A Levin funeral director and self-confessed "hugger" is doing all she can for grieving families that are unable to give loved ones a traditional burial service while New Zealand is in Covid-19 lockdown.
Kathryn Mark, who runs the family business with husband Dennis and their son Chris, said losing a loved one was extremely difficult at any time, let alone not being able to give them a traditional funeral service.
"Over the last few days our way of life has changed dramatically," she said.
"These are very difficult times and we understand how important it is to farewell our loved ones."
I.C.Mark Ltd Funeral Directors and Stonemasons are manning their telephone around the clock and working closely with bereaved parties to negotiate ongoing changes in the Government's policy around funerals and tangi.
Mark said families that had lost loved ones since the latest Ministry of Health guidelines were imposed had been understanding under trying circumstances, with funerals and viewing by family members banned.
They were seeking clarification from the ministry to see if family members who haven't been in the immediate "bubble" since lockdown last week could still visit the home for a private viewing.
Mark said they were updating any Ministry of Health changes to policy on their website as soon as they came to hand.
"Ministry of Health have clarified that funerals and viewings of family members must not be undertaken during level 3 and 4 alerts as per the Government decision.
"This means that at the point that we transfer the family member who has died into our care there will be no further contact permitted."
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They supported the Funeral Directors Association in trying to facilitate a looser set of guidelines to allow families to see their loved ones before they were buried, she said.
"There are still ways we can honour your loved ones and we will work with you to ensure your loved ones farewell is performed with respect and care.
"We will work with you to offer suggestions to do this in a meaningful and loving way and even though core services have changed we will do our absolute best to support you in these absolutely trying times.
"However, there is potentially the possibility that your loved one may be embalmed and held for the funeral service at a later date once the alert levels are lifted."
But that decision was compounded by the fact there was no assurance of just when the level four restrictions would be lifted, and there were realistic limits on how long a body could stay onsite.
Mark said the couldn't stress how important it was to let people know they were available to answer any questions and were there to help people understand all the options available.
"We understand that this will be very distressing for families and will offer our support to help you negotiate through this difficult time.
"We will discuss with you how the transfer will be completed to ensure the safety of all involved."
While it was extremely difficult to depart from normal grieving traditions, everybody was bound to directives handed down by the Ministry of Health.
"We are taking this directive extremely seriously and are strictly adhering to the restrictions put in place by our Government," she said.
"We are determined to protect our staff and those we come in contact with.
"If we meet we will be masked as per recommendations and hope that you will understand that these precautions are for the benefit of our community to try to stop any spread of this terrible virus.
"You used to be able to support people through a hug - I'm a hugger - so it's really difficult."
She was grateful to the support from their staff of seven during the past week.