Our last responders need you to know a few things.
I scrolled through Facebook on New Year’s Eve, I came across this post from a funeral director, a pregnant funeral director that contracted covid while at work.
Here are a few excerpts from that post.
“Many of my fellow funeral professionals are dealing with the overwhelming increase of deceased and their families right now. I see it in Facebook groups, I see it in my personal friends, I see it in my community.
Tonight, please consider your plans. Just stay home.”
“100% not sure what the deal is, but I just had someone tell me there are fewer deaths this year than the last 3 years…. um, here locally? It’s not what the death industry is seeing….” – from a professional who takes the deceased into care.
“Hospitals have trailers in the back of their morgues to help with overflow of bodies.” From a professional who works with funeral homes and the corners office–from a funeral director.
“Why is it so F hard for people to stay home? My god – it’s not forever. My employees are sick and their family members have passed. Stay home!!” –
“Our trailer was delivered this week. I am tired, overwhelmed, and sad.”
“We are seeing the wave from Thanksgiving I can’t imagine what next month is going to look like after Christmas/New Year. It’s one year of holidays people need to sit out. But because so many didn’t so many now won’t see another holiday”
“Please Listen….I am a Location Manager at a large funeral home in metropolitan area. I have sat quietly while everyone talked about Covid and while many called it a hoax and explained their conspiracy theories. I need everyone reading to please hear my heart when I tell you it’s real. Many are dying and I along with my staff and coworkers can barely get our heads above water to serve all the families. People talk about the First Responders and the toll it’s taking on them and my goodness I know it is. I have dear friends and family who work in healthcare, but please remember us, The Last Responders. We are sinking. I have never worked this hard in my life. 2020 was almost unbearable, but God. I am not asking for sympathy; I am asking you to STAY HOME! I have 4 staff members out with Covid. STAY HOME! We are running out of space for bodies. STAY HOME! I am working 14-hour days. STAY HOME! The mall, Target, Walmart, etc. can wait. STAY HOME! Get your food and GO HOME and STAY THERE! We’re drowning and someone had to tell you!”
When I asked a few funeral directors directly what they would like people to know, here is what they said:
I wish families would understand that because we have so many people in our care; it is incredibly difficult to have cremations done and death certificates in hand in two weeks. Some people will call and call and demand answers, but do not want to accept that fact that we are human beings with our own families and can only do so much in a day.
I would like for families to know that we are trying the best we can to serve all the families that come into our funeral home. Everybody is busy and that things are going to take a bit longer than normal. No, your death certificates and cremains will not be ready tomorrow. It could easily take 3 weeks or more.
This is the reality.
Funeral directors already work crazy hours, have crazy demands placed upon them, and handle grieving people. Now the stress levels they are experiencing have gone way up with this latest Covid surge.
A few simple tips can make it smoother for everyone.
When I asked funeral directors, what do you need people to know when there loved one dies:
“I wish families would understand that because we have so many people in our care, it is incredibly difficult to have cremations done and death certificates in hand in two weeks. Some people will call and call and demand answers, but don’t want to accept that fact that we are human beings with our own families and can only do so much in a day.”
“I would like for families to know that we are trying the best we can to serve all the families that come into our funeral home. Everybody is busy and that things are going to take a bit longer than normal. No, your death certificates and cremains will not be ready tomorrow. It could easily take 3 weeks or more”
How we can make it easier for ourselves
Covid Awareness When calling the funeral home to let them know someone has died, PLEASE let the funeral home know you have been around or exposed to Covid, tested positive or has died from Covid
This is critical in keeping our funeral professionals healthy. Understand if we expose them, they go to test and quarantine for 14 days. This puts a tremendous strain on the staff at funeral homes and their financial situation, not all funeral homes can pay unlimited sick days to their employees.
Funeral Directors are people too and need to remain healthy to serve families and not take Covid home with them.
Call to schedule an appointment with the funeral home, do not arrive unannounced with the entire family.
I was at a funeral home and an entire family arrived at the funeral homes doorsteps without an appointment for a family member who had died of Covid. It is understandable they want to plan, yet they could have called for an appointment and made the funeral home aware so extra precautions can happen.
