GRIEF IN THE WORLD OF COVID-19
I suppose there are few things we both dread and desire more than to be with the ones we love in their final moments. To hold their hands and be at their side. As well, after someone dies we want to comfort and be comforted by the physical presence of those we love and care for. To embrace each other. To be together and share the collective grief we are experiencing.
But in these days of social distancing, those ways that we typically cope with grief are not always possible. It has become necessary to find new ways to mourn. And not only for those who are dying from this virus, but also for those who cannot be together out of the fear and caution of spreading it. Rabbi Earl Grollman writes that “grief shared is grief diminished”. But how do cope with our grief and share our loss in these days of isolation?
We know that there are many people who are not able to physically be with their loved ones because of hospital restrictions. It can cause such guilt and remorse. However, while it certainly can be difficult to come to grips with, we must also have some perspective about all the moments for which we were there with them. Hopefully there were many moments that remind us that this person certainly knew how we felt about them. We must take the long view of our life with that person and memories of the times we shared. While it may always be disappointing, we need to avoid ruminating about not doing something that we simply could not do.
And what do we do without funerals as we traditionally have known them? It is a part of our culture to be together in times of loss. Perhaps we can take comfort in the idea that while grief cannot really be postponed, rituals can. We often say that funerals are for living. If that is true, then there will be a time, soon we hope, that we can gather and share our grief collectively. To celebrate our loved one’s life and to embrace those who share our loss. Plan what ways you will memorialize the person when we can congregate again.
Recently Queen Elizabeth reminded us that “we will meet again”. Perhaps in grief, that hope may take on both a spiritual and a practical meaning.
In the meantime...
—As much as it is true any time, it is even more true now that we need to keep in contact with those we know are grieving. We can still talk, and even more importantly listen. Even if it is not in person. Call. Write. Zoom. We could still leave the casserole on the porch. Reach out a stay in touch. Suggest things you could do to be helpful and follow through.
—It has become the norm these days anyway, but make use of social media in a healthy, supportive way. Online memorials with words of comfort and support can be very important.
—Take responsibility for your own needs. I you need to talk, make an effort to reach out rather than waiting. Many people want to help but don’t want to feel they are intruding. Let friends and family know how they can help. Because of what we are all going through right now, people are even more empathic about our common struggles.
—The unique situation that we are in will most certainly complicate the grief process for many. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help if you feel the need.
Greg Syner, LPC