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Remembering A Life Blog


Love and loss are inextricably linked phenomena. Without one, we do not truly experience the other. In this year of mourning, we must remember and hold fast to love – both the love we shared with those who have died, as well as the love we give to and receive from those who bring joy to our lives.

My first grandchild was born in early 2020, right as the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining momentum. I got a social-distancing, several-feet-away peek at him early on, but then we were kept apart for three long months out of an abundance of caution that his mom (my daughter), 60-something me, and the healthy-but-vulnerable newborn all stayed safe. As the shelter-in-place weeks slogged by, I found myself more and more impatient to hold the little guy. Like so many people the world over, I was becoming touch deprived.

Over the past few months, the covid-19 pandemic has expanded the usual definition of anticipatory grief. Mandated sheltering-in aimed at slowing the virus’s spread collectively and individually took us from the flow, routine and rhythm of normal life and abruptly dropped us into an uncertain present and future. Now as we mourn the loss of thousands of lives and what once was, many of us are also anticipating and grieving pandemic-related short-term and long-term losses yet to come.

If someone you love has died during the novel coronavirus pandemic, you have come to grief in an exceptionally challenging moment in history. You may have been separated from your loved one as they were dying. You may have been unable to view or spend time with the body after the death. You may have been prevented from having the full funeral you wanted because of gathering and travel restrictions. And people who care about you may not have been able to be near you to support you in your grief. These and other pandemic-related barriers to the cultural grief rituals we rely on may be making your grief journey especially painful.

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.

Uncertainty can make any experience of loss more complex and challenging. Currently, we are experiencing uncertainty not only in terms of our individual futures but also in regard to the people who matter to us. The nature of what we know about the novel coronavirus undoubtedly exacerbates this uncertainty, and as we learn more regarding its nature, spread, and life-threatening complications, we may feel more and more overwhelmed. How can we navigate uncertainty under the weight of the secondary losses and non-death losses that we are individually experiencing? How can we respond healthily to our emotions in this frenetic and upsetting time?

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.