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Watch now: Funeral director concerned about mental health of the grieving during pandemic
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Watch now: Funeral director concerned about mental health of the grieving during pandemic

From the How we're doing in November: Decatur-area residents share pandemic stories series
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Editor's note: This story is part of a series in which reporters check with Central Illinoisans about how their lives have changed in the pandemic. 

MOUNT ZION —Like most people, Ron Johnson has learned to adapt during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a funeral director for Dawson & Wikoff Funeral Homes in Mount Zion, that has meant helping families celebrate the lives of loved ones while taking into account the changing restrictions that have come into play over the past eight months.

With renewed restrictions in place limiting to 10 the number of people who can participate in the services at one time, it’s expected that more families might once again decide to put the services online.

For a person who admittedly isn’t very tech-savvy, one might expect Johnson to say the introduction to that aspect of the business would be the primary thing he learned the last time the restrictions were so tight.

That wasn’t the case.

“I’ve learned that this is horrible,” he said of COVID-19.

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“When we have a death in our community and we cannot have our friends, extended family, and community come together and share in our grief and mourning, long-term mental issues will happen for some people who don’t need social distancing. Instead, they need kind words, gentle hugs, and genuine signs of compassion that only human interaction can bring,” he said. “Grief shared is grief diminished.”

While understating the state’s role in imposing limitations intended to keep coronavirus at bay and the public safe, Johnson is worried that the mental anguish brought on by these state limitations will have “long-lasting” affects.

“I get it. This virus can kill people. It’s killed friends of mine,” he said. But when it comes to funeral services, he wonders “if the cure is worse than the disease.”

While you can’t be there in person, Johnson encourages people to keep those families who have experienced a loss in mind and to reach out in other ways.

“They really need to take the time to share with those families about their loss. They need to be reaching our through cards or telephone calls.”

And for those that decide to have services perhaps several months after a person's passing, he would hope the friends and acquaintances would turn out then, too.

“It is my hope that if you can, attend these services planned in the future for your friends, neighbors and loved ones," he said. "It will be more important than ever for your attendance and outpouring of support to those who have experienced loss and have endured placing their mourning and grieving on hold. Please comfort them with your presence."

How we're doing in July: Decatur-area residents share pandemic stories


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