TAMPA, Fla. — Coronavirus and social distancing are dictating that we can't visit sick loved ones in the hospital or even say goodbye, no matter the illness.

Coronavirus concerns also mean many families are holding off on funeral services.


“This was unexpected as of course I thought, as any parent does, this is not the natural progression," said Carol Radtke of Tampa of the loss of her 35-year-old son, Chris. 

Current conditions considered, there's nothing natural about how Radtke is mourning.

“Any of this was new to me to begin with, then to take it to the level of coronavirus,” said Radtke. "The emotional attachment, the friends and family want to be here for you and you want to them to be here."

The Tampa mother says she's missing closure.

“As much as I can digest this every day a little bit at a time, it is hard to imagine it’s happened because there is no physical memory or contact or any of those rituals that we familiarize ourselves with or we accept as knowing someone has truly passed," said Radtke. "But we haven’t had that and I don’t know at this moment when we will."

Coronavirus isn't only impacting how this mother mourns. It's also keeping her from visiting her other son, Ryan, Chris' twin brother, who is sick in the same hospital where Chris passed away while being treated for pneumonia.

“At times I get to see him through a window, that’s it,” said Radtke who communicates with Ryan frequently on the phone.

Radtke says a service is already planned for Chris. It will be held when Ryan is well enough and when family and friends can gather.

Families forced to wait for funerals

Like Radtke, many families are waiting to hold services, says Keenan Knopke, President & CEO of Curlew Hills Memory Gardens in Palm Harbor.

"What we did for years and even up until a month ago, you can’t do anymore," said Knopke. "We have families that we’re serving that are saying, 'can we wait two or three months to have something? Can we hold my mom or dad or loved one for that long?' and we’re going to accommodate those people."

During that time, Psychologist Dr. Steve O'Brien has suggestions for families.

"People tend to grieve a little bit better if they’re around people that they care about, or at least in this case digitally," O'Brien explained. "And if they can create some sort of ceremony or ritual of their own."

He went on to say heightened feelings of guilt and regret can come with the stress of this situation. He encourages compassion for self and others.

Carol has been consoled by loved ones by way of social distancing.

“I have so many cards in there," Radtke said. "I don’t have the words — I’d rather have the action, you just don't have that opportunity."

"That's also for your friends and loved ones that you have," she added. "They want to be able to have their own type of grief as well as comfort you."