NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Dealing with death during a pandemic can feel especially isolating. When traditional funerals and support group settings are no longer an option, places in New Mexico where people go to grieve are now reaching out in new ways.
“It’s a difficult time for people under normal circumstances,” explained Jonathan Dyck, General Manager of French Funerals and Cremations in Albuquerque.
When someone dies, one of the first things families usually do is gather. Relatives and friends come from all over for the memorials and funerals.
“One of the big changes for them is the separation that is caused as a result of this outbreak,” Dyck said.
He understands grieving families are in a tough place right now. At a time when a hug or handshake can make all the difference, people are now forced to stay home and self-isolate.
“We’re doing our best to try to remain connected with them, and allow them to connect with other people that they love who are in the same circumstance,” Dyck said.
While the funeral home is no longer taking walk-ins, they are making a lot of calls. Like other funeral homes, French is limiting viewings and memorial services to five family members per the governor’s order. They also offer webcasting services for friends and relatives that can’t be there.
Dyck encourages people to seek resources. Places like the New Mexico Children’s Grief Center offer support groups and workshops to hundreds of New Mexicans a year. According to the CGC, there are roughly 121,000 people under the age of 25 in New Mexico who have experienced the death of a parent or sibling.
“We have to get creative, and we get to use all of our virtual tools,” explained Jade Richardson Bock, Interim Executive Director of the New Mexico Children’s Grief Center.
“The things that we have in common are more significant than the things that keep us separate,” Richardson Bock added. “And I’ve seen over and over again the power of peer support.”
Fifteen-year-old Kyra Sillence and her mom know the value of peer support since Kyra’s dad died five years ago. They attended the Children’s Grief Center support groups for four years.
“I’ve seen families who’ve gone through grief situations without seeking outside support and most of them eventually end up at the point where they’re at a crisis situation, that they need to get some sort of outside support,” Kristen explained.
Kristen and her daughter have a message for grieving families right now.
“Don’t shut each other out, be there for each other and your famliy members,” Kyra said.
While the campus at the Grief Center is now empty, they’re still hosting meetings online and offering resources for families at home.
“We are part of a robust, strong community and I know that we will continue to do this work with everybody’s help,” Richardson Bock explained.
“The cards, the messages, the emails, the phone calls, all of that is just as important and just as meaningful as having them there physically,” added Kristen.
The Santa Fe National Cemetery where veterans are laid to rest is not holding any services or gatherings at this time.