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Funeral directors cope with pandemic backlog

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 3:47 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Pandemic restrictions have created a backlog when it comes to funeral services, delaying the grieving process for many families.

At LaVigne Funeral Home in Winooski, funeral director James Kennedy says when the pandemic first hit, they shut down in-person services. “Of course we could do burials and cremations as they came up, but we didn’t have services around them,” he said. In June, he says the doors reopened, but under strict capacity and distancing guidelines. “We have family in and we just rotate people through.”

The year of no large gatherings has created a backlog and delayed grieving. “We do have quite a backlog of services that we will be making up in the next year or so as the whole state and country opens up,” Kennedy said.

“Now that it’s been the winter, there is a natural backlog anyway, but the pandemic, I would say, has at least doubled that,” said Gregory Camp with the Vermont Funeral Directors Association. He says Vermonters, for the most part, have been understanding about the delays. “I do see frustration, but not frustration towards the funeral home or towards the state of Vermont. It’s frustration that they can’t do what they naturally feel they need to.” He says after the death of a loved one, people just want to connect.

“That is the most painful part, I think. That’s the part, the topic that comes up most often -- ‘I can’t wait until we can hug again,’” said Greta Getlein, with The Cathedral Church of St. Paul in Burlington. which has had no indoor services the past year. Getlein agrees that not being able to gather is tough but says Zoom has helped people gather for an online remembrance. “I won’t say it’s a complete substitute, nor is it fully fulfilling for the family, but in this time it’s something, and it’s more than we thought it would be.

As for LaVigne Funeral Home, Kennedy says he hopes to host larger in-person gatherings soon. “The catch up is just scheduling, trying to schedule every family with their time frames that work for them with travel,” he said.

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