Grief in the Time of Coronavirus: Coping with Bereavement in Lockdown
Those who have tragically lost loved ones during this period, whether to Covid-19 or unrelated circumstances, will have been denied the ability to gather with friends and family in mourning
Funeral director and author Lianna Champ offers advice on coping with bereavement during lockdown
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Grief is incredibly personal and each loss we experience is like our own fingerprint – unique to each of us. But one thing that absolutely unites us all is the isolation, threat and the loss of all that is familiar in this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It has changed everything we do; how we live and how we die.
With the coronavirus, we already have grief coming at us from all sides as we are forced to face not only the mortality of those we love, but of ourselves too. We have also been denied the physical comfort we need from our family and friends before, during and after a funeral.
Our capacity to cope is greatly reduced even before we have been affected by the death of someone we love. And then when we do experience a death, we are forced to grieve alone as all our usual and expected mourning routines and rituals are denied to us.
Therefore, more than ever we need to find new ways of being emotionally present because we cannot be physically present.
When we can't attend a funeral
Being unable to take part in a funeral with all its rites and rituals has taken away the power of ritualistic healing through this time. And even though we may withdraw into ourselves in this time of lockdown and isolation, it is even more important than ever that we push ourselves to reach out to each other. It is essential to our wellbeing to find new rituals and ways of respecting and honouring those who have died and also of giving our grief our attention. We must adapt to this new way of living and being. We have no choice.
Through this time of forced isolation, we have to accept what is out of our control. It is in this acceptance and letting go of trying to control everything, that we will find our strength. The coronavirus cannot take away our love, our hope and self-care. If we rally against the unfairness, we will block out this love, hope and self-care.
We also have to find new ways of expressing our feelings of grief and of sharing our grief journey with those in our lives. Never has social media been more needed and this will be your lifeline through lockdown.
When someone we love dies, our physical relationship with them ends, but our emotional relationships lasts as strongly until we die. And this is why our memories and sharing them with each other is such an important part of healing.
Bereavement is the ultimate experience which forces major change in our lives, so it is vital that we allow ourselves to feel the pain of our grief, to wallow in it and come through the other side. This is how we heal – by recognising and experiencing our emotional pain when it happens. The ability to experience and to share our emotions is all part of being human.
We must allow ourselves to let it be ok to survive and not to blind ourselves from finding meaningful ways to continue the bonds we have those we have lost.
Try a Zoom family and friends gathering. Make sure that the chat can be downloaded at the end. Before starting the conference, ask everyone to write down what the person who has died meant to them, their favourite memory or how they met etc. Then they can read it out in the chat. The chat can then be downloaded and the memories collated.
Agree a set time with family and friends when you all light a candle at the same time next to a photograph and play a favourite song. When we light candles, we come into communion with each other spiritually and we give an energy into the spirit world of the person who has died. In her Easter speech, HM The Queen spoke of the power of light overcoming darkness. And so it is that when we gather in spiritual community and hold someone in the light, we invite a healing power. By lighting our candles we invite the power of love, grace and inner strength and peace. This unity means that no-one is left alone with their grief, that you can reach out to each other with your words, your videos and help comfort one another at this time.
Sign up to marcopolo.me where you can record then send your videos and it doesn’t have to be watched in real-time. It feels a lot more personal and is perfect across time zones.
Self-isolation presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation. So, rather than living from the outside in, this teaches us to live from within. There is much learning to be had in meditational or prayerful silence.
We also must not forget that we need to fall into our grief, to feel the pain, let it wash over us and come through the other side. This is how we heal.
We need to be honest with ourselves – with our feelings and in the words we use when we talk to others about how we feel. When we reach out to others with honesty, we open a door to new conversations, to making it ok to put our pain into words, to listen to each other with respect and accept each other’s words with an open heart. Our words and feelings are our own, they don’t need to match those of anyone else. When we talk about how we feel, we aren’t having a conversation, we are making a statement. Take turns to express your feelings and thank each other for listening.
Memory is how we hold onto the things we love. Let our happy memories be our comfort in these times of need. Speak them out to each other and keep the spiritual bond shining. In the midst of brokenness and broken-heartedness, may we know the grace of love that sustains us.
When I miss those I have lost, I am always glad for the life we had.
Stay well, stay safe.
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in funeral care and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ: