“We have to make sure that we deliver compassion and care,” says Jody Brandenburg, president of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Homes and Cemeteries.
If there’s a business that depends on people being together, including touching and hugging, it’s that of funerals and other memorial services.
“It’s better for people in the grieving process to be surrounded by the people they care about,” said Jody Brandenburg, president of Hardage-Giddens Funeral Homes and Cemeteries.
With social distancing required by COVID-19, that’s difficult to make happen.
Affiliated with the Dignity Memorial network, the Hardage-Giddens company has 11 funeral homes, six cemeteries and a cremation facility in Northeast Florida.
Mortuaries and funeral homes are designated essential businesses under the latest order from the city, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t changing how they provide services.
Funeral arrangements may be made by phone or email. Certain documents have to be signed, but that can be done remotely, Brandenburg said.
Hardage-Giddens is working to provide virtual memorial services through teleconferencing and Facebook. That would allow people to be in touch without having to actually touch each other.
“It’s a big change. What doesn’t change is we have families that are grieving and we’re dedicated to putting families first. We have to make sure that we deliver compassion and care,” he said.
Hardage-Giddens is planning small-group graveside services – 10 people or fewer and everyone at least 6 feet apart. Larger groups could be at the graveside in one 10-person gathering at a time.
Hardage-Giddens clients and staff are adapting to the changes.
“Our staff naturally want to shake hands and hug. Families want to hug and offer physical comfort. People have been so understanding during these challenging times,” Brandenburg said.
In addition to the virtual services, Hardage-Giddens has a plan for when the pandemic restrictions are lifted.
“When conditions improve, and we can do so, there can be a future service where families can gather,” Brandenburg said.
“What’s coming out of this is cooperation and kindness. Memorial services are an important part of our lives.”
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