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How the coronavirus pandemic is impacting funerals in Nova Scotia

Funeral directors adjusting to COVID-19 changes
WATCH: While social distancing is the key to slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, it has changed everyday events we take for granted, including funerals.

With Nova Scotia under a state of emergency due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the provincial government has prohibited gatherings larger than five people. That restriction encompasses all events, including parties, weddings and funerals.

As a result, Susan Moores was one of only four people who could be at her father’s funeral in Yarmouth, N.S. Her two brothers and many other family members and friends were unable to attend due to the pandemic.

“Certainly, it was not the situation we wanted to be in,” said Moores. “I mean, as everyone knows, these are complicated times.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus is changing how we hold funerals — ‘Another layer of grief’

Her father, George A. Snow, spent his entire life in Port Maitland, N.S., as a lobster fisherman. He also served as MLA for the Yarmouth area for more than a decade.

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“Many people in the community knew him. He was out and about; he loved to talk. He loved to tell his stories and always had lots of stories — and a wonderful memory,” said Moores.

Snow died April 7 following a short bout of pneumonia. He was 96.

“He didn’t respond to the treatment and he just slipped away in his sleep after six days,” said Moores.

“Under normal circumstances, I would have assumed there would have been a fairly large gathering. We would have had some flowers, we would have put together a service to honour him, but there’s something about this whole thing that I have to just smile about.”

Instead, four days later, Moores arranged a burial while the Nova Scotia legislature lowered its flag to half-mast — events the majority of his loved ones couldn’t physically attend but were able to watch online.

“Sweeny’s [Funeral Home] had a livestream on their Facebook page, so a number of friends and family members watched,” said Moores. “From all reports, those that did tune in felt that they were a part of it.”
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It’s a situation many Canadians are finding themselves in: how to honour a loved one when coming together isn’t an option.

“It’s been tough because you know the families want to do something for their loved ones, and it’s been tough for funeral directors, frankly, because we want to help them do these things — that’s what our calling is in this profession,” said Patrick Curry, acting president of the Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: N.S. funeral homes prepare for potential COVID-19-related deaths

Curry believes a traditional funeral can be an important part of the grieving process, allowing friends and family to say a final goodbye. He fears not having that option could have long-lasting effects.

“The grieving doesn’t stop; it’s just the stuff that you can do to help go through the grieving process that’s stopping here,” he said.

“I think that when we’re on the other side of this pandemic, there’s going to be some real psychological and emotional impacts that are going to be felt.”

However, he says funeral directors in Nova Scotia are doing their part to get creative for families, such as livestreaming services.

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“We’re trying to work with the tools that we have at our fingertips to do the best we can in this scenario,” said Curry.

READ MORE: Robots and drive-thrus: How some funeral homes are holding services amid COVID-19

Moores says the family plans to gather for a larger celebration once they’re able to do so.

“I’m not sure what that will look like or when that will be, but we will have some kind of event at some point,” she said.

Moores says she’s at peace with the way things had to be but admits that could change.

“You do what you have to do. I think everybody does the best they can do under tough circumstances, and we did the best that we could do,” she said.

“Time will tell. This week, I’m feeling OK. Now, what will I be feeling in a month or six weeks time? I’m not sure.”

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