Coronavirus: Okanagan funeral industry adapts to social distancing measures

Okanagan funeral industry adapts to social distancing measures

The funeral industry in the Okanagan is shifting and adapting because of the social distancing measures brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Let me just say you can’t pause grief, but we are pausing a lot of the good stuff that can happen to help with healing,” Springfield Funeral Home director David Henseleit said.

“You can have condolences. You can have posts and texts sent to you, but none of that really replaces a hug,” he added.

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While only one person has died from a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Interior Health region, families are still being kept apart from their loved ones in hospitals or senior’s care homes to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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“The inability for family to attend to the needs of their loved ones, that’s profound,” Springfield Funeral Home president Richard Henseleit said.

“The idea of being in a confused state and dying alone, I can’t imagine the trauma of that,” he added.

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Funeral homes are still allowed to hold services, but they’re restricted to gatherings of 50 people who must follow social distancing rules.

“We will accommodate a group of family members who have been separated from their loved one and provide a time and place to touch and to say goodbye,” Richard said.

Springfield Funeral Home also has a fairly sizeable chapel that allows people to social distance inside, Richard said.

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The funeral home is also turning to technology and streaming its services online so that more people can participate in the memorial.

“We actually livestreamed right at the city cemetery, and I think 197 computers logged on,” David said.

He added that friends and families sharing stories at a memorial service is an important part of the healing process.

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“You get those stories from outside sources: their friends, their neighbours,” he said.

“And all of those things help keep the person with us. If you’re not getting that time to gather and have those networks and that storytelling, it’s not going to help you in your grief journey.”

Richard said many people are choosing to defer memorial service arrangements for the time being.

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