Squamish funeral home still able to comfort families during pandemic | Squamish Chief

Squamish funeral home still able to comfort families during pandemic

Extra precautions taken, large celebrations of life postponed, but otherwise business as usual

For everyone, these are stressful times, but for those dealing with the recent death of a loved one that happened to coincide with the pandemic, the stress can be compounded by other worries.

Loved ones are facing a world much different than they are used to both because they are grieving and because of COVID-19 restrictions.

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Mark McKenzie, of the family-run Squamish Funeral Chapel and Crematorium, told The Chief that the business is still open and staff is available 24/7.

On March 26, funeral homes were deemed an essential service by the provincial government, meaning they can continue operating throughout the pandemic.

McKenzie said that families are asked to reach out over the phone, email or by video, but bereaved loved ones can come into the home, if that is what they prefer.

Social distancing protocols are in place and extra precautions are being taken to keep staff and clients safe, he said.

"We ask that no more than two to three people come," he said, adding the home has had recent visitations, with restrictions in place.

There is hand sanitizer available, and free take-home pens to sign documents.

The funeral home is also deep-cleaned, as are the vehicles used.

In terms of the funeral home's own staff and coming into contact with the deceased, McKenzie said they are taking lots of precautions.

He said there hasn't been a COVID-19-related death they have dealt with, but the staff is prepared if there is.

They wear proper protective gear — gloves, gowns and masks — when transporting the deceased from the place of their death to the funeral home, he said, and are ordering extra gear to have on hand.

While the business is still open and operating around the clock, the pandemic does make things harder on families.

"It is an extra layer of grief for a lot of families, said McKenzie. "If they are delaying services, they just lost somebody and they are trying to have a gathering for family and friends... so it is delaying grief. It is causing a lot more anxiety, and they feel more overwhelmed."

McKenzie also noted some faiths have traditions around cremations and burials that are harder to follow during the pandemic, such as if the ceremony is required within a few days of the death. Not being able to gather everyone during that time, is an added hardship for those families.

He said the staff are doing all they can to alleviate families' added stress.

McKenzie's advice to bereaved families, beyond reaching out to the funeral home, is to eat well, drink a lot of water and do as much self-care as possible so they can remain healthy during this difficult time.


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