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Coronavirus' Cruel Impact On Family Mourning In Our New World Of Isolation

SAN LORENZO (KPIX) -- In the grim new reality of the coronavirus pandemic, the way we grieve for our loved ones who have died has changed.

Grissom's Chapel and Mortuary in San Lorenzo was one of the first in Alameda County to prepare arrangements for a COVID-19 victim and not a single person was able to be here to celebrate that person's life.

"Because the family was under mandatory quarantine ... my staff and I thought outside the box and we had a whole funeral over the phone," said Grissom's owner Lisa Bradshaw.

"We prayed over the body prior to the body being cremated. It was the saddest moment in my career," Bradshaw said.

Newly-released state guidelines only allow 10 people to attend funeral services.

Fortunately for family members, Grissom's Mortuary had a system already installed which allows mourners to join a password-protected video feed to watch the service.

There are limits to what technology can offer.

"Human connection -- the ability to get that hug or hear that story or something about that person you loved -- gives you comfort and makes it easier," Bradshaw explained.

The restriction on funeral services was one of the reasons Diane Machado Wyant decided to delay holding a service for her brother, Kenny Machado, who lived near Hollister in San Benito County and died from complications of COVID-19.

"Since then I haven't been able to be with my parents and go through the grieving process with them because they're in a senior living community and they won't allow visitors so it's pretty hard," Wyant said. She says she felt isolated during the grieving process but she has taken extra time to prepare a service that her brother -- nicknamed "Cowboy Kenny" -- would have wanted.

"My brother was pretty well known all over the world and we want to make sure we can do a pretty ample celebration of his life," Wyant said.

She believes her brother may have contracted the virus during a month-long trip to Thailand to celebrate his 60th birthday.

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