Death During a Pandemic: Creating Meaningful Moments for Families In Any Circumstance

Creating Meaningful Moments for Families in any Circumstance

Even in the best of times, it can be challenging to ensure every single family you serve feels as if they were able to fully honor their loved one at the end of life.

During a pandemic, that flipped death care norms upside down.

Circa 2020 and beyond, offering this opportunity was nearly impossible for funeral professionals.

For starters, families were unable to be with their loved ones who were near death.

And to make matters worse, the handling of the deceased may have been carried out differently due to COVID-related restrictions.

Many people lost loved ones without being able to say goodbye in person. 

Some death care practitioners shifted course when they saw how the pandemic was affecting grieving families, and tried to find ways to work around the restrictions.

One of these people is mortician Angela Woosley, who shared her experience. Here are some key takeaways, to help us through the COVID pandemic – and beyond.


Honor the first moments of seeing the loved one fully.

A troubling pattern emerged during the pandemic; the first time many had seen their loved one in months was the first time they saw their deceased body. So Angela decided to acknowledge the moment as a profound one, instead of a cold and clinical one. 

Because of the inability to perform certain ceremonies prior to the person’s passing, she tried to create a space for the family to treat their coming together at this time as a ceremony in itself. A memorable moment to hold onto, instead of just an awful memory. 


Create virtual rituals and ceremonies

Before the pandemic, Angela would often create ceremonies with families to wash, anoint, and mourn the body of their loved ones. When her interactions with families were limited to Zoom, she felt restricted. 

But she decided to re-create these ceremonies on Zoom for the families in her own unique ways. Instead of simply doing away with them, she really stuck with the intention of creating meaning. She felt it to be important for all involved.


Be clear in your communication

It’s important to be incredibly communicative and transparent throughout the arrangement process; especially when families can’t meet with you in person. 

Use mindful language, and talk them through the process the loved one will be taken through. That way families will feel like they are a part of the journey, rather than being so removed from it. 


Don’t lose connection

Another way Angela was able to continue her level of service with client families after the pandemic began was her attitude. Many funeral homes simply removed services, or offered limited ideas for virtual services.

Angela, however, continued brainstorming ways she could create connections between families and their communities. For every funeral home, and even every family, this will look different. But Angela encourages you to invite people into your funeral home, even if it’s virtual. Don’t contract because of a pandemic. There is always a way.


Include their unique spiritual or religious rituals

Even if a family does not have a specific religious protocol for handling the deceased, funeral homes can develop ceremonies for small moments that elevate the situation to the sacred. 

There’s no moment that doesn’t matter when it comes to handling someone’s final affairs. Especially during a pandemic.

What are some ways you make otherwise uncomfortable moments more special for families during the pandemic? Tell us in the comments below!

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