So someone dies and most of us know what to do – whether it’s a funeral, a memorial , a gathering of sorts, a cremation, a wake, a shiva or a celebration of life – we do something that honours the deceased. Not now. Due to the potential spread of the coronavirus – given the current directives around social distancing the community has no choice but to put an abrupt stop to these types of rituals – the very rituals that provide comfort and guidance when someone we love dies.

Grieving together has been an integral part of the grieving process regardless of race, religion or beliefs. It’s what helps the mourners navigate through some of the toughest moments of the grief process. The very idea of social isolation during this period is completely contradictory to what is so valuable. Social connection is what drives peoples ability to cope. COVID-19 has taken away that option…or has it? Perhaps we just need to get creative about how we grieve in a world of COVID-19. We need to look at what we can do rather than what has been taken away from us.

So Now What?

Here are some basic suggestions that I hope will help you or someone who wants to support you in mourning the death of a loved one during social isolation:

Maintain Mourning Rituals: Even though they may not look the same as they normally would, however, reciting prayers on your own, lighting candles, and/or creating new rituals will help with acknowledging and processing the death of a loved one.

Record the Service – Ask the funeral home to tape or record the service so that it may be shared digitally with those who cannot attend. In the day of technology many funeral homes already practice this – given our current circumstances, we need to request this now more than ever.

Create and/or utilize ‘On line Guestbooks’: This is an important tool that family members & friends far and wide can participate in as a way of sharing their thoughts and feelings.

Connect via Social Media: you can send a voice message, Skype, or FaceTime with the bereaved – it’s the next best (and safest way) to be present without putting anyone at risk.

Delay the Memorial Service: While health laws in most areas prohibit delaying burials, families can plan a memorial at any time in the future.

Make a donation to the deceased favourite charity – anyone can call and/or make a donation on line. This not only sends a message to the bereaved family that you are thinking of them, it also contributes to a worthy cause.

Remember social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. So while we need to maintain a safe physical distance, when a death occurs, we can still create ways to be together emotionally. After all, the best thing to hold onto in life (and death) is each other!

Written by,
Corrie Sirota MSW, PSW.