Funeral options in a pandemic

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Massachusetts hard this spring, many adjustments have had to be made. Large gatherings are not allowed, and even small gatherings require extra spacing for safe “distancing” between people, so conventional full funeral services are not possible at this time. 

What to do?  Postpone large in-person gatherings, but consider other ways to communicate and commemorate loved ones who die in this period. 

Joshua Slocum of the national Funeral Consumers Alliance has created a short (6-min) video about death care and choices families can make. He also participated in Vermont Public Radio program (46 minutes) on April 15: Helping Families Deal With Death And Grief During The Coronavirus Crisis. Other speakers were a funeral director, a death doula, and a palliative care doctor.

The National Home Funeral Alliance has posted a webpage “Pandemic Resources for Families Facing End of Life."

Here in western Massachusetts we've created a 1-page tip sheet reminding people about the two basic “direct” options (Immediate Burial; Direct Cremation) that funeral homes can continue to provide. Fortunately these are less expensive than full funerals, and can be done relatively quickly. See our 2018 price comparison chart. We are now collecting 2020 price information and hope to produce a new chart, focusing on these direct options, soon. [Update 5/1/20: preliminary 2020 price report posted.]

I recently contacted the UMass Medical School to learn whether their Anatomical Gift Program is still accepting body donations. Yes, they are, but with new restrictions: NONE from hospitals, nursing homes, nor anyone infected with (or exposed to) Covid-19. If you are registered as a body donor, now is a good time to be sure you have an appropriate “plan B” and that your loved ones know of your wishes — in case the medical school cannot accept your body.

I hope we can all remain healthy and live well beyond this crisis period, without need of adjusted plans. But flexibility is wise.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions and positions expressed here in "Sandy's Blog" are written by one individual (volunteer Sandy Ward) and may or may not reflect the views, opinions or positions of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts.