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New COVID-19 restrictions affect Alberta families mourning deaths of loved ones

Click to play video 'New restrictions impacting Alberta families mourning deaths of loved ones' New restrictions impacting Alberta families mourning deaths of loved ones
WATCH: Alberta's new COVID-19 restrictions are impacting funeral services. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports – Dec 11, 2020

The latest round of public health restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta are further impacting the way people can grieve loved ones who have passed away.

“It’s been extremely tough for the families that we have served,” said Mike Fricker, branch manager at Eden Brook Funeral Home and Cemetery.

“We know a lot of families want to have more people involved.”

Fricker said the new rules mean only 10 people are allowed at a funeral, which hasn’t changed, but the time to mourn at the graveside is now limited.

Read more: Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures ban in-person dining, outdoor gatherings; retail to remain open

“Even when they go out to the graveside at the cemetery, it’s still 10 people. Unfortunately once the clergy or officiant leaves the service, it becomes a social gathering so people have to disperse at that point because social gatherings aren’t allowed.”

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On top of that, even through faith services are limited to 15 per cent of fire code occupancy, funerals — regardless of where they are held — are now capped at 10 people.

According the the Alberta government website, wedding ceremonies and funeral services will be limited to a maximum of 10 people and must be held in a public place.

This applies to any facility, including places of worship and funeral homes.

Read more: Premier Jason Kenney defends Alberta's new COVID-19 restrictions on 630 CHED

Giuseppe Marra passed away in August, leaving behind a large extended family in Calgary and in Italy.

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His daughter Angela Marra remembers him as hard worker who loved his five grandchildren dearly and enjoyed every moment with them. She said it was hard to limit the number of people they could invite to the funeral.

“It was difficult. Planning a funeral in regular cases is difficult. My dad knew a lot of people.”

Marra said they decided to hold the service at a Calgary church because in August, funerals were limited to 50 but a church service could have 100.

“We are Italian and we are a very close-knit family. We want to hug and to kiss, we want to be there for each other. So it was quite stressful.”

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Click to play video 'Pandemic restrictions on funerals can add extra layer of grief for those mourning loved ones' Pandemic restrictions on funerals can add extra layer of grief for those mourning loved ones
Pandemic restrictions on funerals can add extra layer of grief for those mourning loved ones – Dec 6, 2020

Adding to the stress was worrying about the possibility of someone contracting the virus.

Fortunately, Marra says it was a beautiful service and no one got sick. She said it was like planning a small wedding, sending invitations and asking for information for contact tracing.

“It was difficult. Every invitation I would advise to make sure you were wearing a mask and you keep your distance,” Marra said.

“It is just a time to be able to have closure and say goodbye that you would never get that back.

“You would never see your father laying in the casket and just have that special quiet moment to say goodbye with the priest and the service was beautiful,” Marra said.

Read more: Calgary churches adapt to COVID-19 restrictions as Advent season begins

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Marra said she was appreciative for the service her family was able to have for her dad. She feels sympathy for people who are planning funerals now.

“My heart goes out to them. Just having 10 people at a service — that would just be the immediate family — so my heart honestly goes out to them.

“It’s such a difficult time already.”

Eden Brook Funeral Home and Cemetery normally holds a December candlelight service that draws hundreds of people to remember loved ones who have passed away. Fricker said it will be held virtually this year.

“The death of a loved one is extremely difficult, even more so during a pandemic.

“Our goal is to provide care, compassion and support for those families, knowing the restrictions that are in place and to create a service to honour their loved one in a meaningful way.”

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