Along with affecting everything else, the coronavirus situation is also changing the way funeral homes conduct services for the families of the recently deceased.

In recent weeks, funeral directors have had to adapt since large gatherings of people are no longer allowed for the time being. McDowell has three funeral homes: Westmoreland, Kirksey and Beam.

“It has been very different the last couple of weeks,” said Chad Beam with Beam Funeral Service & Crematory. “The funeral service providers have always taken great precautions in terms of diseases, when handling the deceased. It has always been that we were the front line in protecting the public through embalming and other preparations. This is still true but we can no longer have large gatherings of people to comfort the families.”

Beam said his funeral service has been staying up to date with the local state board and other advisors on the daily changes. Beam and his staff have encouraged families to use technology such as the funeral home’s Website to allow people to not only sign the registry, but also to view a recording of the service.

“Those that still wish to have a small gathering have chosen to do a graveside service or a private family only service,” said Beam. “Every family is encouraged to no longer shake hands or embrace one another, and to constantly distance themselves from others. We have also prioritized our cleaning procedure, and placed a lot of hand sanitizers around the facility.”

Such a dramatic change for an event that is very emotional and bound to tradition can be unsettling for grieving families.

“For the most part everyone has taken to the changes very well as they see the importance of the situation,” said Beam. “We want the very best for our families we serve, but also for the safety of our community and our staff.”

Westmoreland Funeral Home & Crematory has also implemented changes in how services are conducted.

Tyler Mace is Westmoreland’s funeral home manager. He said Westmoreland has posted signs informing mourners about social distancing and hand sanitizers are placed throughout the building. Westmoreland’s staff cleans the building between services and no more than 50 people are allowed inside the chapel. That 50-person limit includes funeral directors and ministers, said Mace.

The funeral home is also posting services on its Web site so more people can witness and grieve.

Mace said the majority of families understand the necessary changes. Some families are choosing to postpone services until a later date. Others don’t want to wait and feel the need for a service now as a form of closure.

“Everyone deals with grief differently,” said Mace. “We’re still here to help our families and meet their needs through this. We do need to be smart about this and take the steps to the spread as much as we can.”

The McDowell News attempted to reach a representative of Kirksey Funeral Home. Christopher James, a spokesman for Kirksey’s parent company Service Corporation International, issued a statement to The McDowell News.

“We are working to ensure our communities can continue holding services for their loved ones, and are meeting with client families individually to identify solutions that meet the guidelines implemented by provinces, states and municipalities,” said James in a prepared statement. “We are also following The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance regarding public gatherings. We are exploring technology alternatives, where available, to stream services online which will aid in reducing the number of people at a service. These arrangements will be managed on a case-by-case basis. We are cooperating with all local, state and federal authorities, including The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We strive to follow internal health, safety and environmental procedures and adhere to all industry regulations to ensure measures are in place to protect decedents, their families, our employees and the community.”

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