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Coronavirus

Funeral homes deal with coronavirus challenges

Livestreaming funerals, video chats promoted to foster social distancing

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PRINCETON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new recommendations Thursday to funeral homes amid the COVID-19 outbreak, limiting services and graveside burials to 10 people or less.

It also is strongly urging services to be streamed online. Some area funeral homes previously had canceled visitation hours.

Funeral directors across the state have mixed feelings on the recommendations. While there are many who understand the reasoning for the limitations, some say these restrictions make an already difficult time in people’s lives tougher.

Janice Smallwood, owner of Norberg Memorial Home in Princeton, said these restrictions force families to “push pause” on their grieving.

“It can be disorienting to be separated from the body, much less not being able to touch the body or gather with other individuals,” she said.

With grieving comes the need to want to hug others or touch them to put them at ease or comfort.

“Now we’re not even able to shake their hand,” Smallwood said.

To help ease the situation, Smallwood encourages people to call or video chat with their loved ones if they cannot attend a service. She said therapy offered over the phone or online also is important to remember during this time.

While Norberg’s is trying to offer a livestream of private services, so far, there have been a lot of glitches in the process. Smallwood said many people also don’t have internet. Therefore, families are being offered the option to have a service video recorded and put on a DVD for families to give out to others.

“We’re trying to work our way around this. It’s a unique time,” she said.

Mark Justen, funeral owner and director of Justen Funeral Homes, which has locations in McHenry, Round Lake and Wonder Lake, still is allowing families to have 50 people or fewer attend services, despite the new CDC recommendation.

“You have a family with more than 10 people, how are you going to have a family service or a family Mass?” he questioned.

“My families are coming to me for guidance, and all I can do is tell them what the government says, what common sense says and ask what they want to do.”

Justen has posted signs in his foyer encouraging people to stay away from the service if they feel sick or believe they’ve been exposed to the COVID-19. These people are encouraged to sign the guest book and take a memorial card, instead.

“Every family knows how they feel about it. So, are we limiting them? No. We’re watching our families and listening to what they want,” Justen said.

Ryan Hayducak, owner and funeral director for Tezak’s Home to Celebrate Life in Joliet, said families he’s working with have all been receptive to the new 10-or-less recommendations.

If families have more than 10 people who want to come to a service, they are breaking up the visitation into different time periods of the day to keep it down to 10 people or fewer at a time. The funeral home also is encouraging people to sign the online guestbook option and is in the works of trying to provide livestreaming of services.

“We thank the people who aren’t immediate family for their understanding during this time. We recommend they visit the family after the visitation or service has taken place, because that’s also an important time to connect with them,” he said.

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