Funeral homes turn to technology to help people stay connected during pandemic
Covid-19 restrictions mean no hugs, no social gatherings to comfort grieving families
(Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series – Pandemic Perspectives – written by community members on how the coronavirus is effecting businesses and life. We welcome more submissions. Send them to email@example.com.)
By Josh Mitchell
The people of the world are going through unimaginable hardships in many different ways with the pandemic we are facing. When the pandemic made its way to the United States, I really did not think that it would have the effect on us like it has, especially in the funeral profession.
I am glad that I purchased a bunch of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and cleaning products 6 months ago when I had the chance.
Having a funeral, memorial, or celebration of life service is something that goes hand in hand when losing a loved one. However, with the recent pandemic there are many changes being put in place.
For example, families are now only allowed to view their loved one privately, or have services with as few immediate family members as possible while maintaining social distancing (as per the NYS on PAUSE Executive Order signed by Governor Cuomo).
Cemeteries are also following these guidelines, and in some cases, city cemeteries are only allowing the funeral director to accompany the body to its place of rest. Once everything is completed, the family will then be able to visit the grave. Social distancing on a normal day is difficult, but it’s even more so when you lose someone who you love and want to embrace your friends and family during a difficult time.
Another aspect of this pandemic is that many people are not allowed to visit their loved ones at the hospital or nursing home. My grandmother is currently in the hospital and one of the most difficult things, besides being in the hospital, is her not being able to see or hug her family.
We as human beings need to touch and be there for our family during a difficult time and especially at a time of loss. Unfortunately, this pandemic is forcing people to communicate in different ways that many people have not ever experienced, but fortunately we have technology to make up for the inability to have in person and up close interaction. This is the same reality in the funeral profession.
Technology is something that often times we take for granted and when it fails to work, we are lost. During this pandemic, we have relied on technology in countless ways to help us communicate with the world. Making funeral arrangements was always an in-person appointment, at the family’s home or at our funeral home. There are still families that wish to come to our facilities to make arrangements and there are others that are open to meeting over the phone, through Facetime, email, or making arrangements using Zoom. It is so difficult to not greet a family with a hug or a handshake, but it is a reality of what we are facing.
Live streaming a service is another aspect of technology that has really worked great for a private family service where the family is OK with people viewing the service from their computer or phone at home. Creating a YouTube channel for Mitchell Family Funeral Homes was very easy and I already had the technology in the facility to live stream a service, much to my surprise. This is a service we will continue to offer long after the pandemic.
Additionally, condolences can be left on the obituary on our website for the family to cherish as the days, weeks and months go on. Video tributes can be posted on the obituary as well to give people a chance to look at old family photos and is another way that technology allows us to remember a loved one.
Having services when a loved one is lost is part of grieving their life and remembering the life that was lived in the same token. When the unfortunate circumstance of delaying services arises, it is essentially delaying a part of that grief as well. A service at a later date could cause someone to go through losing their loved one all over again.
‘We are here to offer unique and meaningful ways to help celebrate the life of a loved one and we are needed now more than ever to guide the families we serve through that process.’
Our duty as funeral directors is to help each family through one of the most difficult times that they may ever experience in their life. To be there to guide them through the process so that their loved one’s life is remembered forever. We are here to offer unique and meaningful ways to help celebrate the life of a loved one and we are needed now more than ever to guide the families we serve through that process.
Losing a loved one is hard enough, let alone when you are unable to be with them when they pass, or visit them and tell them how much you love them. As human beings, we need that touch with our loved ones. Celebrating a life that has passed isn’t something that can’t happen during a pandemic. There are ways to still have a meaningful service at the funeral home with the technology that most times is right at our finger tips.
Losing a loved one is difficult even when our community isn’t experiencing a pandemic, but as a funeral director, our purpose is to help make it as easy on your family as we can. Your loved one was unique and special in their own way, celebrate it.
(Josh Mitchell is a funeral director with Christopher Mitchell Funeral Homes, Inc. & Mitchell Family Funeral Homes.)