‘I knew I wasn’t alone’

Grieving the loss of a loved one is heartbreaking and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paul Warren is the funeral home director for Warren’s Funeral Home in Dildo. He understands the restrictions are in place for a reason, but he’s seen the added stress they put on families. Patrick Newhook/Kicker


Patrick Newhoo
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Kicker News

The death of a loved one is always difficult. Death during COVID-19 creates even more challenges and stress for grieving families.

Funerals are a time when a family remembers and cherishes the life of a lost loved one. It is a time when people gather together to support each other.

However, due to COVID-19, it has become more difficult for families to grieve. As of Aug. 24, government restrictions only allow 100 people at funerals and wakes remain prohibited.

Alvina Smith and her husband Leroy called the tiny community of Chance Cove home. He spent four weeks in the Carbonear General Hospital before he died of complications from a stroke on May 19. She was unable to see him during those four weeks due to COVID-19 hospital visitation restrictions.

“I would phone him during the day,” said Smith of the man she was married to for 54 years. “It was heart-wrenching. It was a rough time. During all of what I was going through I was thinking about the other people that were going through the same thing. I knew I wasn’t alone.”

When her husband died, the province was at Alert Level 4. Under this alert level, gatherings at funerals and burials were limited to no more than 10 people. Visitations and wakes were prohibited.

“It was really hurtful that it was like that because of the COVID. They’re going through a hard time as well, not being able to say goodbye to their dad.”

“That was a disappointing thing that we did not have a church service,” said Smith. “Our plan is that when this COVID is over and they [her children] can get home, we will then have our church service for him as a memorial.”

Smith’s children, who both live in Calgary with their families, could not travel home due to restrictions placed on travel.

“It was very upsetting. There was many, many more people who would’ve attended the church. Close friends of ours, other relatives who didn’t get there. So because of COVID, our son and daughter couldn’t get home, our two grandsons, and our daughter-in-law and son-in-law.” said Smith.

“It was really hurtful that it was like that because of the COVID. They’re going through a hard time as well, not being able to say goodbye to their dad.”

David Crane from South River can relate. He lost his mom, Evelyn, back in June due to cancer. This was under Alert Level 3 when funerals could have up to 20 people.

Since there was a limit to the number of people who could attend, families had to choose who to include. Crane believes that this was the most challenging part.

“This was really tough,” said Crane. “We pretty much limited it to our immediate family and close cousins. Unfortunately, none of her close friends could attend. That was the hardest of it all.”

“He felt bad that he couldn’t be here, but he did participate in the funeral plans. He was able to attend all the functions virtually, he was able to be a part of it and I believe that was his closure.”

Crane’s brother, Paul, who lives in Alberta was not able to attend the funeral.

“He felt bad that he couldn’t be here, but he did participate in the funeral plans. He was able to attend all the functions virtually, he was able to be a part of it and I believe that was his closure,” said Crane.

Crane wasn’t able to visit his mother in hospital before her death.

“I think the hardest part was leading up to it. We couldn’t go visit because we were on lockdown. I couldn’t bear the responsibility of possibly infecting her or making it worse,” said Crane.

The Caul’s Funeral Home cluster caused the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Newfoundland and Labrador. As of April 5, 167 cases have been linked back to that St. John’s funeral home.

An hour’s drive away from the capital city, Paul Warren is a funeral director at Warren’s Funeral Home in Dildo. He has seen firsthand how challenging it has been to lose someone during the pandemic and to have a traditional funeral.

Restrictions placed on funerals, said Warren, are necessary but do put a lot of strain on families.

“One of the biggest challenges was large families and the numbers they were allowed to have at gravesites,” said Warren. “They’ve had to adjust to what they’ve had to do, but it’s hard on them. You got to abide by the rules.”

About Patrick Newhook 9 Articles
Hello, I am a student journalist in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. I am currently attending College of the North Atlantic where I am in my second year.

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