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Death Care During a Pandemic

Published: June 13, 2022

Funerals are a universal after-death ritual. They can vary widely in form and function but have the collective goal of farewelling someone, and providing a place where participants can express grief and share sorrow, while remembering the person’s life and starting survivors on their journey through grief. The year 2020 changed the death care and funeral industry by disrupting the way people say, “goodbye.”

These past two years of the pandemic have been overwhelming and affected everyone in some way. Many have lost their loved ones, medical staff are continuously overwhelmed at the hospitals. Death workers or “last responders” are there day after day on the front lines caring for the dead, arranging their funerals, and comforting the grieving.

As those death workers or “last responders”, we’ve seen first hand how the death industry has changed and know it will never be the way it was pre-covid. Not only have we had to deal with the separation between us and the families we help, but having funeral restrictions and having to care for people through plastic wasn’t something that was at all natural. It’s truly been heartbreaking.

During the pandemic, hospitals, funeral homes, and death care industry workers were instructed to keep the deceased in mortuary coolers . Storage such as this was created at the height of the pandemic to ensure that families could lay their loved ones to rest as they saw fit, when scheduling allowed. Due to skyrocketing demand, in heavily populated areas, many funeral related items were not readily available. This included time at the cemetery, crematories, funeral homes, and equipment such as caskets, vaults, etc. Many bodies were still in coolers more than a year later when families were able to finally get together in larger groups with minimal social distancing requirements.

As for how it’s changed the funeral industry, the pandemic pushed a lot of people and businesses online and forced some of those businesses to update their practices and facilities. Numbers of those allowed to attend had been cut in half (or more) to ensure social distancing. Only immediate family members were allowed to attend services rather than making them open to the public. Now that restrictions are lifted, these new practices are still recommended. Funerals have become more modest with people opting for smaller services, cremation or no service at all.

When it comes to online practices, as a funeral home, we now give families the opportunity to book their appointments online with the option to meet in-person or virtually. We offer live streaming funeral services for loved ones to attend no matter where they are in the world. And we make sure to take extra steps to honor the deceased by offering services such as Hugs from Home.

Hugs from Home will give those not attending the funeral a chance to be able to share a token of love and support. Submit a tribute on the obituary page to leave a message of support that will be printed and next to a personalized candle. These notes and candles will be placed in the chapel as hugs for the families. They will be able to read your heartfelt messages and hopefully know that many others are there with them in spirit.

It is impossible to know when the pandemic will be completely over. Or if we will ever return to the way things used to be. It’s important though to recognize the work that healthcare workers, “last responders” or death workers have gone through for our communities. And we’d like to thank each and every one of you for all of your support during these trying times.

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