Coppell resident Jason Dyke is used to having the tough conversations most people never want to think about. He's the president of Carson's Village, a nonprofit that provides free help to families facing the sudden death of a loved one.
A note to readers: this story mentions suicide. If you are in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
"Once we get the plan in place, you can just hear the relief in their voice," Dyke said. As in, "'Oh my gosh, there's someone here to help me that's not going to charge me money, that's not asking for anything in return.'"
Dyke started the group after a loss in his own family.
His son Carson died by suicide in 2017. Dyke and his family found themselves navigating the aftermath largely on their own, and he thought there must be countless families like his who need more support.
Through Carson's Village, Dyke and his team help families with whatever they may need after a loved one dies, from managing funeral arrangements, to creating memorial websites and connecting with mental health services.
Now, that work is being complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
"The funerals are for the living, not the dead," Dyke said. "Every mourner needs that human touch, and it's hard to close that grief without that human touch."
Carson's Village recently worked with its first family that lost a loved one to COVID-19, but Dyke said the mourning process has been transformed for everyone, regardless of cause of death.
"There are people [whose] loved one didn't pass from coronavirus," he said. "They don't have coronavirus, but they have to follow all those guidelines because of the situation that's there, and they're affected just as if their loved one did die from coronavirus."
Restrictions around large gatherings mean some families are streaming funerals online. Others have designated shifts for visitation, scheduling a few people at a time to come by and pay their respects.
"We've encouraged people to plant trees, write letters to the people so they can express their emotions, but it's amazing how so much has changed from where I was standing in January to where we are right now in April," Dyke said. "Everybody's mourning not only the loss of a way of life, but the loss of their loved one, and that's just complicating all that grief."
It's tough to say when that grieving process may be uncomplicated. Health officials say social distancing is helping reduce transmission, but they're preparing for a possible surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.
"We are, based on our own data, flattening the curve," said Dr. Philip Huang, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services. "We're estimating that the peak right now may occur towards the end of April or the beginning of May, but it continues to change."
Jason Dyke said Carson's Village is preparing to help a potential influx of families as the coronavirus pandemic suspends the norms of the mourning process. Families may be grieving in isolation, but Dyke said they don't have to do it alone.
"We want to make sure that they're healing in a healthy way," he said.