Funeral homes are doing what they can to support their grieving families with strict public health guidelines in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In Alberta, no more than 15 people are allowed in one place at one time and that includes funeral services in either a funeral home chapel, a church, or anywhere else for that matter.
Travis Zentner, Manager of Cornerstone Funeral Home, says these are unprecedented times for everyone, including the funeral industry. “We’re encouraging people to have live streams of their services or recording them and sharing them after with people, whether that be on-site at the funeral home, at another venue like a church, or like at a graveside service we had recently.”
Funeral homes are considered an essential service in the province of Alberta during the ongoing pandemic, as released by the government last week.
Chris Martin Jong, General Manager at Martin Brothers Funeral Chapels in Lethbridge, says they have social distancing protocols in place at their funeral home to make sure everyone has the appropriate space they need. “At our funeral home we’ve had to break our staff into different shifts and separate teams should anyone get sick. If families are gathering we ask they keep two meters apart and we mark that out and can accommodate that in our chapel as well.”
Both Zentner and Martin Jong say their funeral homes are taking every health precaution possible during the ongoing pandemic to make sure their respective staff and the families they serve are safe and taken care of.
Zentner says this whole situation is very unique in the fact that the funeral industry is one that tries to empathize and console as much as humanly possible. “When you take out that ability to give a hug when you know somebody needs it or even a hand on shoulder, or even a handshake. It’s tough when that human aspect is taken out of the funeral industry. We just want to be there to be people’s guiding hand. All this doesn’t help things, but at the same time we want to make sure we are as safe and secure as possible.”
Martin Jong also says despite the public health restrictions, providing something meaningful for grieving families during these unprecedented times is paramount. “I mean, at a time when there is an unimaginable loss and things like that for families we still have to provide something that’s meaningful and helps them to mourn.”
He too says families they service at Martin Brothers are requesting more streaming of services and doing private video and audio recordings as ways to share services with friends and family who can’t be there in person.
Martin Jong says even when it comes to making funeral arrangements, they try a limit the number of people in arrangement conferences in order to keep those physical distancing requirements.
Given the physical distancing requirements and all the concerns around COVID-19, Zentner says it is still o-k to have something like a visitation or viewing after someone has passed away if families wish. He notes people can even rotate a few at a time to pay their respects, keeping with the guidelines given by Public Health officials.