Losing a loved one is an enviable part of life. Sometimes it is an unexpected loss that shatters our world. Other times, it is an ending we see coming. No matter the circumstances, or how prepared you think you are, it still rocks us to our core.
There is no standard or 'normal' way to grieve. Everyone has to accept and deal with their loss in their own way and timing. However, as a society, we have developed rituals and traditions to help us cope through the grieving process. COVID-19 has destroyed, or at least significantly, delayed most of those traditions.
When You Can't Be There To Say Good-Bye
One of the most fearful and distressing thoughts is to die alone. That is why people move heaven and earth to be by their loved one's side at the end. Holding a hand. Saying a prayer. A sweet whisper. All of those things help both the one passing and the one left.
The one tragedy from this virus that is not being openly addressed is the inability for loved ones to be in the hospital room at the end. There are heart-breaking stories of family members not being allowed to sit by the bedside of the dying.
Hospitals and other facilities have had to think outside the box. Facetime and other video services are used to communicate with the patient to say good-bye. Nurses are taking their time to facilitate these calls and communication. They are sometimes the last ones there to help usher the loved one on.
There is no do-over, and those families dealing with this heartache are in uncharted waters. This will be an added layer of grief they will carry with them. I understand all this sounds heart-wrenching, and why have I chosen to talk about it?
Because they need a voice. They need us to understand and grieve with them. They need to know they are not alone. And if this has happened to you, I want you to know we will collectively hold you while you grieve.
The Stolen Funeral
Whether you call it a funeral, celebration of life, visitation or services, the last formal gathering of friends and family to remember the life of the deceased has now been taken away.
Funeral homes have the unique challenge now of how to help facilitate the end of life process and still follow the rules on no large gatherings and social distancing. People cannot congregate, hug, reminiscence and grieve together.
Some people have chosen to Facetime or live stream the services with only a few in actual attendance. There was one story about a drive-in visitation where the casket was placed outside and mourners drove by to pay their respects. Others are opting to postpone the funeral until all the chaos has passed.
Either way, there is a void left for many people. No sense of closure. The wound stays open with no loving stitches to start the healing. I've put together a few ways to hopefully find the beginnings of peace.
Write A Letter
In this digital age, letters have been replaced with texts and instant messaging. But writing a letter can be very cathartic and healing. Put down on paper all the things you want this person to know. Your thoughts. Feelings. Memories.
The expression of love, even in written form, releases some of the pain and allows for the healing to begin. You can keep the letter along, with a few momentos of your time spent together, in a decorative box. You can re-read and remember when you are feeling sad.
When, and if, a formal gathering is planned for later you may wish to share the letter at that time also.
Light A Candle
There is something soothing and calm about a lit candle.
Take your favorite photo of your loved one and place it beside a candle. Sit in the stillness and quiet and peacefully reflect on their life and the impact they had on yours.
It does us all good to shut out the madness for just a few minutes and focus on love.
Play Their Favorite Song
Music is a great way to feel connected to someone. It evokes memories and closeness.
Crank up their favorite song. Let the music bring comfort. Whether it is a love song, high energy tune or inspiring hymn, just knowing the song brought joy and happiness to their life will do the same for you.
Make A Photo Collage
Pictures are an ever-present reminder of great times and memories. Take some time to go through photos of your loved one. The activity or time frame doesn't matter. Collect as many as you want.
When you have all of them together, make a collage. Print it out, frame it, and place somewhere that when you see it, you are filled with love and warmth.
If you need help with doing this online, here is information on where to start.
Donate or Volunteer In Their Honor
Most everyone has a cause that is near and dear to their heart. They pour their time, energy and even money into projects that are important to them.
One way to honor your loved one is to take up where they left off. Actually going somewhere to help at this time may not be possible, but look for other ways to help.
You can donate money. Some organizations are collecting non-perishable foods as food banks are running low. Other places are preparing actual meals for delivery. Senior living facilities and nursing homes are filled with lonely people, some not understanding why their loved ones can't visit. A phone call to one of them could make their day.
I haven't researched this, but here is an article for a whole list of volunteering opportunities from home.
Whatever passion your loved one had, find a way to express it for them in their absence. It will bring peace to you and be a great source of help to others as well.
These are unprecedented times. So much of what is taking place is new to us. We are all doing our best to cope, thrive and stay safe.
The unfortunate reality is that some people will lose loved ones. Whether it is from COVID-19, or other causes, they will have to deal with the new (temporary) reality of how to deal with grieving and loss during new rules and social distancing.
There are no right or wrong ways to feel. It will be overwhelming and devastating for some.
If you are the 'some', then please know you will get through this. Don't lose hope. Don't despair. Feel what you need to feel. Express those feelings in a safe way to those you trust. Rely on the love and support of those around you.
If you are spared this reality, then do your best to be part of that love and support for others. No judgments. No rants. Just patience and understanding for unimaginable difficulties.
My Hopefuls, I know this post has not necessarily been my most uplifting. This is an unfolding situation that breaks my heart and I have no real answers. I just want us all to be aware of the real pain that some are experiencing, and I want us all to be there. Together. To get through this. And come out stronger.
And to always...
Hope With Abandon