Funeral directors say funeral restrictions hinder grieving process.

September 22, 2020

Funeral directors say funeral restrictions hinder grieving process.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

The COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan has meant many restrictions. One of those restrictions in much of the state, including Mason County, has been the limitation of a maximum of 10 people gathering inside. Two local funeral directors are speaking out about the necessity of lifting those restrictions, especially as the weather gets cooler. 

Stephanie Kehrer owns Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington, located in Amber Township. Randy Wyman owns Wyman Funeral and Cremation Services in Scottville. Both are concerned about both the short term and long term effects on people that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restrictions have caused. 

“We were able to hold outdoor services, with certain restrictions, throughout most of the summer,” Kehrer said. “This wasn’t always ideal because it wasn’t necessarily what the survivors of the deceased necessarily wanted. Early on we had drive-up viewings with no family present. We have had a lot of graveside services. We have also had services in churches, which are considered religious services and therefore exempt from the executive orders. But, as the weather gets colder, we need to return to having the option of holding visitations and services at the funeral home itself.”

Wyman said the irony of the governor’s efforts to keep people safe and healthy is that many mourners are finding themselves not dealing with their grief, which has unsafe and unhealthy long-term effects. 

“With these restrictions there have been many families and friends of those who have passed who have been unable to have closure,” Wyman said. “Restricting how many people can come to someone’s mother’s funeral is not a healthy way to grieve. You don’t have the opportunity to honor the person and let the family know that their mom mattered.”

Kehrer said many families chose to hold off on having funerals for their loved ones. This too means that people aren’t allowed to properly have closure. 

“This just isn’t right,” Kehrer said. 

Compared to other states in the Great Lakes region, Michigan has the heaviest restrictions by far, Wyman said. Ohio and Wisconsin have no limits on the number of people who can attend funerals; Indiana residents are limited to 250; Illinois, 50 and the event is considered a religious ceremony; Minnesota, it’s 50% capacity up to 50 people and it also is considered a religious ceremony. 

Both Kehrer and Wyman agree that a funeral should be considered a religious ceremony. Whitmer’s executive orders specifically state that the executive orders cannot conflict with the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment restricts the government from interfering with religious practices. 

“However, that’s not the case,” Kehrer said. “Funeral homes are licensed and the governor’s office has weaponized LARA (Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs) against funeral homes and other businesses that must have a license.” 

Wyman agrees. “The state can come in to my place any time and shut us down before due process,” he said. “This is the threat the governor’s office has used. It’s not how someone should govern.” 

Funeral directors, represented by the Michigan Funeral Directors Association, are becoming more vocal about the restrictions on funerals, especially since the governor has relaxed restrictions on other venues, such as gyms and movie theaters. 

Kehrer said she has sent multiple letters to the governor’s office and not one of them have been answered. 

“This just isn’t right,” Kehrer said. “People deserve to grieve in the way they feel is right for them, not in a way that the government tells them to. We need more citizens to be vocal about this and tell the governor’s office and their local legislators that this is wrong.” 

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This story is copyrighted © 2020, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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