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COVID19 CDC Funeral Guidance for Individuals and Families

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Grieving the loss of a loved one during the fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming. It may be difficult for people to make decisions about how to safely grieve and honor their loved one. This guidance is for individuals and families as they work with funeral directors, community and religious leaders, and others to plan and hold funeral services and visitations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In some situations, many people have become sick with COVID-19 after attending a funeral service. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in communities, changes need to be made to the way funerals, visitations, and memorials to the deceased are held. This guidance provides strategies to protect yourself and others when you are grieving the loss of a loved one, supporting each other, making funeral arrangements, and participating in funeral services and visitations. Some examples include:

  • Using technology to connect virtually with family and friends during the grieving process.
  • Considering modified funeral arrangements, such as limiting attendance at funerals held during shortly after the time of death to a small number of immediate family members and friends; and then holding additional memorial services when social distancing guidelines are less restrictive.
  • Practicing social distancing by maintaining at least 6 feet between attendees, facility staff, and clergy or officiants when small, in-person services are held.
  • Considering modifications to funeral rites and rituals (for example, avoid touching the deceased person’s body or personal belongings or other ceremonial objects) to make sure of everyone’s safety.
  • Wearing cloth face coverings while around others and outside of your home.

Grieving the loss of a loved one

Grief is a normal response to losing someone important to you. When a loved one dies, it is important for friends and family to be able to share stories and memories of the person and how they influenced their lives. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing, “stay at home orders,” and limits to gatherings have affected the ability of friends and family to come together in person and grieve in typical ways. This is true regardless of whether the person’s death was due to COVID-19 or some other cause.

Fortunately, most people understand that hosting gatherings now could be dangerous to those who would want to participate. Family and friends are finding alternate ways to connect, support each other, and grieve after their loss. They understand the need to possibly plan for additional memorial services when COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted.

Practice social distancing while making funeral arrangements

  • Consider having virtual or phone meetings instead of in-person meetings with funeral home staff, cemetery staff, clergy or officiants, and others to plan funeral arrangements.
  • If you need to meet in person, follow everyday preventive actions to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, such as wearing a cloth face coveringsocial distancingwashing your hands often, and covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Do not attend in-person meetings if you are sick, might have been exposed to COVID-19, or have higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Discuss options for making changes to traditional funeral plans

  • Discuss your cultural or religious traditions and the funeral wishes of the deceased, if applicable, with family members and the people you are working with (funeral home staff, clergy, or officiants).
    • Identify any potential concerns and determine options to make changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Preserve traditional practices when it is possible to safely do so, and identify whether modified or new practices could satisfy the needs and values of you and your loved one.
  • Consider whether it would be acceptable to hold modified funeral arrangements by limiting attendance to a small number of immediate family members and friends shortly after the time of death. Consider holding additional memorial services in the future when social distancing guidelines are less restrictive.
    • When you are making decisions about who should attend, consider how emotionally difficult social distancing practices might be for attendees (such as keeping at least 6 feet apart and not hugging other attendees who do not live in their household).
  • Ask the people you are working with (funeral home staff, clergy, or officiant) about resources they may be able to provide, such as:
    • Virtual funeral services, visitations, and memorial tributes by online video streaming or recorded video. Consider potential issues with virtual attendees’ access to technology and high-speed internet, as well as how any technological difficulties during the service could impact the event.
    • Online guestbooks or memory books that invite people to share stories, notes of condolence, or photos.
    • Assistance with sharing details about the plan for funeral services and visitations with extended family and friends, including how to compassionately communicate any changes to traditional practices and the reasons they are necessary.

Holding funeral services and visitations

Familial and cultural expectations might put pressure on you and others to participate in or hold or schedule funeral services and visitations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, those expectations may need to be relaxed to protect the safety of those who would have participated. People continue to get exposed to COVID-19 at funeral services; the people giving it to others were not feeling sick at the time and did not know they were carrying or spreading COVID-19.

Consider the following modifications to funeral services and visitations to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. These modifications are recommended for events held in any setting, including funeral homes, cemetery facilities, places of worship, private homes, and other venues.

Limit the attendees to a small number of immediate family and close friends

  • Follow the guidelines from state and local officials and state and localexternal icon health departments.
  • Those who are sick, have a household member or other close contact who is sick, or are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should not attend in person.
  • Consider limiting the number of people from different areas of the country or any areas with significant spread of COVID-19.
  • Consider offering other ways for family and friends to participate, such as by phone or online (live or recorded).
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