The coronavirus pandemic has made traditional funeral services very difficult for the family and friends of the deceased. The CDC guidelines for social distancing and state governmental restrictions on gatherings of large groups are major obstacles to a typical funeral service. It is a normal part of the grieving process for us to get together with our family, friends and loved ones to talk, cry, hug each other and seek solace in our loss. Yet all these behaviors could result in a dramatic spread of the coronavirus among those attending the service. One safe option would be to simply have no funeral service.
The CDC has issued a funeral guidance with some information on how to adjust during this time of pandemic.
The guidance has a lot of information; perhaps too much. It is worth reading but I think it is still hard to figure out how to plan a service based on that information. A funeral director can provide some more specific consultation to assist with planning a service. I will address a few of these issues below with my thoughts and comments. See the following link for more general checklists on planning for funerals. /practice-areas/funerals-burial/
One of the recommendations is to limit the size of the funeral. It is also suggested to not include persons who are out of town. The guidelines then states that a larger service can be planned at a later time. These are good suggestions although I suspect that putting off the service for later time could result in no service ever being done.
Another suggestion is to hold the service outdoors. The persons attending should then space themselves out keeping a proper social distance, no hugging or handshakes. This is also a good suggestion weather permitting. However, as stated above, social distance is contrary to what many of us need at such a time.
The usual advice concerning face coverings, washing hands and no coughing should also be part of the ceremony.
The guidelines also suggest use of online services, phone communications, virtual tributes online etc. There should also be no sharing of car rides except for members of the same household. A traditional meal or food in buffet format is not a good idea. Use of pre-packaged food would be safer or you could just not offer food as part of the funeral service.
All the above are certainly good guidelines which I cannot argue with. The only problem I have is that human beings are social animals. We need to be with each other physically – not virtually. We all need human contact especially in difficult times. However, we must be aware of the possible consequences of spreading the coronavirus among all our family and friends if we get together at a funeral service. Pandemics, floods, famine, earthquakes, and wars have been part of our history since the beginning of civilization. We will get through this difficult time and I believe everything will return to normal in the near future.