Special Report: Working during the COVID-19 pandemic as a funeral director

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From healthcare workers to first responders, navigating through the pandemic has been difficult for many but there is another profession that's seen the toll the pandemic has taken on families.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Grant Siemens has helped thousands of families during his 33 years working as a funeral director.

More than half of his career has been spent at Heritage Funeral Home of Springdale.

We sat down with Siemens and discussed how the pandemic affected him and changed the lives of those he serves.

Q: How has working during the pandemic compared to years prior?

Grant Siemens: “Every day it seemed like something changed that we would have to adapt with and find a way to serve the families that called on us.”

Q: Take us back to the beginning of the pandemic when restrictions started, how were services like when there could only be 10 or fewer people.

Grant Siemens: “I don’t doubt it impeded the grieving process with a lot of people. You know other families would say we are going to do something simple now but in the future, we will plan a service. Well, so many times when we delay those types of gatherings they never end up happening and so for that fact a lot of folks didn’t have that opportunity to express their grief in a public event and have that support system in place.”

WEB EXTRA: Grant Siemens explains how procedures changed during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect employees. Watch his response below.

Q: Being based in Springdale, home to a large Marshallese community, what was that like to see this community be hit so hard by COVID-19?

Grant Siemens: “Over the years we have served a lot of our Marshallese families, and developed great relationships there. It was very difficult to see the number of deaths that affected that community in particular. The last thing we want to do is tell a family ‘no’ and that was one of the unfortunate things of the pandemic, there were some things a family would want and it was not possible because of the mandates and the safety that we needed to observe.”

Q: Was there one specific service that struck a chord in you or one that you will never forget?

Grant Siemens: “All of life is precious but when a young mother is taken away from her children because of this disease or a young father is not there to help his kids, those have an effect on you. I can always remember the old fella I began working for years ago. He told me when I was a young man that if you ever get to a point where something doesn’t touch you or affect you, then it’s probably time to look for a new profession and I’ve always used that as a bell-weather to keep myself in check.”

Q: A lot of people are going to be listening and watching and they may be dealing with their own grief in their own life, what message would you want to give them?

Grant Siemens: “So many times in our society we don’t want to talk about death, we don’t want to talk about our grief but if we can share those things with others it helps to lighten that load a little bit so don’t be afraid to reach out for help and to express what’s going on in your own mind and heart.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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