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Remembering A Life Blog


The pandemic has created unusually complicated death and grief circumstances for many people personally affected by COVID-19. If someone you love has died from the novel coronavirus, you have certain “rights” that no one can take away from you. This list is intended both to empower you to heal in ways that work for you, and to decide how others can and cannot help.

Ambiguous loss is a loss that can lead grievers to question if a real loss has even occurred. Ambiguous losses are complicated, involving unforeseen – even unimaginable – circumstances that create a lingering sense of uncertainty and overwhelm about not only what is being felt but also what has been lost. Not being able to go to the health club – is that a real loss? What about feeling isolated whereas before you felt a sense of belonging, safety and security?  Desired foods and products no longer available at the grocery store? Seeing daily counts of the sick and dead on television?

Grieving Alone and Together

Anyone who experiences the death of a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic knows current social distancing requirements have limited their ability to have a meaningful funeral or memorial service. They may also further complicate an already complicated grieving process. In this interview with Dr. Sara Murphy, Dr. Murphy explores how our responses to grief may differ after experiencing a loss during this time. An audio recording of the interview is also available.

If you would like to support a grieving person during this time, you might feel unsure about what to say or do. After all, many of the time-honored methods of demonstrating your care and concern—such as attending the funeral, or stopping by the family’s home to offer an embrace and your presence—aren’t options. Yet you can still be a light in this dark time using five principles.

If someone you love has died of the novel coronavirus, it is likely that you are facing a number of challenging circumstances. Grief is always difficult, but it is especially difficult whenever a death is sudden, unexpected, and unfolds in ways that violate our expectations and put up barriers to the cultural grief rituals that help us through.

Nurturing Hope in Difficult Times

What is hope? It’s an expectation of a good that is yet to be. It is an inner knowing that the future holds positive things. It is trust that no matter the current circumstances, the days to come will reveal happiness. It’s forward-looking—yet experienced in the now. Like mourning, nurturing hope is active. It’s something we can do. Let’s look at what we can do to embrace hope even as we are experiencing the many losses caused by this pandemic.

Alongside the physical pandemic, the novel coronavirus is causing a pandemic of grief. That’s what we’re all feeling right now—grief. It’s important to recognize that. Grief is everything we think and feel inside of us whenever our attachments are threatened, harmed, or severed. We experience shock and disbelief. We are anxious, which is a form of fear. We become sad and possibly lonely. We get angry. We feel guilty or regretful. The sum total of all these and any other thoughts and feelings we are experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is our grief.

Every one of us is living in an unsettling and uncertain cultural space right now – we may be caught between anticipatorily fearing becoming sick or losing a loved one to this virus while also grappling with real-time non-death losses that are impacting us in ways that are often overlooked.

Needless to say, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 is a challenging time for everyone. But if someone you love has died, it is likely that the current social distancing orders and travel restrictions are making funeral planning especially difficult for your family.  Losing a loved one is hard enough. Losing a loved one at a time of unprecedented upheaval and limitations may seem overwhelming. I am sorry you have been put in this position, and I hope this article will help your family find ways to meet your mourning needs and honor the person who died while making any necessary adjustments to keep everyone safe.

The novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, presents many unique challenges for those who are grieving. Whether their loved one died of complications of coronavirus or through any other means, bereaved persons are now making difficult decisions about funerary services in a time of social distancing, often after experiencing little or no time with their loved one in their final days as a result of new visitation limitations in place at health care and hospice facilities. Because the coronavirus pandemic is not expected to be resolved in weeks but is projected to intensify and continue for months, it is important that we radically reorient the ways in which we provide support for grieving persons.