It was one year ago today that we issued our first communique about COVID-19. In the days that followed, we were issued sage guidance from the Chief Public Health Office regarding funeral service in Prince Edward Island – guidance that has regularly been reviewed and updated during the past year.
Since that time, we have collectively experienced many
ups and downs associated with the pandemic. The families we cared for in the
early days of the pandemic were faced with numerous hurdles and heartaches.
Some families were unable to be by the bedside of their loved one for their
final hours, others were restricted in the number of family and caregivers who
could journey with the dying individual, and many faced significant changes to
their ritual funeral rites.
In our initial communication, we noted our professional
education and commitment to ongoing training had prepared us to safely deal
with infectious agents and preparations for a pandemic. We are thankful for the
suppliers who have provided personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies,
and what seems to be an endless amount of hand soap and hand sanitizer.
I think in all fairness, we were not as prepared for the
depth and breadth of havoc the pandemic continues to wreak. The staggering
number of lives lost in Canada and the exponential number who mourn those
losses. The grief associated with the “little things” like hugging and
handshaking which is so integral to expressing love, support, and guidance. The
initial challenges of how best to bring people together.
We recognize that each age group has experienced certain
challenges. Our granddaughter/niece moved to online kindergarten, the high
school students who ended their secondary schooling with creative posters,
drive-by parades, and small family gatherings to mark their graduation, the
families separated from adult children and grandchildren, and our
mother/grandmother who marked her 100th birthday in community care with much
smaller fanfare than previous milestone birthdays.
filled with gratitude for the resilience of Islanders, the leadership of
government and the Chief Public Health Office, the response of our colleagues
in creating services that bridge the gap between time and space, the resources
that have helped address the immense grief of the collective losses we have
We quickly embraced technology such as Zoom, FaceTime,
and private Facebook groups to make arrangements and hold visitations. We were
pleased to be the first Island funeral home to partner with Forget Me Not
Ceremonies in providing an unparalleled webcast experience.
Our website and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) helped to keep our communities informed of the changing guidelines around funeral services in Prince Edward Island.
We noticed a rise in people sending online condolences to
support their family, friends, and neighbours.
Our community is also showing an increased interest in advance care planning. Taking the time to think about and express our desires for end-of-life care is a valuable exercise. People have also shown an increased interest in pre-planning their funerals.
The pandemic also triggered numerous national responses
within our profession and allied fields. The Canadian Grief Alliance, a coalition of national leaders in grief and
bereavement, was created. The Alliance continues to urge the
Canadian government, to bolster the country’s grief services. The work of the
Canadian Grief Alliance, if funded, will continue for years, examining through
research and best practices how best to support our grieving communities.
Our professional organizations, the Funeral Service Association of Canada and the Funeral Professionals Peer Support group have recognized the role of funeral service professionals as last responders. They have given voice and created safe spaces for funeral professionals to examine the demands and challenges we have faced in caring for our communities.
The “Last Responder” movement recognized funeral service and cemetery professionals as the last responders on the front lines of the pandemic.
We remind Islanders that funeral service professionals
are here amid the pandemic to care for you and your families. Like you, we look
forward to the day when public visitations return, and our whole community can
gather in-person to support family and friends and remember the deceased.
At this time, we echo Dr. Heather Morrison’s words – “be
patient, be kind.” We are poised to continue moving through the pandemic with
the knowledge of the vaccine roll-out and brighter days ahead.