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

Demonstrators lined Hwy 16 May 5 to mark the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. (Deb Meissner photo)
VIDEO: Smithers gathering marks Red Dress Day honouring missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Approximately 70 people lined Hwy 16, drumming, singing and holding up placards

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

The road to Telegraph Creek (Hwy 51) was closed April 15 due to a washout. On May 4, the road was opened to light-duty passenger vehicles during specific times. (BC Transportation and Infrastructure/Facebook)
Telegraph Creek Road opens for light-duty vehicles

Road has been closed since April 15 due to a washout

FILE – Residents of the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory southwest of Montreal continue to monitor a blockade leading to blocked railroad tracks that pass through their community as they protest in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs on Sunday, March 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe
B.C. Supreme Court rejects Wet’suwet’en bid to toss LNG pipeline certificate

Opposition last year by Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs set off Canada-wide rail blockades

On any given day, Brenda Mallory can be found holding court in her front yard on her acreage near Tyhee Lake. (Thom Barker photo)
Spice of Brenda: Our long-time columnist gets frank (when wasn’t she?)

Brenda Mallory has packed a lot of creativity into her life

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta order, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police photo of suspected cat thief was just a woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

Most Read