Funeral directors must limit the number of people they can see each day, clean in between appointments, decompress a bit. There are not extra cleaning people, the funeral directors are the ones wiping down the surfaces and making sure you have a cleaned environment to be in. Most funeral directors do not take a lunch time; eating on the go, they take bits in between meeting with families. Funeral Directors are on the move from the time they wake up to the time they fall asleep. Many are on call throughout the night.
They have a consistent concern about catching covid and taking it home to their own families.
Be Patient The funeral director will call you to schedule an appointment. DO Not show up at the funeral home and expect to go in.
This appointment may be in person, or it may be online. If the funeral home cannot meet you in person, being upset with the funeral director will get you know where. The funeral homes follow guidelines from the health dept and state agencies. They MUST follow these guidelines. The funeral director you are speaking with DID NOT create the rules, or Covid.
We need PATIENCE BY ALL.
Death Certificates The funeral home begins the filing of the death certificate process. They work with the doctor and the state electronically/over the computer. Because of the increase in deaths, the system is a bit slower than normal. I work with funeral homes all over the area. The funeral home should have asked you how many death certificates you need and order them for you. If the funeral home has ordered them and is waiting for the physical copies to, there is not much anyone else can do.
The funeral home wants to get them to you ASAP.
There can be unforeseen slowdowns in this process. If the doctor who needs to sign the death certificate has not responded, it stalls the process. Like Funeral Directors doctors are burning the candle at both ends too. They have the choice, sign the death certificates, save more lives. It is not always easy for them either. If the state office for the health department is closed, such as on holidays, it slows the process down. If every family the funeral home is serving calls them every day to check on the status of the certificates, it slows the process down.
The number of death certificates required to settle someone’s affairs fluctuates for everyone. It all correlates to how many bank accounts, pensions, stocks, bonds, IRAs, and financial institutions a person has the size of the estate. If somebody needs a death certificate where you can see them in person, they may take a copy and give you back the original, but not always.
Misconceptions through word of mouth or the news
I spoke with a funeral director who mentioned a misconception people have had around cremation being required if a person dies with Covid. It does not require cremation just because a person died of Covid. Full body burials are an option, even if the person died of Covid. I would recommend assuming nothing, ask your funeral director directly. They are the trained professional.
Be open to alternative ways of having a funeral.
Have patience when you cannot conduct a funeral in ways of the past. The Funeral Director will guide you in having as much of an in-person ceremony as they can with options for virtual or online services or a combination of both. An online service can have all the same components of an in-person service with a few changes.
We have entered a new world of conducting funerals and Life Celebrations. There are many options available.
As a celebrant, I work closely with funeral directors and families to make the most of an online/virtual ceremony as possible. The healing components look different from what we are used to.
A Celebrant is a resource for families and funeral directors.
Ways a Life Tribute Celebrant can help create a ceremony.
- 1. Each of us deserves a Life Celebration that is unique and reflects the life of the person being honored.
- Get in touch with the celebrant as quickly as possible, even if you are sure of what you want to do. The Celebrant will help you figure everything out.
- It is ok to have no idea what you want to do or how it will look like
- Choose the Celebrant that is right for you and your family.
- You can include traditional and spiritual content in the service.
- If you are including specific rituals, make sure your celebrant is aware.
- Let the celebrant know if you plan to include anything in the ceremony. The celebrant will plan the service order with you based of the best positioning and flow of all the components.
- The Celebrant can help anyone who wants to speak at the service write their piece or the celebrant can read the piece.
- There are no silly questions.
- Be Open to suggestions from the celebrant, this is what they do professional. The goal is to create an event that is healing for everyone and honors the deceased so they would approve of.
Funeral Directors want the best for you and your family. They want you to celebrate the life of your loved one, mourn together, and have support during the grieving process. It may look different and take a bit longer.
May we all have extra patience and grace with each other? Grief is tough under normal circumstances. These past 12 months have been anything but normal for most of us.
The funeral director wants to serve your family and provide you with the best possible experience at an exceedingly tough time.
Please let them do their job and have faith they know what they are doing.