Coping with grief during COVID-19

The spread of the coronavirus has taken a huge emotional toll on the community.

It’s changed the way we communicate with our friends and colleagues. It’s changed how we fill our leisure time. And it’s changed how – and if – we can spend time with our families.

Importantly, it’s changed how we experience grief. However, by being aware of your emotional, social and spiritual health, and deliberately focusing on your own self care, you can mitigate the effects of this ‘grief pandemic’.

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Turn on the TV. Tune into the radio. Scroll through the news on your smartphone or tablet. All day and all night, the news is focused on one thing. Coronavirus. It’s here and it’s spreading. Every day, across the world, new measures are being put in place in an effort to stem the spread of infection.

In Australia, we’ve witnessed panic buying at grocery stores. Testing clinics are swamped. Sporting and cultural events have been cancelled. And we’re being urged to take social distancing seriously and stay isolated at home as much as possible.

Every aspect of our lives is being impacted by the coronavirus crisis – and death is not immune. Funeral providers across Australia, and indeed the world, are working out how best to support grieving families as they say goodbye to their loved ones.


The ritual of coming together in grief

Rituals are symbolic. They bring people together and help us express our deepest thoughts and feelings about important events in our lives.

Baptism celebrates the birth of the child and their acceptance into the church family. Birthday parties honour the passing of another year in the life of someone we love. Weddings publicly acknowledge the loved shared by two people.

A funeral is a ritual too. It’s a public, traditional and symbolic means of expressing our thoughts and feelings about the death of someone important to us. Funerals help us to acknowledge the reality of death, express our grief and mutually support those around us.

Since the earliest of times, humans have gathered together to say goodbye when a loved one dies. It’s deeply instinctive for us to do so.

But in these unprecedented times, we’re faced with the reality that attending a loved one’s funeral may not be possible. Limits on public gatherings and social distancing guidelines mean that sharing our grief with each other at a service is becoming more and more unlikely.

The government’s guidelines have already slashed the number of people who can attend indoor gatherings – and it’s likely that further changes are ahead. The possibility that public gatherings, including at funeral services, may be prohibited at some point in the near future is certainly not off the table.

We’re used to grieving together, in person. What happens when we can’t?


There are options

While funeral services can still go ahead, significant changes are already in place.

In accordance with government guidelines, no more than 10 people can attend a funeral service. This is to ensure the health of grieving family and friends, as well as the safety of funeral workers, clergy and celebrants.

Though disappointing, this is necessary. But there are ways for people to be part of a funeral service, even though they’re not physically in attendance.

Technology can help. Making a video recording of the funeral service and sharing it makes it possible for those who are not present to feel included and provides an important outlet for their grief. So too does live streaming, allowing family and friends to watch the service in real time.

And while we’re accustomed to a funeral generally being held within a handful of days of the death, there’s no limit to how much later you can hold a memorial service. While the burial or cremation will have occurred, you can certainly bring everyone together for a service in the months ahead when conditions have eased and prohibitions have lifted.


Continue to offer comfort and support

During times of grief, a hug, kiss on the cheek or simply a touch on the shoulder is the most natural way to show care and support. But with social distancing being practiced and many self-isolating, we need to find other ways to help each other through the grieving process.

Pick up the phone to share some words of comfort and lend a willing ear. Even better, use FaceTime or Skype to create a visual connection. While you may not be physically present, there’s a solace in sitting with someone – even if it’s over the phone or a video call.

Now, more than ever, we need to reach out and be kind to one another.


Want to know more?

For more information about funeral options during the COVID-19 crisis, please contact the Walter Carter Funerals team by emailing [email protected].