Since the beginning of the pandemic, almost 5,100 Wisconsinites have died from COVID-19. In many cases, the families and loved ones of those 5,100 people didn’t get a traditional funeral.
As with most things during the pandemic, grieving a loved one also looks different.
Barbara Normington, from Beloit, Wisconsin, lost her brother in December to Covid-19. She says the whole thing happened quickly.
“He was diagnosed with Covid on the 21st, and he died the 23rd,” Barbara said.
Barbara, who facetimed with her brother in the hospital before he died, says he wanted to be buried with the ashes of his wife, who had died three years prior.
“They didn’t have a funeral funeral,” Barbara said, “the funeral guy just took the coffin out to the cemetery, they dug the hole, they let the kids put mom in the coffin with him, and they all got to say their last goodbyes, and then they buried him.”
As a high-risk individual, Barbara couldn’t go to the funeral, which was held in Missouri, because of her worries about Covid. She says she was initially concerned about paying for the funeral before discovering a second life insurance policy that would cover the cost.
Pete Gunderson is president of Gunderson Funeral Homes in Dane and Columbia County. He says funerals can range anywhere between $4,000 to $15,000 – sometimes a difficult barrier for those facing pandemic-induced unemployment or cutbacks.
Adding more complexity, safety precautions have also changed how people grieve. Gunderson says the nature of funerals themselves have had to adapt during the pandemic.
“Zoom certainly works out in some circumstances,” Gunderson said, “we’ve done some outdoor things, although in Wisconsin it’s a little tougher this time of year than it might have been in August.”
And the trauma of grieving a loved one can add extra stress during an already stressful time. Daniel Goldman is a therapist in Madison, and runs Guide Forward, a consultation and psychotherapy practice. He advises people to learn to live with the stress and look to their friends and family for support.
“I think people are really overwhelmed,” Goldman said.
Goldman says as people’s ability to connect with one another is rationed, some have struggled to cope with grief.
“Reach out to your people, reach out for help, we’re all in this together, and you need to keep the big picture in mind,” Goldman advised.
Although Gunderson argues that the emotional and spiritual benefits of funerals haven’t changed during the pandemic, he admits he’s looking forward to when the pandemic is over.
“In my career time we’ve dealt with polio, we’ve dealt with PV, we’ve dealt with HIV, we’ve dealt with a number of these viruses, all of those kinds of things, but nothing at this level or even approaching this level,” Gunderson said.
(Photo Credit: Mitchel Boot on Unsplash)