Grieving together, but apart: How funeral homes are handling the pandemic

Gathering in the First Memorial Funeral Service’s cemetery is not recommended now due to COVID-19. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)Gathering in the First Memorial Funeral Service’s cemetery is not recommended now due to COVID-19. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
Grieving together, but apart: How funeral homes are handling the pandemic
Grieving together, but apart: How funeral homes are handling the pandemic
Grieving together, but apart: How funeral homes are handling the pandemic

In times of death, coming together allows many people to grieve but due to the pandemic, funeral homes have shifted the way services are performed and people are changing the way they grieve.

Trevor McCall, president of McCall Gardens, says Victoria isn’t “what you’d call a very traditional market,” with many residents opting for celebrations of life – which he says is more of a social gathering with food and drink – instead of a funeral.

“Coming together during a tragedy or a death and getting the support of others during that time is so important for the mental well-being,” he says. “Hugs are so important and right now hugs can’t happen.”

Since the pandemic hit, McCall says a number of changes have been made to the way services are delivered, most notable is the limit on the number of people allowed to attend.

In addition to the 40 person limit, most services are being live-streamed for those who can’t be there physically and catering services have been stopped.

READ ALSO: Vancouver Island hasn’t seen a new homegrown case of COVID-19 in two weeks

McCall says a number of families have opted to postpone their family member’s service until they’re able to have more than the 40 person limit.

“One of the families I served, [one person] made a comment – there’s no good time to die, but to die during COVID-19 is by far the worst time,” he says.

Ryan Mclane with First Memorial Funeral Services, says they’ve made similar shifts in regards to capacity and virtual services. Mclane says work is being done now to allow for people to call into zoom and have their faces show up on a screen during the service, along with implementing food boxes in place of catering services.

READ ALSO: Rate of unclaimed cremations related to opioid crisis triples in Greater Victoria

“Gone are the days where people walked up to a buffet table and shared a conversation about the deceased,” he says.

Staff at Dignity Memorial also wear masks and created new name tags that show a picture of the person’s face. “Sometimes it’s the facial expressions that show support and all you have to speak to the family now is your eyes and your words.”

Laura Van Sprand, manager of Sands Victoria Funeral Chapel, says technology has helped bring people together throughout the pandemic but especially in times of grief.

Along with live streaming services, people are being screened at the door and are asked to arrive in staggered times to protect guests and staff.

“The hardest part for us at the funeral home, is having the bereaved leave without the supportive hugs we have all become so accustomed to giving,” she says. “Everyone is so understanding and we show our support through heartfelt looks and kind gestures.”

Catherine Costigan, professor of psychology at the University of Victoria, says it’s important to have something that marks the passing of a loved one, although it might not be a traditional ceremony.

“[People need] something that allows the person the time and opportunity to honor the relationship that has been lost, and have some kind of concrete marker of this important life transition.”

She adds that while grieving is already an isolating process, the pandemic can make people feel “isolation on top of isolation.” Costigan recommends finding other ways to connect with loved ones during this challenging time such as letters, social media, or phone and video chats.

“To process some of that loss, even if it can’t be done in person, is as important as ever so, the challenge is to not let the current circumstance eliminate the ability to share with others in the grieving process,” she says.

As of the morning of May 25, Vancouver Island has confirmed 127 cases of COVID-19 and has seen 121 people recover from the virus. Five people have died, and though 25 have been hospitalized, only one person remains in hospital care.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

That’s Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19, 2021 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
First Houston vaccinations take place

Long term care residents, health care workers on list

Administering naloxone to a person experiencing a benzo-related overdose event won’t help. Naloxone is used to neutralize opioids. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)
Northern Health warning drug users of potential benzo contamination

The drug does not respond to naloxone, and is being included in street drugs

COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary. (Houston Today photo)
COVID-19 exposure reported at Houston Secondary School

Self-monitoring for symptoms encouraged

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

The top part of the fossil burrow, seen from the side, with feathery lines from the disturbance of the soil – thought to be caused by the worm pulling prey into the burrow. (Paleoenvironntal Sediment Laboratory/National Taiwan University)
PHOTOS: SFU researchers find evidence of ‘giant’ predatory worms on ocean floor

Fossils found the prove the existence of an ancient Taiwanese worm as long as two metres

RCMP officers provide policing for 63 B.C. municipalities under a provincial formula based on population. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. communities warned of upcoming RCMP unionization costs

Starting salaries for city police officers are 30% higher

(Pxhere)
B.C. nurse suspended after using Tensor bandage to trap long-term care patient in room

Susan Malloch voluntarily agreed to a three-day suspension of her certificate of registration

Abbotsford’s Skully White (left), who donated his kidney in December, has started a campaign to find other recipients and donors. The first candidate is retired police officer Gavin Quon. White owns and operates a hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, out of the Abbotsford Canadian Tire parking lot. (Facebook photo)
After donating his kidney, Abbotsford hotdog king starts donor campaign

Skully White donated his kidney to customer Tim Hiscock in December

Toronto-based director Michelle Latimer was recently scrutinized after years of claiming she was of Algonquin and Metis descent. (CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

(File)
Man allegedly bites Vancouver cop during arrest for outstanding warrant

The officer was treated in hospital for the bite wounds

(File Photo)
Interior Health says COVID positivity rates in Fernie area actually 10-12%

IH say the rates are not as high as previously claimed by the region’s top doctor

Most Read