Coronavirus in Tampa Bay: Funeral homes adjust to social distancing requirements

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Funeral homes are turning to technology to continue carrying out funeral services during the coronavirus crisis. 

Mourning the loss of a loved one is already a difficult thing to do. Under social distancing guidelines, coping with that loss is much more difficult. 

“This is unprecedented and it’s very difficult for families,” LaCheryl Aikens, President and Co-Owner of Aikens Funeral Home. 

Aikens’ mother and father built Aikens Funeral Home 40 years ago. After they retired 21 years ago, LaCheryl took over. In their 40 years of operating, this is the first time they have limited the amount of people who can attend a funeral. It’s also the first time they have changed the way they interact with grieving families. 

Under social distancing guidelines, only 10 people are allowed to attend a funeral. Aikens Funeral Home has markers in their chapel to indicate where people can sit. 

“It’s challenging, it’s emotional and it puts a lot of additional stress on the family to decide who will be that 10,” LaCheryl said. 

Not to mention, hugging, kissing and other physical contact is not allowed. Which makes it that much more difficult for families in mourning. 

“It’s still challenging for family members not to embrace so we do encourage them to smile, wave, nod and then unfortunately they have to leave.,” LaCheryl said. 

Aikens Funeral Home is also live streaming their services for family members and friends. A new, but different approach for funeral homes. 

“This is difficult,” LaCheryl said. “However the live stream allows people outside of that 10 to pay their respects. We are also printing over more programs for families to mail to loved ones so that they can have something tangible during their time of grief.”

Aikens Funeral Home is still having viewings, but only one person at a time can view the body and pay their respects. LaCheryl says these guideliens are making it that much more difficult for people to grieve. 

“Death is constant, it’s a part of life and it’s making it more difficult that people don’t want to expose themselves in large crowds and funerals are usually large gatherings,” she said. “We don’t have the numbers we would normally have and the families don’t have the support they normally have.”

Burial services are also being streamed online because they have a 10 person maximum as well.

Cheryl says some people attend the burial and sit in their cars and watch from their smart devices. 

Aikens Funeral Home employees are wearing protective gear during this time and conducting all meetings via teleconference.

For more information on their services, click here.

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