PEI

P.E.I. funeral homes finding ways to help families grieve during COVID-19

Earlier in the week chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced there would be a hold on funerals and since, many have been postponed.

'We are all friends and neighbours and it makes it pretty tough'

The Island is 'very traditional' and big crowds typically turn out for funerals and the change has been 'a challenge,' says John MacIsaac, secretary treasurer for the P.E.I. Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association. (Davison Funeral Home)

There are no funerals being held on P.E.I. because of COVID-19.

Earlier in the week, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison announced there would be a hold on funerals and since, many have been postponed.

John MacIsaac, secretary treasurer for the P.E.I. Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association, says he wasn't surprised to hear the announcement.

"Many people in the funeral and health care industry have probably been preparing, knowing what would happen if a pandemic was to occur," he said.

"We had in mind that mass gathering like funerals would be postponed until the crisis was over."

The Island is "very traditional" and big crowds typically turn out for funerals, so the change has been "a challenge," MacIsaac said.

Finding ways to grieve

However, funeral homes are still finding ways to help families work through the grieving process.

"The government is allowing us to have 20 immediate family members for a private visitation or viewing at this time," MacIsaac said.

We're all so used to the norm of handshake and hugs.— John MacIsaac, P.E.I. Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association

"We are doing the best we can with what we are allowed to do to try and keep everybody safe and healthy."

How funeral homes move forward will be determined by how long the pandemic lasts — and no one knows how long that could be MacIsaac said.

"Most families for now have chosen to postpone," he said.

He said most people who have reached out to funeral homes understand why the services can't be done and are accepting of the fact — but it's still hard.

"I know speaking with a family yesterday who had loved one die a few weeks ago, they said thank heavens it didn't happen now so that they could have their funeral and go through the grieving process, which we all know is so very important."

We are all friends and neighbours and it makes it pretty tough.— John MacIsaac, P.E.I. Funeral Directors and Embalmers Association

MacIsaac said funeral homes are doing to the best they can with limited resources and within the guidelines the government has set out.

"By being able to come in and at least have a private viewing it is giving them a little bit of comfort, but it is not the full level that everyone is used to for sure."

Most funeral homes already have websites and a way people can express condolences online, MacIsaac said, but he knows that doesn't replace face-to-face interactions.

"We're all so used to the norm of handshake and hugs," he said. "We are all friends and neighbours and it makes it pretty tough."

MacIsaac said many funeral homes already have the technology to be able to offer online funerals.

"That's been something that we'll be looking at depending on how long this goes on," he said. "Funerals without anyone present for anyone, that is certainly an option, but I mean it is certainly not what most people would opt for."


COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call your local public health authority. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Angela Walker

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