A GRIEVING widow says the distress of losing her husband has been made worse by the fact she must wait three weeks for his funeral.

Margaret Dykes, 83, is among many relatives affected by delays to services caused by refurbishment work at York Crematorium.

Funeral directors and families say they are having to wait longer, even though council officials have tried to make more service times available.

Mrs Dykes said the delays were cruel and distressing.

She said: “I think it’s unkind and unfair to expect relatives to wait all this time to get closure.”

John Henry Dykes, 91, of The Ruddings in Selby, died on February 11 after a brief battle with liver cancer, but his cremation will not take place until March 4.

Mrs Dykes said: “I nursed him at home with Macmillan nurses, and he deteriorated and died on the Monday evening.

“We phoned the Co-op funeral parlour, who spoke to me and said there was a backlog at the crematorium, and suggested I might want to go to Pontefract, but I said I didn’t, because he was a local man and I wanted him in York.”

Mrs Dykes said she was told the funeral would take place in early March.

She spent days unable to answer questions from family and friends about when the cremation would be, before she was told that the cremation would take place on March 4.

Mrs Dykes said: “We couldn’t get on with our lives, people couldn’t make arrangements to come here without knowing. Life doesn’t stop, does it?

“I think it’s cruel and causes a lot of distress.

“It’s not just me, it’s his children and grandchildren, and people coming from all over.

“I think a month is ridiculous. It’s not just the bereaved, it’s the family themselves. They were ringing up every day to find out when it was and I didn’t know.

“One of his sons was going on holiday on March 7, and we’ve had a Dickens of a job getting it finalised.”

The crematorium is undergoing a £1.7 million refurbishment, its biggest since opening in 1962, to ensure it meets Government guidelines on mercury emissions and to increase capacity in the small chapel.

Steve Waddington, the council’s assistant director of housing and community safety, said: “Unfortunately, this essential work has impacted on families having to wait longer than normal for a funeral, although additional service times have and are being made available on Saturdays and we are working with local funeral directors to ensure that customers are fully informed and that, wherever possible, we meet individual needs.”

Mrs Dykes said: “I know it can’t be helped, but you would think they would give it priority to get on with it in a city like this. There must be a lot of people distressed by this, not just me.”

A spokeswoman for York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust said the crematorium delays had caused “minor operational difficulties”.

The Press spoke to a number of funeral directors in York and Selby. The majority said customers had been surprised by the wait, which has come at a particularly busy time for the funeral directors, but had largely accepted it as “one of those things”.