The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the work of health care providers, but those who care for the dead are also directly impacted by COVID-19.
Undertakers, funeral directors and morticians are deemed “high risk health care workers” and they fall into one of the first groups that should be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Dan Simons, general manager of Going Home Cremation and Funeral Care, which has two facilities in Maryland, said it is important for workers in his field to get vaccinated.
“Many of our funeral homes in the state of Maryland are small, mom and pop operations,” Simons said. “They’re family-owned organizations where if one employee gets sick, most likely they all get sick.”
Restrictions on gatherings have also impacted funeral homes and how they do their work. Families have often turned to livestreaming funeral services.
Simons said the distance needed to keep people from contracting the coronavirus makes the grieving process more difficult. Typically, gathering between friends and family allows people who’ve experienced loss to begin the process of finding comfort.
“Through the love and support they gather from the community, it helps them grieve and work through this process,” Simons said.
Simons added that while their profession’s existence focuses on the dead, it is also about “caring for the living.” The social distancing required as a result of the pandemic can cause mourning families to feel isolated.
“They’re not able to have friends and family with them during this process,” Simons said.
And families aren’t the only ones feeling the loneliness that exists when people can’t come together for funeral services, according to Simons.
Death care workers are also heavily impacted by the grieving process.
“I think it has largely changed us as a society when it comes to illness and death,” he said.
Simon believes “we really have to be mindful of the psychological impact that this has.”
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