As tight restrictions continue for funerals, funeral homes in Manitoba are finding ways to adapt to help mourners come and grieve together while still remaining apart.
"For a lot of families, it's been absolutely devastating to not be able to gather and grieve, mourn together," Libby Siebold, president of Sobering Funeral chapel in Beausejour, Man., says. "People gather when there's a death. Usually, there's a running together as a family to encircle and comfort each other and we can't, so we've had to adapt," she says.
While restrictions constantly change, as of May 5, up to 10 people can be in a space together for the purpose of a funeral in Manitoba. Siebold says that over the past year the public health orders have constantly changed at a moment's notice, ranging from 50 people all the way down to five.
"I had one family, we went from 25 to 10 overnight and it was devastating because they had family that flew out from Vancouver and Regina. I had to say 'Sorry guys, we can only have 10 people.'"
The staff came up with a different way to have a funeral.
"What we did is bought ourselves a radio transmitter. We're speaking to the demographic in our area as a lot of folks who are 75 or 85 who are not that computer illiterate."
Many funeral chapels offer services online. Siebold says that while some senior citizens can connect on the computer, they have come up with a better solution to connect people in person while still maintaining the laws and distance.
"As people enter the parking lot in their car our attendants will give them a program. We've coordinated with local caterers to give them a bag lunch and we'll take any condolence cards for the family. There's no contact. Then they're asked to line up in the parking lot in a certain order."
The funeral chapel bought a short-range radio transmitter so that people in the parking lot can tune in and listen to the service while remaining in their own vehicles.
"They'll hear the service over the radio and able to eat the lunch provided for them. They feel safe in their vehicles."
Siebold says when the pandemic first started and people passed away, some families in the area postponed the funeral to when people could gather once more.
"I have about 100 funerals in wait. Live-stream or Zoom calls don't fit every demographic. I had one man say he was going to wait because he wants to have a cup of coffee with his friends and talk about his wife."
While not ideal, Siebold says the option of doing live funerals again even while people are in their vehicles is better than the alternative.
"In a lot of ways, it's bringing our community back together," she says.