said she had to explain to Angela there wouldn't be a funeral and she needed to come outside to say goodbye to her son because she wouldn't get another chance.

"She was adamant she didn't want to come out so I sat in a room with her and we talked.

"I explained how important it was to say goodbye and eventually she agreed she would.

"They [mum and dad] had to sit in mud while police held a sheet up so neighbours couldn't see.

"It was so horrendous and my heart broke for them. I just kept saying don't rush this, you don't want to rush this."

"She was bawling her eyes out and I just wanted to give her a cuddle but I wasn't allowed", said Sharron Hanley. Photo / 123RF

Warren and Angela travelled to Sydney before lockdown and were in day eight of self-isolation. Two days after Brody's death Warren tested positive for Covid-19.

Hanley still believes there could have been a way for them to say goodbye properly. "We could have dressed them in PPE and made it happen."

Warren recovered from Covid-19 more than four weeks ago.

Her message to the Prime Minister was: "Please let families grieve."

Hanley said she hoped that the Government would trust funeral directors to monitor funerals in a safe way.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website


"It is so important they have they have that chance to say goodbye properly."

Angela said after Warren's test results they had one call from the Ministry of Health which said someone would check up on them daily but they never heard back.

"They told me I couldn't sleep in the same bed as my husband and when I said my son had just committed suicide they didn't care," Angela said.

"They didn't even ask for the name of the police officer and funeral directors they'd been in contact with," Hanley said.

Angela, a sales assistant, had to go back to work because she used up her two days of bereavement leave and needed the money.

"I'm grieving with strangers."


They want a memorial service for their son that isn't restricted to 10 or even 100 people.

"Our son deserved more than this."

Under alert level 3, the funeral ban was lifted but restricted to 10 people.

David Moger, executive director of Funeral Directors of New Zealand, spoke to the Epidemic Response Committee on Wednesday.

He touched on the 18-year-old's tragic death and how the last memory the parents had of their son was him being taken away from the home, and not sending him off properly at a funeral.

Moger said more than 2000 people died during the lockdown.


And because of the level 4 and 3 restrictions, the families of those 2000 people had not been able to properly grieve.

He called on the Government to organise a national minute's silence to acknowledge those who have died in lockdown.

Moger also made an appeal to let funeral directors monitor funerals so families could say goodbye to their loved ones properly.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.



• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• https://www.lifeline.org.nz/services/suicide-crisis-helpline
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202