‘Moving in the right direction’: How funerals could change in the third phase of Manitoba’s reopening

By | June 12, 2020

WINNIPEG — One of the difficulties many families have had to face during COVID-19 is trying to hold a funeral with a reduced number of attendees.

People have not been able to mourn the same or attend funerals because of physical distancing rules.

But as the gathering numbers continue to increase in the province, the president of the Manitoba Funeral Services Association says it has been a benefit to many families.

“A larger gathering is more meaningful than when it was restricted only to 10, because more can participate at the time when their grief and mourning is highest. We as human beings rely on the ability to come together to mourn a loss together and the higher numbers help so much,” said Michael Gibbens in an email to CTV News.

In Phase Two of reopening, the provincial government increased gathering sizes indoors to 25 people and outdoors to 50.

Gibbens said there hasn’t been an increase in indoor services, but more outdoor services are being held.

He added for those who have been holding indoor services with the 25 person limit, there are still challenges.

“Even at 25, families have the ability to invite more guests to the services but it is still not at a number where it can be made wide open for full public attendance. By the nature of invitations to funerals, through word of mouth, newspaper obituaries, and website postings, it is so difficult to control who will be able to come.”

On Thursday, the province announced a draft plan for Phase Three of reopening. In the plan, the province proposes increasing indoor gathering size limits to 50 people and outdoor limits to 100, as long as physical distancing measures are still met.

“Moving forward, when Phase Three comes into effect, we will likely start to see larger gatherings. There will still be some challenges because not all facilities are large enough to accommodate the 50 guests and keep physical distancing recommendations. In cases like that, funeral homes may start to look for larger venues to help accommodate the requests for larger gatherings,” Gibbens said.

However, he added this increase, along with the proposal from the government to loosen the 14-day isolation requirements when entering the province, will allow for more people to attend and mourn with other family members and those from out of province can also attend.

“In the end, the move to Phase Three will be beneficial to families who have experienced a loss overall because they have more options of what they can do and not be held back by what they cannot do,” he said. “We are moving in the right direction though and that is a good thing for families.”


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