From Helen's Desk

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Covid- 19

Published: March 18, 2020 by Helen

March 18, 2020

With all these restrictions and states of emergency, what happens when someone dies?

In terms of transporting and removals of those who die during this time, nothing has changed.  We will still be here for this essential service.  We will still go to the nursing home or the hospital or your home to facilitate the safe and dignified removal of your loved one.  We will follow the standard safety precautions that we have always followed.  Should COVID-19 play a factor in the death, we will use a few extra precautions to protect your health as well as ours.

In terms of services, we are currently taking things case by case.  As you may know, the Bishop of the Diocese of Burlington has declared that in the case of Catholic services that are presided over by a priest, the services must be private with only immediate family.  Each of the other churches is working on their plans for services so we will help you with those restrictions as necessary.  As far as services at the funeral homes, on Monday, March 16, Governor Scott restricted gathering size to fewer than 50 people.  We will comply with that order and continue to comply with whatever updates occur over the coming days and weeks.  We will also work with families on scheduling or rescheduling plans for after the restrictions are over.  Currently we are working on “out of the box” ideas to assist the families affected; think live streaming or private you-tube videos, or who knows. (We are putting our resident millennial on it!)

While our staff may thin out as children stay out of school or family members become ill, someone will continue to be here to help you.  Please be patient with us.  Each of you has many sets of responsibilities.  We also are juggling responsibilities to you, those we serve, as well as to our staff, their families, and our own family. 

Stay safe and sane!

Covid-19 Update - creativity

Published: March 18, 2020

Update:  This afternoon I learned that in Massachusetts they are restricted to groups of ten so the funeral homes there are holding public calling hours but only letting in 10 people at a time – still working within the restrictions but getting creative in order to give the community what they need!


Published: March 10, 2020 by Helen

February 21, 2020

It was -15°F this morning.  I am sure glad my “commute” consists of walking downstairs.

Our family lives upstairs in the funeral home.  It makes for interesting conversation.  People have all kinds of reactions and questions.  Our children will have friends over and at some point in the early part of their stay there is a punctuated pause followed by, “Wait! Is there a dead body downstairs?”  Thankfully, people get used to it.

It is some of those reactions and questions that I would like to address.  There are so many myths, concerns, and unknowns surrounding death and funerals.  We adults have our own hang-ups and fears pertaining to dying, the dead, and life after a death, that we often mistakenly try to “protect” children as we may have been “protected”.  Research reported by the Funeral Service Foundation shows that this can lead to misconceptions and confusion when it comes to death and funerals.  We use hushed tones and complex euphemisms and separate children from the events all in an attempt to make sure they are safe and secure, when, in fact, they find it more scary and isolating than being included.  My parents, in a loving attempt to help my sister and I with the death of our Nana, insisted that we see her body at calling hours.  We didn’t have a chance to ask questions or prepare; we were just put in front of the casket.  My mother and aunt, following the death of their baby sister, were sent off to a relative’s house while all trace of the baby was removed from their house and then were brought to calling hours to view her in a crib, as was the norm then.  When they returned home, she was not talked about.  Classic old New England folks. 

How do we break this cycle of fear and anxiety surrounding death and funerals?

Education. Discussion. Clear answers. Understanding. Preparation.

Last year, in September, I spoke at the Death and Dying Symposium in Craftsbury, VT.  I was nervous.  I knew going in that the participants had alternative ideas about funerals and services and that they often had trouble finding funeral homes that were willing and/or able to assist with their ideas.  Our funeral home is blessed with an awesome staff that is large enough and accommodating enough to give us the time and manpower (or if you prefer, person-power) to explore these alternatives with a family.  I was there to talk about what we, as a funeral home, can and can’t or will and won’t do.  I had done the necessary preparation- prepared topics based on my audience, formatted a power point, photocopied hand-outs- everything the Effective Speaking class taught.  We never got to the power point. Following the introduction, one of the audience asked if she should hold questions until the end or ask as we went along.  “Oh, please, ask as we go,” I said.  The twenty minutes of talk and ten minutes for questions turned into 45 minutes of question and answer, whereupon our hostess had to cut us off to move to the next presenter.  The whole event taught me that people want to know, want answers, and will make use of safe places to talk about death and funerals. 

Part of what we try to do as funeral staff is make the arrangements process as smooth as possible to avoid as much added stress as possible.  In line with that and the Q&A session, we would like to offer some educational and informational opportunities for the communities.  In January, we partnered with the NEK Young Professionals Network to offer a casual information night answering questions about pre-arrangements, green burials, and any funeral related “stuff”.  We will be offering other such nights periodically, covering a variety of topics based on the questions we frequently hear from you; things like: Why have a funeral anyway? Why pre-plan for my funeral?  How do I get my parents/kids/spouse/family on board with pre-planning?  Just what are the options when it comes to services and such?  I don’t want something religious, can I do that?  Watch our website and Facebook pages for these “Evenings with the Funeral Director”.

Another way to connect with you, the people we serve, is this blog-ish-sort-of-thing called From Helen’s Desk.  I would like to address common questions, concerns, events, and news pertaining to the funeral industry and our community. My hope is to make funeral stuff less daunting, less scary, more comfortable, and more commonly discussed.

What I can’t do is make the loss of a loved one hurt any less.  But, maybe we can take away some of the anxiety surrounding all things funeral, maybe we can open up discussions to make final wishes less mysterious, and maybe we can move the concentration to the healing of grief and away from the fear of death.

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