As seemingly every aspect of life has been altered by the coronavirus pandemic, loved ones and friends of the deceased have had to cope with unprecedented new ways to mourn.
As little as three months ago, what would typically be a gathering of dozens to grieve the death of a family matriarch, for example, is now likely limited to a handful of immediate family members practicing social distancing in a funeral home or cemetery—if that. Many, if not most funeral homes have limited mourners to online viewings only with no gatherings allowed at all.
Funeral directors and clergy—complying with California and county COVID-19 restrictions for gatherings and social distancing—have reinvented the norms of farewells, embracing technology to provide grieving families with alternatives.
Mourners are now taking part virtually in visitations, funeral services, and burials with video and audio streaming as well as video chats. In many cases, memorial services in chapels and/or graveside services have been cancelled or are only allowing a small number of immediate family—with other family members standing by in cars waiting for their chance to pay respects in very small numbers.
“It’s a difficult time emotionally. And we’re trying to help these families as best we can navigate through unknown times,” Bob Achermann, director of the California Funeral Directors Association, told LAist.
Cultural rituals and traditions that may have included hours—or even days-long gatherings to honor the dead have been postponed or abandoned altogether in the wake of shelter-in-place orders and travel restrictions. The pandemic has largely turned in-person consolation and hugs into online posts and faces on screens.
Funeral directors statewide who are licensed by the California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau are prepared to assist grieving families any way they can in this difficult climate.
“The Cemetery and Funeral Bureau understands that the death of a loved one is one of the most traumatic experiences you will ever face, and making final arrangements while grieving can be emotionally difficult,” said Bureau Executive Officer Gina Sanchez. “The Bureau recommends planning ahead; compare prices and services and share your wishes with your loved ones to help them prepare a well-planned, affordable, and meaningful service. Visit our website for more information, www.cfb.ca.gov.”