COVID-19: What about Funerals?


By now you have likely heard of COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus and the measures the public and private sectors are taking to contain it. The coronavirus causes a respiratory illness – not unlike that flu – that in severe cases can cause pneumonia. It’s highly contagious and effects vulnerable populations the most. While most cases are mild, all people with it can give it to others.

Right now those who are feeling sick are asked to self-isolate and the rest of the population is being told to practice social distancing. The government has said all gatherings of 250 people or more should be cancelled and that citizens should not be travelling unless necessary.

This brings us to our business – funerals. We are know that there can be very large funeral services with crowds in the hundreds. We also know that many who attend funerals could be in the vulnerable population – seniors and those with compromised immune systems.

COVID-19 has and will effect our business, just as it has other businesses in our community and beyond. Health and safety comes first.

Should I Have or Attend a Funeral during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Anyone who is ill or has recently travelled should be listening to health officials and self-isolating. This means staying home for 14 days and seeking medical help or testing if symptoms arise. As for the healthy population, avoiding crowds, keeping a safe distance from others and only going out for essentials is recommended. Funerals tends to do the opposite of that. Many people are in close proximity to each other, and often people want to hug or shake hands with friends and loved ones for comfort.

For many of you, this will led to the difficult decision to not attend a funeral or to not host one.

What to do if you can’t attend a funeral

If you are self-isolating or practicing social distancing and still want to support your loved ones and share your condolences during COVID-19, you can send a sympathy card, flowers or phone them before or after to provide comfort. You can also make a charitable donation to their organization of choice. Most people will understand that public health is important and they will not blame you for staying home for the good of the community.

What to do if a loved one dies

Funeral directors and staff will still be working, as life and death will continue. Of course it is your choice whether or not to host a funeral or memorial services right now.

Does this mean you have to cancel altogether? No. Cremated remains can be kept safe and stored until you are comfortable with hosting a service. Families can also elect to go forward with burials with a small group of close relatives and have a memorial service later.

Some people are recommending that funerals be live-streamed, just as many church services have been lately to prevent crowds from gathering. This could be a solution that allows people to mourn and grieve now without waiting for an uncertain future date.

What to do if you attend a funeral during COVID-19

Chapel Ridge Funeral Home and Cremation Centre has always adhered to strict sanitation standards and personal hygiene. We are increasing our diligence in light of the COVID-19 crisis. We encourage those coming in for meetings or services to wash their hands regularly, cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue (and throw that tissue away after). Of course all washrooms with have soap. Again, if you are sick, use your best judgement and stay home.

Refrain from hugs and hand-holding, which of course will be incredibly difficult when you want to comfort a loved one, but we must all understand that these are strange times.

Get Your Facts from Reliable Sources

Here are some resources to help you get correct information so you can make an informed decision:

City of Markham

York Region

Province of Ontario

Government of Canada

You can also contact us to find out what we are doing to ensure everyone remains healthy and safe during an already stressful time.