As Massachusetts enters the surge of its coronavirus outbreak, with a death toll of more than 1,200, the families of those who died are left to navigate a very different grieving process in the time of social distancing.

Gov. Charlie Baker called it the inability to mourn the way we’re used to “one of the more brutal consequences” of the pandemic, in a press conference Wednesday, as he spoke emotionally about the death of his best friend’s mother.

“It was an extraordinarily painful process for their family, to go through this loss of a critical ritual that people believe in and hold onto, that’s this chance to say goodbye,” he said. “When you talk about where the numbers are going on this, what I’m really thinking about are all those people who aren’t going to have a chance to say goodbye.”

Journalist Colman Herman is one of those people who didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. As he told Emily Rooney on WGBH News’ Greater Boston Thursday, his sister-in-law recently died after contracting COVID-19.

“She was diagnosed with COVID-19 accompanied by pneumonia and we couldn’t go and visit her [in the nursing home.] And we got word that … she was actually being transferred to the hospital and again, of course, we couldn’t visit her,” he said. “Eventually, she died.”

Herman said his niece, his mother-in-law’s daughter, took charge of making the funeral arrangements. But social distancing measures and other coronavirus protections robbed him and his family of their normal funeral traditions.

“When we went to the chapel, very few of us could go. There were no ceremonies involved,” he said. “Then a few cars were allowed to go to the cemetery and when we arrived there, we saw graveyard attendants in hazmat outfits. That shocked the senses and my niece cried out, ‘This is awful.’”

Herman said they weren’t allowed to get out of their cars, so they watched through an open window.

“The rabbi was on the sidewalk and he preached the virtues of God and my sister-in-law and that was it.”

Normally, after a funeral, Herman and his family get together to celebrate the life of their loved one.

“We couldn’t do that this time,” he said. “But we plan to do it if we ever get back to normal, whatever form that might be.”

Until then, Herman is looking back on fond memories.

“I remember she would type my high school and college papers in a time when we had manual typewriters,” he remembered. “And then, as now, I’m a perfectionist and she’d type something and I didn’t like something, the way it looked, and she would patiently do it over until I liked it.”

“She was more like a sister than a sister in law,” he said.