One of the biggest benefits of funeral homes being able to reopen in a limited capacity today is the ability for families to grieve with one another over the loss of their loved ones.
A handful of families have even postponed services in anticipation of the reopening, meaning funeral homes across the county are already expecting to be busy for the remainder of the week.
“Imagine taking a profession that was built on community gathering, and just take everything away that we were essentially created to do,” said Nathan Morris, president of Morris Family Services. “How do we create a sense of community when we can’t physically be one?”
With rules in place against having more than 10 people at a service, it left big families with tough decisions. Many in-laws were unable to attend, and in some cases even grandchildren had to stay away from services due to the limitations.
“I’m thankful we have the opportunity to get more family in here,” said John Hill, vice president at James H. Davis Funeral Home and Crematory. “Having family members having to choose, or not letting all the grandkids see their grandparent one last time — that made it that much more difficult for the families.”
So, for the past two months funeral homes — like nearly every other business during the pandemic — had to get creative. That meant things like drive-by visitations or recorded services so they could be viewed by more people later.
While some of those alternative methods may stick around, getting back into the chapels and visitations rooms have been the priority.
Funeral homes can still allow only 33% capacity — per room that will be used — and they’re instituting various policies to ensure a safe experience.
A few said they will have ropes that will help guide people in the right direction, while seating will be arranged or marked off to ensure proper distancing. Specific entry and exit doors will also be used. Other safety measures such as sneeze guards around the guest registry book or having a staff member sign everyone’s name may be in place.
Sanitizing stations will also be in use, while some rooms such as lounges will be blocked off.
Though families are having to adapt and make sacrifices during an emotional time, most have been understanding of the situation.
“It’s a whole different time because of the social distancing and hand washing and masks,” said Dwight McFarland, manager of McFarland Funeral Home. “Grieving is a time where you embrace each other physically and at this time that’s not an ideal situation. It is difficult.”
Even though it’s still not a return to normal, today marks a step in the right direction. It may have meant holding off on services for a few extra days, but the ability to involve more people was worth the wait for several families with recent losses.
“(The limited number) did make for a diminished experience,” said Dave Bell, managing director at Glenn Funeral Home and Crematory. “It’s hard to put a value on the psychological benefit of having the support of friends and extended family that I don’t think people fully realized until they didn’t have that option.”
The Owensboro Health coronavirus hotline is available 24/7 by calling 877-888-6647. Call the hotline before seeking in-person care. More information from OH can be found here.
For the latest information and data on COVID-19 in Kentucky visit kycovid19.ky.gov or dial the Kentucky state hotline at 800-722-5725.
For the latest health guidelines and resources from the CDC, visit their website here.