KILGORE, Texas (KLTV) - Funeral homes across the country are facing a delicate balancing act in the age of social distancing.
The guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include funerals where social distancing means the usual gestures of love and comfort – hugs, kisses, holding hands – are gone.
Livestreams on funeral home websites and social media have taken the place of a warm hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on.
Guestbooks and condolences are now part of our virtual world.
J. Mitchell, the funeral director in charge at Rader Funeral Home in Kilgore, said they’ve moved to streaming funeral services.
"You can log into our Facebook page and watch the service as it takes place so that you can participate as our community in these services during this unknown time that we’re in,” he said.
Cunningham Funeral Home, also in Kilgore, is only providing graveside services, something funeral director Jessica Cunningham-James said is hard on families.
“It’s been upsetting to the families because of course no one wants to have to have a graveside service if that’s not what they want. But they do understand that this is a very serious situation and that they want to be able to take care of the situation at hand which is burying their loved one," she said. “It’s just safer that way to have a graveside service. You’re out in the open. Therefore, it’s better for the social distancing.”
Cunningham-James said they’ve talked to other funeral homes to find out how they’re incorporating the CDC’s guidelines, and they all have the same questions.
“Everyone’s just really asking questions as to what are we supposed to do and how do you do it. How do you tell a family that they have to have a graveside service instead of a funeral and that they can only have so many people in attendance?" she said. "That’s just hard to break down to a family that’s already grieving, who already have a lot of decisions to make. This is just adding on to their situation, to their grief.”
The changes have also affected the day-to-day operations inside the funeral home.
“We have pretty much stopped anyone from coming. Even as far as our secretary. Just trying to limit the amount of people that are here. We are in Gregg County so we are under the lock down and so we’re just trying to keep as many people away and distance and much as possible," Cunningham-James said.
In addition to the traditional white gloves Cunningham Funeral Home staff wear during services, they are now required to wear protective masks at the grave site.
“We’re just trying to do what’s best as far as safety and the law, you know following the government’s rules but also be able to serve our families at the same time,” she said. “A lot of the families have stated that they will have a service – like a celebration service – after the fact, when all this coronavirus is over.”