Most people choosing to put funerals on hold

A hospital worker in personal protective equipment ,PPE, helps a funeral home worker wheel the body of a deceased person into a van outside Brooklyn Hospital Center in Brooklyn on April 24, 2020. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty)

ALKERTON – Funeral homes are changing the way they provide an essential service for families, due to COVID-19. And yes, funeral homes are now officially considered an essential service.

That translates into something small and immediate, with a funeral or celebration of life held later, after restrictions ease.

Said Yolanda Cameron of Cameron Funeral Home in Walkerton, “The Bereavement Authority of Ontario and the Ontario government are not allowing funerals with more than 10 people including clergy.”

By funerals, she includes services at the funeral home and at the cemetery. Graveside services include people sitting in their cars. Cemeteries and funeral homes can be, and are being fined for violations.

The result, according to Cameron, is “almost everyone is opting for immediate cremation or burial, with something later when everyone they want to be there can be.”

Greg Roberts of Greg Roberts Funeral Home in Mildmay said there really aren’t options, and there won’t be for quite some time. “There’s no end game in sight right now.” He noted that events where crowds of people gather are being cancelled through until the end of the summer.

While the economies of some nations hit early by the virus have started opening up, and even Ontario is seeing a slight easing of restrictions, Roberts doesn’t see a return to pre-COVID activities anytime soon. That includes traditional funerals, although the maximum of 10 people does allow at least some immediate family to attend.

Cameron said she finds it sad that people cannot grieve they way they normally do – even the 10 people have to remain six feet apart unless they’re from the same household, making a comforting hug impossible. “I can’t imagine what it must be like when a loved one dies somewhere else and you can’t be with them,” she said.

She noted that Premier Doug Ford has said the first phase of the recovery process will include some accommodation for funerals, but there’s no word to date about when or what that will be. “It will be interesting to see how this evolves, whether people will go back to the traditional way of doing things,” she said.

Cameron explained that what funeral directors do is give families options, and that’s what they’re continuing to do within the constraints of the pandemic. They’re still on call 24/7, they still risk their own safety to provide an essential service during this pandemic, and they still do the best they can for the families.

Efforts to accommodate families include livestreaming funerals if there are more than 10 people or family living in other parts of the country.

Roberts, too, makes full use of whatever technology allows, to accommodate families.