The current global pandemic has touched very close to home. Regardless of the cause of death of a loved one, mandates limiting the number of people who can gather have taken away many families’ opportunity to grieve and honor their loved ones in the way they want and need to.
To gather as a family and community when someone dies, and to share in mourning and the love people have for an individual, is an inherent part of being human and is critical to a healthy grieving process. To be denied a funeral, memorial service, celebration of life, or any other type of arrangement that allows all your loved ones’ friends and family to attend can add an even heavier burden to an already difficult time.
At Horan & McConaty, our staff at all of our funeral home locations in the greater Denver area has seen how difficult the pandemic has been for mourning families. Natural acts of comfort, such as hugs, holding hands and handshakes, and providing a shoulder to lean on are limited. Out-of-town family and friends are left having to grapple with their loss from afar, some without family nearby. Even masks, hiding familiar faces, have added frustration to what should be an intimate experience. Many have opted to postpone memorial services in hopes the day they’ll be able to honor the deceased with the people they love won’t be too far into the future, while others have enlisted the help of our team to navigate the ever-changing safety precautions.
These obstacles that COVID-19 has put in families’ way of their ideal services have added to the already emotional experience of loss. Anger and frustration are now mixed with grief, and grief itself is intensified by the additional loss of a final goodbye families wanted and expected to be able to have. Fear of infection and fear of what we don’t know about the virus has also exacerbated grief.
Our funeral directors at all of our locations, including Denver, Aurora, Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada and Centennial have strived to take as much of the hardship of funeral planning during the pandemic as possible off the shoulders of the families we serve. We do everything we can to accommodate their needs and help them plan final arrangements that are as close to what they want as we can.
Although virtual meetings and e-signatures have helped facilitate communication and paperwork, for some it’s proven to be an added hurdle. Some families don’t have access to Wi-Fi or aren’t as technically savvy as others. One of our funeral directors helped a recent widow with her paperwork by picking up and dropping off all required documents to be signed using the woman’s mailbox, so she wouldn’t have to come into our mortuary office to meet in person during the pandemic.
Capacity limitations make it difficult for large numbers of people to gather indoors for services, but our staff is dedicated to helping families come up with unique ideas that will allow entire communities to participate in saying their final goodbyes. Another member of our staff helped facilitate a drive-by in which a boy’s classmates lined the streets with signs expressing their sentiments and colorful balloons, giving the child’s family a chance to witness the love his community had for him and allowing the people of his community to be a part of honoring his life.
Connection during grief is vital, and live streaming services have provided a small but significant source of comfort for those who cannot be there in person. At Horan, we offer families the opportunity to record their loved one’s funeral and live stream the service so that everyone they want can view the service in real-time, including a slideshow of photos. A beautifully edited video is then provided to the family as a keepsake. For people who normally would not be able to attend their loved one’s funeral in person due to health issues or the inability to travel, virtual access to final arrangements has been a silver lining to loss during COVID.
Nothing can replace a funeral service or memorial service that includes every attendee who should be there, in a place that you want it to be. Nothing compares to the comforting power of touch and proximity to others. But people will always find a way to come together in grief, somehow. Because love and community are stronger than the hardships the world is facing right now. And we will do everything we can to help keep people connected and honor their loved ones in the best way possible, whether that’s today or a day to come.