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How families are virtually mourning during coronavirus

March 31, 2020 Scott Enman
Lisa Dozier has been organizing live-streamed funeral processions for families during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
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As coronavirus continues to spread across New York City, claiming the lives of 914 people as of Monday evening, grieving residents are being asked to mourn their loved ones in a drastically different way: through live-streaming.

With Americans instructed to stay home, practice social distancing and avoid groups of 10 or more people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and those within the funeral service industry are advising against in-person memorials in an effort to stop the spread of the infection.

Jason Tryoger, Ph.D. at Mt. Hope Grief Services, told the National Funeral Directors Association in a webinar on Friday that, although this can be a challenging time for those in need of physical comfort, video services could still provide solace.

“Whether it’s a handshake, whether it’s an arm around the shoulder … all of these things we’re just not able to do right now,” Tryoger said. “I know it’s something that can be challenging. You’re used to it being such a personal interaction, an opportunity to share stories and help them make pre-need arrangements. It really is going to be utilizing that technology.”

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Lisa S. Dozier Funeral Services on Atlantic Avenue. The funeral parlor has been offering live-streamed funeral services for years to accommodate family members who cannot physically attend ceremonies. During the coronavirus pandemic, the practice has become more popular. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Brooklyn native Lisa Dozier — who has been operating a funeral home in East New York for over two decades — has offered live streaming for years to accommodate her Caribbean-based clientele, but the demand for it has increased radically during the outbreak.

“We had family members that lived in other countries and were unable to make it due to visa problems,” she said. “They were unable to come to the services and so that was our response back then to that situation. When the coronavirus crisis occurred, we just took the same concept and it was just for a different reason.”

Since the pandemic hit New York City, Dozier said about 80 percent of funerals arranged with her have been related to the coronavirus.

Dr. David Berendes, an epidemiologist at CDC, said that any in-person services should be reserved for members of the immediate family and that social distancing and proper hand hygiene should be implemented.

Lisa Dozier sprays disinfectant after meeting with a family to discuss their loved one’s upcoming funeral service. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Lisa Dozier sprays disinfectant after meeting with a family to discuss their loved one’s upcoming funeral service. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Dozier’s live streaming accommodation offers just that: a normal funeral service with an organist and minister for up to 10 guests, as well as cameras set up throughout the church or funeral parlor.

She said feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from family members who have had a chance to be part of the service remotely. The live stream also allows those watching to write comments in real time similar to Facebook Live.

“They’ll know that people are with them, even if not physically,” she said. “We are social creatures. It’s typically normal for people to draw strength from that physical hug. So to know that that they’re not alone, that there are family members and friends who can join in remotely, it can alleviate some of the pain.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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