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

Morning mist clears over the Hope Slough at Camp River Road on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Sunny skies in the forecast for Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Rain and wind expected Sunday night through Monday morning, then clear skies

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

web
Spiritual senior begins journey as author, 3 years after near-fatal accident in Mission

Donna Gibbons to publish ‘Haunting in Hatzic,’ the 1st in a series on her life as a medium

File photo
Outdoor recreation generates close to $1 billion annually in Fraser Valley: report

Camping, hiking and sportfishing generate the most spending, report finds

Cherry Hill Elementary. Kevin Mills photo.
Cherry Hill Elementary parents heartbroken, angry over mid-year principal swap

PAC president says she doesn’t understand why it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

(File photo)
Vancouver police warn of toxic drug supply after 7 people overdose at one party

Seven people between the ages of 25 to 42 were taken to hospital for further treatment.

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

Elissa McLaren broke her left elbow in the Sept. 20, 2020 collision. (Submitted)
Surviving victims of fatal crash in Fraser Valley asking for help leading up to Christmas

‘This accident has taken a larger toll financially, mentally and physically than originally intended’

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).
BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

Is defamation lawsuit aimed at stifling free expression or does the defamation hinder free speech?

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read