The coronavirus is messing with the ways we grieve and mourn.
All over the news and all over the country, we’re hearing about social distancing – and funeral services aren’t excluded despite their cultural and emotional importance.
In America, funeral directors are staggering events like visitations or wakes to minimize the number of people in a building or room. The government recommends no more than 10 people in a group. Most funerals attract far more.
But mourning rituals aren’t all that’s being impacted by efforts to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19. Along with the rest of the population, mourners are quarantining themselves from people outside their households. At a time the touch and personal warmth of another’s presence can be so essential to the grief process, we cannot look to traditional ways of comfort, like a hug.
I feel you. Though I’m nearly 12 years out on my mother’s death, and I don’t seek out hugs anymore, I find myself longing for her. I want my mommy. I want to share the drama with her.
In 1994, the Memphis area was hit with an unprecedented ice storm. Thousands were without power for several days, and the cleanup was enormous. The weight of the ice downed so many tree limbs that workers couldn’t get to it all for weeks and weeks. I was new at my second full-time reporting job at the time. I was stranded the night of the storm at a house near the newspaper, but as soon as I could, I got back to my parents. We huddled around the dining room table swapping stories about the severity of the ice. But the important thing about that time was we were together, facing the literal storm together. And there was a comfort in that.
This is my first serious pandemic. Probably yours, too. In fact, I cannot recall my parents ever mentioning a pandemic of any consequence in their lifetimes. And yet I want them here to advise me, to give me their wisdom. Mostly, I want them here to ride out the “storm” with me, together as a family.
What about you? Has it been a long time since the death of your loved one and yet now in this world-turned-upside-down, a refreshed longing for your loved one is filling your insides?
What are we to do? Here are my thoughts:
Recognize this is part of the grieving process. A pandemic is a new experience. Each time we face a new experience, we must grieve through it. Sometimes the new event is a new child or grandchild. This time, it is a pandemic.
Create a ritual at home. A psychologist friend actually suggested that in lieu of attending funeral services, light a candle or conduct some other active ritual to express grief or memorialize a loved one. This may apply best to those who have recently lost a loved one, but it also can pertain to those years after the loss.
Write down your feelings. I’m a big believer in the healing properties of journaling. Sheltered away from the usual activities outside the home, we likely have time to sit down and put feelings on paper.
Reach out to individuals in your household in meaningful, safe ways. Thank goodness we’ve got emails, texts and telephones for friends and others. I know that isn’t a substitute for in-person, but that’s what we’ve got now.
Reach deep in prayer to God. No social distancing can keep him away. He’s right where we are, waiting for you to spill out your feelings and thoughts. He wants to calm tensions and fears.
Reach for the Bible. It’s a great place to find comfort. Jesus promised, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” He also said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
What about you? How has social distancing and the events surrounding the pandemic impacted your mourning and grieving? What practices are helping you?
Copyright © 2020 by Toni Lepeska. All rights reserved. www.tonilepeska.com