Grief in the Time of COVID-19: How Do We Heal When We Can’t Gather?
Remember, no one you know has navigated a loss during a global pandemic. This isn’t something you should magically know how to do, or have all of the answers for.
On a normal day, social distancing around COVID-19 can feel isolating, but when you add grief to the mix, things can become more challenging. Even when we anticipate the passing of a loved one, there is a shock that comes, and a natural inclination to lean on those we have come to depend on.
So, how do we find comfort when we cannot hug one another?
How do we celebrate a life when we cannot physically gather together?
Grief Isn’t Linear
No matter when a loss happens, it can be helpful to remember that no two people grieve the same. You may have days where you feel almost normal, followed by days where the weight of the loss feels more intense. People who are grieving often feel a sense of disbelief that other people are continuing with life as usual, even when time seems to have stopped in their own world. Right now, this feeling can be heightened, as other people are preoccupied with news and concerns around the pandemic, leaving them with little awareness to consider your sense of loss.
Giving yourself permission to feel a range of emotions can make a huge difference in how you are able to navigate this time. While a large number of businesses are closed due to state regulations, you may find that many grief counselors and therapists are happy to meet with you via video conferencing or a phone call. Having someone who is able to hold space for you and gently guide you through this time can help to alleviate some of the feelings of disconnection you may be experiencing. A counselor or therapist will also offer you a space to vent any frustrations you are feeling with friends and family, which may be running high right now.
Announcing a Death in the Midst of a Pandemic
It may be helpful to remember that just because people are not reaching out to you, doesn’t mean they don’t care. It’s possible that in the social “noise” of the pandemic, they haven’t yet heard the news of the passing. You can be sure your friends receive the news directly by sending out emails, making phone calls, or using Everdays, which generates a beautiful and compassionate message you can share via text with select contacts in your phone. Your funeral director can create a free Everdays invitation for you in just a few moments. However you choose to share the news, you will likely see and feel more support as more people become aware of the loss.
Funerals in the Coronavirus Pandemic
You might be wondering if you should or how to hold services.
Depending on where you live, there are likely specific rules around gatherings now, and those rules will play a part in your planning. It may make sense to hold a small, family-only gathering now, and look towards a larger, more public gathering when restrictions are lifted. Your funeral director can work with you to decide what makes the most sense, and what will give you and your family the most peace.
A small and unexpected silver lining to postponing services is that you now have longer to plan. Generally, families only have a few days to organize a service. In light of recent events, you will now have weeks if not months to carefully design a gathering that will truly honor a life well lived if you choose.
This may be a wonderful time to reach out to your friends and loved ones, and ask them to:
- Send their favorite photos of your loved one
- Share stories of their most treasured moments with them
- Suggest songs that remind them of the person you’ve lost.
Imagine the memories you could collect in the time you now have, and the comfort everyone will take in sharing them together once a physical gathering is possible.
“We must be willing to give up the life we’ve planned, so we can live the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell
Regardless of what is going on in the world around you, your loss is entirely personal, and you deserve the space and time to grieve however you choose. Whether you share the news with a handful of friends or a few hundred, whether you hold services now or a year from now, your loved one’s life mattered, and the feelings you are working through are real. Be gentle with yourself as you move through the days ahead, and reach out to friends or professionals for help whenever you need it. There is no shame in recognizing that this is hard, and you may be pleasantly surprised at all the ways people can support you, even from far away, if you just let them know you are open to it.