During COVID-19 our normal grief and mourning rituals have been disrupted. Memorial services are for the living so we can share our grief and find comfort in our community. The reality is that there will always be births and deaths – and the cycle of life will continue through COVID-19. Although some of the deaths may be related to COVID-19 most will not be – but social distancing and COVID-19 will prevent us from gathering for funerals, celebrations of life and memorial services in the way we did in the past.
How COVID-19 is Changing the Grief Process
We will not be able to share or receive physical consolation in the same way. The elements that helped us in the past to such as hugs, kisses and holding each other will only be shared amongst those we live with – not with our larger community of support. During grief we need connection and experiencing this in a community setting will nor be possible right now.
Our Grief over a Lost One is Compounded
It is like we are a triple hit with grief if we lose someone during these times of social distancing and self isolation. There is the grief associated with the loss of the loved one, plus the grief of not being able to participate in our normal rituals which would have comforted us, and then there is the grief we are all feeling about the changing world and our fears around the impact of COVID-19.
We Need to Grieve
It is essential for us to find a way to grieve, even without our normal rituals. If we deny our grief or allow it to compound and grow it will hurt us and cause bigger problems. We might build up emotions until we explode in anger or become detached and disconnected leading to depression – neither of these are healthy alternatives. Grief is natural and we need to find ways to move these feelings in us one way or the other.
Adapting the Grief Process During these Times
Memorials and celebrations of life are an important way to move the strong feelings associated with the loss of a loved one. They bring us comfort and they allow us to honour the person we loved and lost.
- Practice self compassion. Be kind to yourself. This is difficult and we are in uncharted waters. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
- Arrange for a smaller live stream service through an electronic platform within the first few weeks. Many funeral homes are offering this.
- Plan for a service or celebration of life when the summer comes, and you can gather your community together.
- Set up virtual times with close family or friends (2-3 people) through electronic platforms to gather and tell stores about the loved one.
- Create a new ritual at home with those you live with. You can make this as formal or informal as you want. If you are living on your own do a personal ritual that has meaning for you.
- Take an action that reminds you of the person you loved and lost – you can cook the loved one’s favorite meal, tell stories, look at pictures, light a candle, do an art project, plant a tree.
- Write a letter to your loved one or write in your journal.
- Read a book, review grief related resources or articles to help you.
- Set up time with a counsellor who can assist you with moving through the stages of grief. There are many mental health supports available and these can all be done electronically.