Columbus funeral directors struggle with coronavirus restrictions


The restrictions that have been put in place due to the coronavirus can create a serious hardship for those who lose a loved one during this time.  News 3 takes a look at the complications of planning a funeral during this unprecedented era of social distancing.

We all could use a hug from family and friends during the loss of a loved one.  But is this new era of the coronavirus, the shoulder you need to cry on is six feet away.  The restrictions limiting the number of people allowed to gather in one place put even more stress on a grieving family.

No one knows this better than funeral directors.  Teddy Price is the general manager at Striffler-Hamby Mortuary in Columbus.  He says planning a funeral is already a very emotional time for a family.  “Having to tell them that you can only have ten people at a funeral can sometimes stir the emotions even more.”

Should a family choose to proceed with a funeral service under these restrictions, the funeral home does offer live streaming as an option.  Price says, “Being able to live stream these services to our families and to their friends gives them a way or a chance to not necessarily be in the room or at the grave side, but they can be a part of the service.”

Another option for families is to proceed with a burial and then have a memorial service once the coronavirus season has ended.  “Hopefully with many families we can reconvene and celebrate the person’s life in the way they may have wanted to at the time down the road,” according to Price.

This time of social distancing puts a strain on folks like Teddy Price.  He says, “In the funeral business, in our profession, touching, hugging, shaking your hand…that’s what we do.”

Bruce Huff with Charles E. Huff International Funeral Home in Columbus echoes the same sentiments.  “We are people of compassion and we care about one another.  And we’ve always been, especially in the South, (accustomed to) giving someone a hug, handshake, a pat on the back…it’s going to be okay, it’ll be all right.”

Instead of personal interaction that has been customary, Huff paints a picture of how business has to be conducted nowadays.  “One lady set her front porch up, put three chairs six feet apart, and she and her daughter and myself sat and talked and we made arrangements on the front porch.”

For someone who deals with death every day, Huff finds this mysterious virus scary.  He admits, “The coronavirus to me is like dealing with a ghost.  You can’t see it.  You don’t know where it is.”

As a result, the Huffs have had to take drastic measures. Bruce says, “We no longer have chapel services because it’s only ten people, and you’re worried about basically someone coming in that’s a carrier and we don’t know. And then we’re here… small business, my brother, Charles, Pam is the office manager here… and we don’t want anything to happen to us.”

Huff says they’ll be having graveside services from now on until the coronavirus passes. They will allow the family to have a viewing at the gravesite. But still, only ten people will be allowed and they will have to remain six feet apart.

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