Helping grieving families under new limitations

Published 4:08 pm Friday, March 20, 2020

Funeral homes adjusting service options amid COVID-19 pandemic 


The coronavirus pandemic is reaching into all aspects of life, including for families experiencing the grieving process following the deaths of loved ones. 

Spenser Brackey, managing funeral director at Bonnerup Funeral Service, said because of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the funeral home is limiting gatherings of more than 50 people at its facility — a directive that ultimately limits the number of people who can attend a funeral service or luncheon there.

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He said most of the people his staff has helped within the last few days who have chosen to have traditional funeral services, have decided to postpone or delay services until conditions improve. Others are choosing to have private immediate family services for the time being, with a larger service planned for a later time. 

“I think families are very understanding, which is good,” Brackey said. “At the end of the day, we’re all in this together for a betterment of a group of people. It’s wonderful to see that, but it does affect grieving. If we’re postponing or delaying things — delayed grief is not an easy process. It seems to stick with you until the day of the service — and who knows when that day will be.”

When families are only able to have a private service or a service for immediate family only, there is some closure for them surrounding their loved one’s death, he said, but the added strength that comes along with community outreach following a death is not able to take place. 

“It’s not because people don’t want to, but because people can’t,” Brackey said. “The public and extended relatives and friends can send condolences, but nothing beats being in person — not being able to hug, not being able to shake hands, it makes a big difference.” 

He said Bonnerup Funeral Service will continue to be available to families in the community at any time of day for family needs that they can fulfill under the guidelines. 

“We have to remember to be safe and remember we’re doing this for a reason,” he said. “It’s hard for the families who are acutely hurt by this, but hopefully we’re all doing our part to help in the big picture.”

Josh Fossum, manager of Bayview/Freeborn Funeral Home, said his goal is to try to maintain as much of a sense of normalcy as possible for families within set guidelines. 

The funeral home has decided to stream its funerals online on Facebook at the approval of families so family members who are ill or unable to come to town for the service — as well as members of the public — can participate in the funeral process. He encouraged people to mail cards to the funeral home to give to families. 

“We’re trying to make it as normal for those families to be able to grieve, and with our streaming, to try to support the community as well so they can say goodbye,” Fossum said. “The longer it’s waited to have those services, it becomes unresolved grief. It can manifest itself in different ways. It just keeps building and building until people are allowed to have that closure.” 

He said the families they have worked with thus far have been understanding of changes the funeral home has had to make and are accepting of the options available to them. He also thanked his staff, who he said are always willing to help, stay late or come in early to assist families.

The Department of Homeland Security identified funeral home workers as critical infrastructure workers, which will allow the staff to continue to work their regular schedules and as necessary to help families during this time in case any other limitations are put in place.