Funeral homes, and families, adjust for these times

By John Hamilton -

WILMINGTON — The pandemic has caused many of our activities to be put on hold. Sadly, there are some things that have to be done, including dealing with the loss of a loved one and paying final respects.

Funeral homes in the area are doing their best to comply with social distancing practices. But they also want to make sure the bereaved can give a proper farewell to their loved ones.

Shane Smith, owner of Smith Funeral Homes, expressed concerns about the families who are experiencing death during this time.

“The loss of a loved one is hard enough without compounding the grief with a fear for personal health and safety,” said Smith. He added that families have been very understanding with the new guidelines.

He said those who work in funeral service are well-trained to deal with infectious diseases.

“Even though COVID-19 is in the national spotlight, funeral directors have been dealing with other infectious diseases for many years,” said Smith. “Utilizing safe practices and personal protective equipment has always been our standing practice, and proper care still allows a family to view their loved one.”

Craig Edgington, owner of Edgington Funeral Homes, told the News Journal an initial concern of theirs would be proper protocols on removing the deceased from home, hospital, or long-term care facility.

“In other words, how much personal protection equipment (PPE) do we use,” Edgington wondered, adding that getting PPE and hand sanitizers has been a challenge.

Edgington also worried about meeting families to make arrangements and going over paperwork that is required.

“Having been in funeral care my whole life, I understand how important and beneficial it is to pay tribute when a friend or family member dies. Some of the things we are currently doing is we now have the ability to livestream funerals at all our locations and we are in the process of setting up the recording of graveside services,” said Edgington.

Ashlee Bramel, funeral director of Littleton Funeral Home in Sabina, had similar concerns about the needs of the family.

“It became obvious, as more information was released, that we would have to make changes on our end to comply with recommendations and orders of the CDC and the Ohio Department of Health,” said Bramel. “Coming up with policies that fit families of all sizes was important. We recognized, early on, that this was going to be difficult, but imperative to keep families, ourselves, and staff safe and healthy.”

Bramel also said they adjusted office hours while remaining available 24/7 via phone.

Some families have been putting off services, but a lot of the funerals local directors have been hosting are private ones.

“We are trying to limit the viewing to ten people at a time and observing social distancing at the graveside service. This past week we had the procession go past the family’s home on our way to the cemetery,” said Edgington. “This was a very touching tribute and it helped the family by not feeling so isolated during their time of grief,” he said.

Littleton has also limited gatherings at the funeral home and gravesite, Bramel said. She added families have been very compliant and agreeable.

“We have limited any gathering at the funeral home and work with families to schedule private viewing times for those that wouldn’t be attending the funeral service,” said Bramel. “As of late, some cemeteries have directed their own limitations and we are working diligently to communicate those changes with families so that everyone remains safe. Keeping things private or limited to immediate family, has been the ‘temporary normal.’”

Bramel said, ”We understand that the grieving process often includes the opportunity to allow extended family and friends to gather and share memories. We are hopeful that families will be surrounded with love and support at a distance, for now, and receive it personally when the distance orders are lifted.”

Shane Smith said he hopes that families plan memorial services or celebrations of their loved one’s life once the stay-home orders are lifted.

He believes a loved one’s life should be celebrated no matter what, and he hopes loved ones find a way to do so.

“Even if a death occurs, do not let COVID-19 deter you from celebrating the life of your loved one,” said Smith.

By John Hamilton