Funerals in the age of COVID

Photo by Ashim D’Silva

By Troy Hutchison

In the last eight months, the world has gone through drastic changes to keep itself safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Events have been canceled, celebrations have been put on hold, classes gone from in-person to virtual classrooms, and these are just some examples of how society has had to adapt to the new COVID-19 world.  

No matter how much society adapts to the situation we currently live in, nothing can prepare a person for a COVID-style funeral experience.

When talking about this, I am not speaking just about COVID-19 related deaths; I’m talking about any death that comes during this time and the changes a family has to make to keep the funeral safe.

That is something I recently went through, and it was an experience that I thought I would be prepared for, but I was not. When you think of a funeral, you think of family members coming together, honoring the passing of a loved one, and being able to console one another during a difficult time.

From my experience, you are still able to honor your loved one, but as for the usual way you console your family members, that is different. It was an adjustment to not sit near cousins and other relatives to keep people safe and implement social distancing guidelines. Even though it is crucial to do so, it did take a mental switch not to go hug or even be within six feet of the extended family. It is something that you cannot prepare yourself for until you experience it firsthand, and I hope it is something you do not have to do.

One thing that stood out to me and still shocked me, even though I knew it going into the funeral in the days prior, was the limited amount of people in the state of Arizona allowed to attend a funeral. I come from a massive family, and limiting the number of people that can attend a funeral means that a lot of your loved ones that you see at events won’t be able to go.

However, even in limited numbers of groups no more than 40 people, you still find comfort in the fact that you are all together for one purpose: to honor the passing of a loved one that left a lasting memory on everyone in the room. 

So, although things are not what they used to be, one thing will never change, which is the sense of togetherness families have during a difficult time like the passing of a loved one. I know that I will take comfort in that and knowing that there is hope, there is a future where families will come together once again.

Funerals might not be what we are used to, and we may not be able to honor loved ones in our usual ways but, when people come together for one cause, it gives you a comforting feeling knowing that you are all there in one place for the same reason.