Grieving During A Pandemic: Hampton Roads Families Face Difficult Decisions
The global community is experiencing a kind of shared grief. Fear and uncertainty around coronavirus make life difficult.
Losing a loved one during the outbreak takes grief to a new level.
“We’re in a business where your innate response is to hug someone who is grieving,” said Veronica Weymouth, president and owner of Weymouth Funeral Home and Crematory in Newport News.
But now there is ordered distance to observe between people, even those in pain. There is currently a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people in Virginia, and Gov. Ralph Northam added to that yesterday with a stay at home order.
That makes funeral services and visitations difficult, especially for large families.
“Last week some people were doing services, and they were taping them and Skyping them. This week, most of our families are going to postpone the services,” Weymouth said.
The current Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidance recommends that families either hold private viewings with immediate family and friends, delay the funeral or discuss options for webcasting it so others can view from home.
Mandy Collier, a teacher in York County, said her mother Dorothy Joy Hooper died on March 11 after suffering a stroke on Presidents Day. She and her family chose to postpone the funeral because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We wanted to do the service at our church because she was so well loved and so well liked that we needed the space for it,” Collier said. "My dad feels like he's letting her down by not having the funeral right away."
Hooper was a cafeteria manager at Warwick High School for many years and started a youth camp at her church.
“(She) loved children. From toddler to 18, she just loved kids,” Collier said.
The outbreak is not just causing issues for families; it’s also a challenge for funeral practitioners and staff.
Veronica Weymouth said that she and her colleagues are concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment.
“We’re on the front line as well, and we’re trying to conserve our gloves and our masks as needed because we’re going into nursing homes and hospitals,” she said. “So I need to keep my staff safe, and I also need to keep the hospitals and nursing facilities safe.”
Weymouth said that they currently have enough personal protective equipment to last a couple of months.
Once services can resume, she said that one thing is certain: “People (will) be going to a lot of funerals, unfortunately.”
You can hear an extended conversation with Weymouth and Collier on the latest episode of HearSay with Cathy Lewis.