Funeral directors have played a vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of their service, Gov. Kim Reynolds last week designated July 12-18 as the state’s Funeral Directors …
Funeral directors have played a vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic. In recognition of their service, Gov. Kim Reynolds last week designated July 12-18 as the state’s Funeral Directors Week.
“Iowa funeral directors have worked hard throughout the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic to ensure families are able to celebrate and honor the lives of loved ones while taking necessary precautions to keep everyone safe,” Reynolds said in a July 6 press release. “Funeral directors have gone above and beyond to serve families in this time.”
Although the credit from the state is welcome, funeral directing is an essential and demanding line of work, hardly well-suited for those seeking recognition.
“One of the reasons the governor is honoring us is because we’re essential,” said Kimberly Powell Doehrmann, a director at Powell Funeral Homes. “We just want to do our job, we don’t want to be in the highlight of everything. We just want to take care of families and do the best we can for them.”
Like many local funeral directors, Doehrmann rotates between the funeral service’s several locations, as do the home’s other four directors.
From community to community, the people change but the rules do not. Funeral services are particularly regulated during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We follow CDC guidelines… it’s pretty much preventative, with face masks, washing your hands, using hand sanitizer and basic things, but what it does effect is the way funerals are ran,” Eric Snyder, a director at Snyder and Hollenbaugh Funeral and Cremation Services said. “It’s been very difficult to plan things because when we first started with COVID, only 10 people could be under the roof at a time, no mass gatherings. We had several funerals which went from having a visitation to a funeral service to just a private family event.”
Snyder said the funeral home adapted to circumstances, but new procedures were logistically and emotionally challenging.
“Unfortunately what we had to do was a family of so many would come in one day from 4 to 4:30, then they would be done, they would go home, and then the brother or sister would come in with their family, then they would leave and the next group would come,” he said. “It was very difficult, very hard on families.”
Mark Beatty of Beatty and Peterseim Funeral Home said he understood just how difficult it was to follow guidelines while grieving, having recently lost a close family member himself.
“From a firsthand experience, it’s challenging to tell a family to try and social distance and not embrace friends and relatives,” Beatty said. “But then to experience it and restrain yourself from the emotional reaction is very difficult… to try and do that and still go through the grieving process.”
As always, the needs of others seem to come first for funeral directors, and Beatty is no exception.
“I think it brings the reality back to me a little bit of what families are going through right now,” Beatty said. “I think that’s where funeral directors, with our experience and knowledge, are more valuable now than ever before, we get a lot of insight… and come up with ideas on what will be beneficial to families.”
Nicholas Todd, an intern at Beatty and Peterseim had the unique of experience of learning the practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. After a year-long internship, Todd is days away from receiving his funeral director’s license from the state.
“It’s definitely different, we’ve had to adapt how we do services,” Todd said. “It really sucks for the families, some people have not been able to see their family members in the homes, and say they die in the home, that’s the first time they’ve seen them in how many months… that’s hard on all of us.”
Despite the hardship, Todd said he was drawn to the career by the chance to help those in need, a trait funeral directors seem to have in common.
“I enjoy helping people,” Todd said. “I’ve helped a lot of people and they’re very grateful, it’s very rewarding.”