With each day that passes during these past few weeks that roll into months, I find myself counting my blessings more so than usual. I’m one of the lucky ones. I work online and have done so for a long time now, so I’m privileged to be safely cocooned indoors, avoiding contact with the outside world, not subjecting myself or anyone I live with to this deadly virus.
Many are not that fortunate.
Millions are being affected and too many lives have been lost already.
I recently lost a childhood friend to COVID-19. He was laid to rest last week. There were 10 people at his funeral service. If it wasn’t for the Corona Virus, there would have been crowds. He was a hugely popular guy.
We are having to learn new ways of grieving in a time of corona virus where social distancing, isolation and quarantines have changed the way we come together to mark these times of loss in our lives. Our human instinct to gather has been denied and we are left to our own devices (no pun intended).
Within Indian culture where I originate, rituals and ceremony are an integral part of life. Traditions are embedded deep into our psyches that mark all milestones and rites of passage. Ceremonies are ingrained into the fabric of our being and as such, there are many rituals that exist to mark the end of a life.
Deaths are communal events where families and friends come together after the passing of a loved one to help the closest people of the bereaved mourn with ceremonious prayers and rituals. People will arrive at their home paying respects, sitting for long hours, comforting the family with softly spoken words, holding hands and giving hugs. Neighbours and extended family provide food to the house as no cooking is allowed to take place for a certain number of days. Prayers are held on certain days after the death. Crowds of people are present showing solidarity and support to the family by just… being there. The underlying message: You are not alone in your grief. We are here with you.
At times, I’ve silently questioned how helpful this barrage of guests really is to the family at a time of loss and an unimaginably difficult time. How do you balance support and giving some space necessary to process the loss?
If anything, it’s a distraction at the very least.
No longer able to attend funerals, wakes and prayers, the internet has been able to provide some solace and solutions with online memorials arranged and people able to call in to participate from anywhere they can. However, we are the lucky ones who have access to electricity and wifi, what about those who do not?
Lack of Closure
Goodbyes are loaded with our own relationship to loss based on our histories. Death is so final we have found ways to explain it away, to help us process this unescapable truth for us all. Rituals have held their place in time to help us move through the grieving process, to help our psyches catch up to the reality of what we are facing. We have a human need to perform the stages of death and grief which has worked in communal ways to unite mourners physically and spiritually in an act of closure.
Coming together in rituals of grieving and mourning offered a chance to make sense of death and bring us to an ending. We may wrestle with our grief, but we need not face it alone. This is what makes the gathering of mourners such an important and healing practice.
Loss is a huge emotion and we will all face it differently and in our own time. There are masses of theories and writings that delve into the human response to death with the field of Psychology. Perhaps the most well know being the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ identified by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who shared the idea that there are a range of emotions to be expected as a reaction to death and dying; acknowledging that these may come and go at different times and certainly do not follow any prescribed pattern. These are:
More recently, a 6th was stage identified by David Kessler: Finding Meaning.
A much bigger task I would argue in a time like this.
It may come as no surprise that people are overwhelmed with dealing with their feelings right now and the help of a trained professional may be important in order to cope and come to terms with how we can let go and live with loss.
A lot is being written about how we will move on and create new ways of mourning in a time of Corona Virus. That we will learn new ways and move forward and adapt. After-all, it’s why we are here; we are masters of adaptation in order to survive. And for those who survive this pandemic will find ways to mourn the loss of those who do not.
As I reconcile the reality of the world that we live in now a few thoughts come to mind:
Change is the only constant… Never take anything for granted… Only love is real.
If you would like to learn more about how therapy may help you if you are grieving the loss of a loved one feel free to get in touch here.