Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Imagine coming home from the grocery store and finding out your mother, your child, your spouse had just been rushed to the hospital. You go to the hospital to see them and are sent away. No visitors allowed. For days you communicate via Facetime...then just like that they are gone. You must stay home in quarantine and no one can come by to console you. Welcome to the world of grieving during quarantine.
Grieving is such a lonely experience but doing it alone isolates the griever even more. Any type of sudden death complicates grief, but now the mass number of sudden deaths all at once makes it even worse. Yes, I know...a lot more people have recovered from this virus than have died from it. And yes, thousands of babies are born everyday but those facts do nothing to ease the pain of a person grieving the loss of their loved one. If I have learned anything through my grieving process it's that society needs to do a much better job of caring for the griever and not ignoring their grief as if by doing so it will be forced to go away...or they'll be forced to hide it. Hiding grief further isolates the griever backing them into a corner that they see no way out of...and many times causes them to talk about giving up. But these talks about giving up are not heard audibly and often times go unnoticed.
When I started this post yesterday, 8,000 Americans had died from Corona Virus but in 1 day that number has jumped to 9,600 and 69,000 people around the world. That's right, since yesterday 1600 Americans had to say goodbye to their loved ones without getting the chance to actually say goodbye. Imagine it was you that never got the chance to give one last hug or kiss. Imagine being told it's time to say your last goodbyes but it must be done over the phone. Imagine them being all alone with no one to hold their hand as they take their last painful breath.
No casseroles- just condolences from a distance. In the days immediately following the loss of a loved one family and friends usually visit the bereaved to check on them and offer comfort during an inconsolable time. With social distancing and stay at home orders in place it makes it difficult for the grieving family to receive the much needed support in this moment of heartbreak. Corona Virus is even impacting the grieving process for those who lose loved ones from causes other than the pandemic.
I heard from a grieving mom today. She lost her son amidst the Corona Virus Society Shutdown. No visitors. No casseroles. No Funeral. Just her 2 year old baby boy 6 feet in the ground.
Another friend lost her child 3 years ago and lost her mom last week. She hasn't been able to visit her dad due to the quarantine and feels herself sinking back into the dark place she's been working so hard to get out of.
Some people have been having funerals via zoom, others have had staggered visitations only allowing 10 people in at a time, some have chosen to cremate out of frustration not knowing what else to do, and others have opted to postpone the funeral until the quarantine is lifted thus complicating the grieving process.
Grievers are going through this process without the visits from friends in the initial stage when the faces around are the only thing that connect you to reality. People aren't dropping by with casseroles. Friends aren't able to sit and hug the bereaved and let them cry on their shoulder. No hugs whatsoever. No human interaction. No casseroles. Just texts and calls.
And what about the funeral? The funeral is a time to join the surviving loved ones in honoring their dearly departed. We celebrate the memory of the person who has passed and everyone pauses to focus on their life. Well this Corona Virus has complicated this process. They can't even have funerals? If they do have one it must be limited to 10 people?! Family who live out of state can't risk getting on a plane to come and pay last respects. I don't know why but in our society we equate the impact that a life has had on others with the number of people who come to the funeral. When we talk about the funerals we say "the church was packed" or "there were no seats left."
Now paying respects has a limit of 10. And where usually there is a pause to recognize our dearly departed- there is no real pause in the midst of this crisis. Some people are losing multiple people close to them. And the media keeps reporting death after death and the ticker is going up and it never pauses long enough for people to stop to honor your very personal loss.
In a world where we compete for lime light daily there's always been a sense that you would get your attention at your funeral. Not this time. We have to find a way to honor all of the lives lost during this time of Social Distancing. There are so many challenges being shared on social media. Is it possible that we could do something to honor the many lives lost? What are their names? Who are these 9600 Americans who have died? By the time you read this I'm sure that number will be 10,000! 10,000 lives lost and I don't know any of their names? We were mad when it was Kobe Bryant and the others! Well who are these others? They were parents, children, aunts, brothers...they were loved. Social media is scrolling past their deaths so fast! Although there are no funerals, can we honor them with virtual obituaries. Can we join together virtually and celebrate the lives of those who we have lost?
Many of the families I have spoken with are experiencing secondary losses. They were already grieving the loss of a child and have now had the added loss of a parent or sibling. So the support person who has been helping them through the grief process has now been lost and added to their grieving process. This is a dangerous time to be alone. Grief and anxiety are not times that a person should be left inside alone with the bully in their head that constantly taunts them. Please, if you know someone who is grieving a recent or past loss please reach out and offer them support even from a distance.
So what can we do from a distance to comfort those who are grieving alone?
1. Check on them daily.
-Call them- if they don't answer then text. Keep calling and texting even if they don't respond. - Please don't try to make them feel bad for not calling you back. This creates more guilt for a person already battling guilt.
2. Drop off casseroles on their doorstep or send food via Doordash.
-They should not have to worry about how to feed their family in the early days of grief.
3. Schedule a time to stop by. Drive to their house and wave at them through the window.
-making the extra step of driving over will be more meaningful than a Facetime call. And maybe knowing you are driving by will encourage them to get out of bed and remind them to shower.
4. Know that there is no finish line for grief.
-Keep checking on them. Don't just suddenly stop. This creates feelings of abandonment for the griever.
5. Pray with them
-Staying connected to God is the only way I have been able to find peace.
Grieving is a process and no two people grieve the same. Every loss is different so be patient with the griever. It's important not to offer advice- just listen. Let them talk and just be there for them. Don't ask too many questions about what happened. Sometimes these questions lead them down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out what they missed and this can lead back to guilt. Do not make them feel guilty- guilt is already a constant companion who won't leave.
For the Griever: please try to use affirmations to calm your mind. Here are 3 to try:
1. I am not alone. I am loved. I have a purpose and the world needs me.
2. I did the best I could with the information I had.
3. This is not a punishment.
This is a series of posts on Grieving in Quarantine.