By Thomas A. Parmalee

Some days, it’s hard to grasp the impact of everything we had to contend with during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everything seems so normal now.

But then something will give me a jolt and help me appreciate how much everything has changed — particularly for funeral directors and everyone remembering lost loved ones — such as the below post a friend of mine recently shared on Facebook:

Four years ago today we buried my dad. COVID had just begun to shut things down and his funeral was surreal. Just immediate family was allowed, so my brothers and I stood at the cemetery, six feet apart, and honored my father. When the graveside service was over, we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. The life he lived deserved a more dignified send-off. But hearing the soldier play taps and watching him hand the folded flag to my brother was among the proudest moments of my life.

I’m sharing that message here lest any of us forget how important it is for us to remember those we have lost — and for as long as anyone can remember, we do that by holding a funeral, a memorial service or a gathering of some sort. And if you operate a funeral home, you’re the expert on this and should be there to help families who need it.

For a time, after the pandemic, I recall there was lots of hope in funeral service that some of these families who had suffered such a massive loss during the pandemic would come back to the funeral home to hold a “real” service for their loved one.

With the “pull forward” effect that we have seen as a result of COVID-19 (death rates have been going down since people that would normally be dying now died sooner), such a response would have no doubt been welcome to funeral homes who are struggling with declining revenue.

But that response did not materialize on the scale that most had envisioned, but it seems to me that funeral homes should not abandon the idea of trying to reconnect with families who lost a loved one to explore how they might make up for NOT providing the level of service that both the family and the funeral home would have wanted to have been provided.

Whether it is holding a gathering on the birthday or anniversary of their loved one’s death to share the memories and the hugs that they were forbidden to share during the pandemic, or if it is making it easy for a family to upgrade their urn or perhaps even buy cemetery space and hold a graveside service for the interment of cremated remains, there are services you can and SHOULD be providing to those who suffered a loss during that time.

Sometimes, in our haste to put the pandemic behind us, I think we have a tendency to forget how much it impacted us and those around us … over 1 million Americans died of the virus. Don’t forget that these were your customers — these were your families.

At the very least, it’s up to every firm that served a family affected by COVID-19 to let them know that they are there to support them — and that you will still be there to help them prearrange or honor the next family member who is taken too soon.

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