Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult enough, but the COVID-19 pandemic provided Cress Funeral and Cremation Service with a demanding new challenge; how to best serve families while protecting public health.
“Our whole focus throughout the pandemic was to bring service back for our families, even when health restrictions limited funeral attendance to 10 people,” says Scott Kundinger, Director of Operations at Cress.
The directors at Cress served families by facilitating drive-by visitations, video-conferenced arrangements, streamed services, and held outdoor tent services.
“Funeral directors are passionate about supporting families during and after a loss. We’re here to help,” Kundinger added. “Families wanted to have a service to honor their loved ones with family and friends. We were able to bring a lot of joy to families by providing them with options that worked and that accommodated their grieving.”
Cress knows that grieving is a normal, necessary process that extends well beyond the service. To assist in this process, Cress recently offered the community free monthly video-conferenced grief and loss support sessions, led by counselor Kristen Ernst, owner of The Center for Hope and Healing (hopeandhealingcounseling.com).
“It’s amazing how people reached out to Kristen. We felt it was something that families could benefit from during such a difficult time,” Kundinger says, adding that the sessions provide connection, support and a way to access more resources, if needed.
Ernst says the sessions have been helpful at a trying time.
“People are needing to be with those who are like minded and are going through similar emotions of grief. The virtual session provides a sense of community where people feel safe to express their feelings,” Ernst says.
Ernst echoed Kundinger, pointing out the importance of publicly-expressed grief.
“Public mourning and ceremony give validation to our emotions and help with the grief process,” she says. “Without our ability to gather in person, virtual group sessions, online memorials and other creative ways to mourn are absolutely necessary.”
Christine Mickelson, a managing funeral director at Cress, says her co-workers clung to traditional values as they discovered new avenues which allowed families to begin the grieving process.
“The past months have really encouraged me to rely on communication, education and creativity to ensure the families I am serving are being able to grieve and support one another as much as they can when losing a loved one in such a restricted time,” Mickelson says. “I am grateful to have been a funeral director during this pandemic knowing I gave families every opportunity possible by pushing myself to think out of my comfort zone.”
Cress has also worked to adapt post-service events it conducts for families that have lost loved ones.
“Normally, we have a Service of Remembrance at the end of the year remembering all the loved ones we served over the year. This year we held a virtual remembrance service and more families were able to participate,” Kundinger says. “People told their stories, showed pictures of their loved ones and it was really beneficial for everyone.”
The virtual event was so popular that Cress is considering having both live and virtual events in the future.
Grief and mourning take on even greater significance as Memorial Day approaches. Having experience in providing care and guidance for the families of deceased veterans, Cress has supported veterans groups such as Dryhootch, an organization formed by combat veterans to help veterans in their return home, and local American Legion Posts.
“It’s a good time to honor the veterans who sacrificed in so many different ways throughout their lives. At Cress, it is a privilege and honor to serve veterans and their families and ensure they that have our support. The pandemic won’t change that,” he adds.
Throughout the crisis, staff members comforted area families, driven by a powerful ethic blending service, compassion and empathy – the signature qualities of Cress Funeral and Cremation Service for over 150 years.
New Ideas and Traditional Values at Cress Help Families Through Grief