If someone you love has died during this pandemic, the grief and anxiety has been magnified.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has had an unprecedented impact on how we live and work, limiting our ability to interact with others and freely move about in the world. Tragically, it also affecting our ability to pay tribute to loved ones who have died.
The familiar rituals of gathering in person for a visitation and service are limited because of social distancing during this pandemic. The gathering of friends and family is how we have always grieved in our society. The line that once formed to greet and express condolences, the hug when you were reached, the offer of a tissue, shared stories one to one, or even the shared meal to console, are not happening right now in the midst of this pandemic. Some funeral homes are offering options of a modified gathering with repeated disinfecting, limited attendance and strict social distancing. However, some family and friends may still be fearful of possible exposure.
Virtual Grieving May Be Limited Help
You may have noticed that increasingly funeral homes are offering virtual gatherings and social media options like Zoom or something similar as an alternate way copy/mimic visitation and service gathering. Time will tell whether or not this attempt to come close to the familiar rituals will be comforting enough to help families and loved ones in their grief.
Still, what about those who do not use a computer or have an iPhone or other way to connect?
Virtual gathering to grieve and express condolences do not work for everyone.
Postponing Signs Of Support
Since being together is limited and virtual gatherings may not be a significant comfort, another option is to postpone. Whatever the choice, we need each other to grieve and mourn, and we need to be even more careful and more creative with how we give and receive comfort from others.
How To Show Support Now
Simple ways to show your support for a friend or loved one who is grieving include:
- A phone call – keeping it short and simple, "I care about you," or "I am praying for you."
- If family has posted on social media, respond appropriately.
- Prayer - if you say you will pray, pray! Touch into the heart of God for the person(s) who are having a hard time.
- A handwritten note – tell a story about the loved one and you, tell in specific ways what that person meant to you, and/or why you will miss them.
- Listen - without comment or advice. Never say, "I know how you feel," "He is in a better place," "God needed him," "You will get over this," "He is not suffering any longer," "He would not want you to be sad," or "You are so brave." Instead, let them know you care and you want to help.
- Deliver - flowers, plant, or other creative expressions of your love and support.
Instead of asking if there is anything you can do, find a way to help that will lighten the load and yet not be intrusive.
- Prepare a home-cooked meal (in disposable containers so easier for the family)
- Deliver take out from a favorite restaurant
- Mow their lawn if they do not have a regular lawn service.
Showing Support After Social Distancing
Grief may continue long after the social distancing from a pandemic. Once restrictions have been lifted, consider:
- Offering dinner at your house
- Asking if you may give the gift of cleaning bathrooms, a refrigerator or garage.
By Karla Riggs Norton, MATS, MACC
Bereavement Coordinator, Franciscan Hospice House