For families mourning the loss of a loved one, funeral services can be a vital component of the grieving process, said Allen Dave, owner and president of Allen Dave Funeral Homes and Crematorium in Spring.
“The visual component [of a funeral service] is the reality that a death has occurred,” Dave said. “As a funeral home, we can't take away their pain, but what we can do is have responsibilities that guide them through the steps.”
Guiding families through grief has become a lot harder these days, according to Dave, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is forcing funeral services to take extra precautions in operations. In addition to more frequent sanitization of event spaces and requiring staff to wear medical masks, Dave said it has been especially difficult to enforce state-mandated social distancing measures and limiting memorial and viewing services to ten people or less.
“Last week, we had a service, and we asked those 10 people to sit every other row in the chapel, in order to allow them to have the 6 feet of space in between,” Dave said. “But that's very difficult because you mean to tell me that ... children can't be there next to their mother, giving her a hug, giving her a kiss, just holding her hand [at] a funeral service? That's pretty hard for us as funeral directors to tell a family they can't do that.”
Social distancing mandates have also affected other aspects of the funeral service process. Dave said he has had to limit the number of family members able to participate in initial funeral arrangements; prior to the outbreak, whole families often took part in those decisions.
“I don't care if it was five people or 15 people, they could come into our arrangement conference [room] and make those funeral arrangements,” Dave said. “Now we've limited that to three people, max.”
Families can, however, utilize the Allen Dave Funeral Homes and Crematorium website to remotely plan funeral arrangements, Dave said. In addition, the funeral home will continue offering livestreams of memorials on Facebook for loved ones who are unable to attend.
Dave said he empathizes with families over the difficulty of maintaining social distance with loved ones, as his sister has tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he has had to refrain from seeing her and other members of his family due to his profession.
“As a funeral director, I can't visit my sister at the hospital,” Dave said. “I have not been with any of my parents or my sister in the last three weeks, and now I can't visit my mother. So, I'm receiving this firsthand.”
Despite the difficulty caused by social distancing mandates for families, Dave said enforcing these measures is a matter of public safety and a crucial step to protect against the spread of the virus.
“We would love our funeral homes to be filled with hundreds of people for each and every service, but we just can't do so at this particular point and it's ... of public interest,” Dave said. “We have to protect all.”