A Day in the Life of a Funeral Director: Funerals During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Posted on April 25, 2020 by Joe Pray under A Day In The Life of a Funeral Director
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The telephone rang in the middle of the night. The caller spoke through tears as she told me of the death of their family member. “What can we do when everybody has to stay home?” This is becoming a common question about funerals during the Coronavirus pandemic.

We help overcome the Fear of the Coronavirus

The question revealed an emotion that people face during the Coronavirus pandemic. Fear. The fear of the Coronavirus. A family doesn’t need fear on top of the other emotions they experience with a death in the family.  That fear may result in a family remaining in isolation. Isolation from friends and family can hinder the ability to mourn loss. That could develop complicated grief reactions such as additional stress and related illnesses in the future. 

Pray Funeral Home is working to help families in Greater Eaton County overcome that fear through. We accomplish that through our detailed care of families and their deceased family members.

It’s hard to smile through a face mask

As we arrived at the home of the deceased I felt a bit conspicuous wearing a surgical type mask and safety glasses. In this case the family nor the deceased had indications of COVID-19. Under our guidelines, however, our staff is required to wear at least minimal person protective equipment (PPE) to help keep the family safe. While we have no reason to believe our staff has been exposed, we prefer not to take any undue risk. 

I almost apologize for wearing a mask, but the family smiles and replies that they appreciate it.  A few of the family in the room are also wearing masks.  I hope they realize that face masks, safety glasses, and other PPE are only creating a barrier against the Coronavirus, not a barrier of our care and compassion for the family. It is more difficult to sense a person’s emotions when their face is half obscured.  It is also hard to set people at ease with the one of the best things that I have to convey empathy, my smile.  Hopefully they can see see my gentle smile hidden under my mask by reading the “smile wrinkles” or “crows feet” that emanate from the corners of my eyes. I guess facial wrinkles aren’t so bad after all. 

What about distant family?

The first concern the family reveals is how to gather family to make arrangements. Other family members aren’t able to be present due to travel restrictions. I shared our ability to make arrangements via group conference over the computer. They can all see each other as they make decisions that will help them navigate the next few days and weeks. Their relief was evident in their faces with that possibility. The family members shared their emails so I could arrange the computer aided arrangement conference later that same day. We will also share a link to our At Home Arrangements page on our website. It helps family understand the arrangements process and gather information that we will need to help them.

Their next question was how to involve family and friends who needed to say goodbye but hadn’t been able to over the past weeks. I shared our options that offer limited family visitation before cremation, or a visitation and funeral that accommodates families within the limits of our Governor’s Executive Orders. We also discuss the possibility of a second funeral or memorial service after restrictions have been lifted. I shared that we are willing to coordinate these and many other options to help them both now and later.

How long can we wait?

The last question that they ask is “How long can we wait to hold a funeral?” I respond that in some cases we have waited up to two to three weeks to hold a funeral or public visitation with the loved one present. Our embalming process makes it possible to wait to hold funerals during the Coronavirus pandemic. The embalming process allows us to disinfect, preserve, and in many cases, restore a natural appearance to their deceased family member. Even the deceased body of a person dies from COVID-19 is not infectious after a proper and thorough embalming procedure.   

Options for Having a Funeral During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Webcasting the funeral, or live streaming, is another option that I tell the family about. We have provided the ability for family and friends to participate in a funeral over their computer for a decade. Webcasting has become a great assistance for families who host funerals during the Coronavirus pandemic

We take them into our care

Finally they tell me they are ready for us to take their family member in to our care. The family is assured they can see their family member and share time with family and friends during the services we develop. My assistant and I carefully and gently transfer them to our waiting auxiliary coach. After returning to the funeral home we immediately start planning to help the family over the next few days and weeks.

Our family and staff do all this for one reason—to help a family through loss so they don’t have to face it alone. We do all this and more to help each family heal. 

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