For many of us there has never been a time when we have been more aware of the fragility of life. Human life is a cycle, starting with the tiny bloom of a baby and ending, if we are lucky, many many decades later after a life has been lived to its fullest. Some of us are science based and believe this is where the cycle ends, some of us believe in a more cyclical path where life continues in one form or another, but whatever spirituality, science or religion you belong to, the one thing we all share is grief.
Despite coronavirus ruling our screens, minds and lives it is not the only thing claiming lives at the moment, the journey of life is still continuing, and people are still experiencing grief not related coronavirus. Whether your grief is caused by coronavirus or not, it is a hard time to experience the death of a loved one.
My Grandfather died a few weeks ago and so I am writing this from a perspective of compassion, understanding and experience. He didn’t die from coronavirus and he’d lived a long life so it is not as though he was taken too early by the virus, but what was hard was the fact we couldn’t visit when he was deteriorating and the fact we couldn’t come together as a family after his death like we normally would. All these seemingly small things that we don’t really give that much credit to have been taken from us and it can make grieving hard.
We all know that social distancing and isolation is paramount to minimise the amount of deaths, but when someone dies and you can’t do the normal rituals such as funerals it is frustrating. Please, know that your pain and grief is still valid. Just because you can’t attend a funeral or a death wasn’t caused by coronavirus doesn’t mean the person isn’t worthy of mourning. At a time when so much grief is engulfing the world it can feel like your loss is insignificant; we can feel we don’t want to bother people with our grief. Well let me tell you this, every single death is significant to someone, whether the end of a long long life or a baby barely born we still deserve to grieve, albeit in a different way to normal.
In England funerals haven’t been completely banned but rightly so numbers of attendees have been limited and social distancing is still enforced. Although technically I could have attended my Grandfather’s funeral it didn’t seem like the socially responsible thing to do. The funeral was held a few hours away and we decided as a family that we shouldn’t all attend because of the risk of mixing a lot of people from different geographic locations. Though I may not be a fan of funerals…who is…I was sad not to be able to go, particularly because my Grandfather was of the generation where funerals were so important. Although I know it was for the health of my family and the country it didn’t mean there was no sadness over missing the funeral.
So how can we cope at times like this, where our long-standing traditions are gone?
Well for starters, get one person attending to take photos of the flowers, of the inscriptions and all the small details. This may not feel the most natural thing to do, to take photos at a funeral, but when I received the photos from my Grandfather’s funeral it was lovely, in the weirdest way. I showed them to my brother, we both were missing the funeral so were at home together and in a strange way that was my acknowledgement of my Grandfather on the day of his funeral. Okay it isn’t the same as a full funeral but in a way, it was a happier version.
I don’t come from a family of huggers, but I know many people do and this will be hard if you attend a funeral but cannot hug. Just remember the love and support of your friends and family is still there even if not in the physical form of a hug. And if you live with someone and need a hug ask them for one or as many as you need.
Another thing you can do is plan to gather and celebrate the life of your loved one when this is all over. We are planning to have a big gathering after the coronavirus storm has passed, of course only when safe and legal. Instead of a funeral it will be a life celebration, a gathering for friends and family to get to together to share stories and just to be together. When we can finally do this, we will be less sad and more at peace with his death and how amazing that will be because we can truly celebrate my Grandfather’s life without being overwhelmed with loss and sadness.
At a time where we cannot grieve in our normal way, we have to find new ways to get by. We have to find new things that can help us with the grieving. It will not be easy, we will miss our extended families at these times, we will miss the tradition of funerals even if they are usually terribly sad occasions. This is the hand we’ve been dealt and to help us grieve to help us come to terms with death of family, friends or loved ones, we have to adapt to new times. This doesn’t mean you can’t be mad at the world for dealing you this hand, for stopping you from attending funerals, from being with family when you need it the most. You can be mad, allow yourself to feel, but then look for some sort of positive, try to change your outlook and this will help you to grieve and accept.
This is easier said than done, but know you are not the only going through grief in lockdown. All across the country, all across the world many people are in the same boat. Whether you can attend a funeral or not doesn’t change the amount you loved and respected the person you have lost. Whether you can hug your family or not doesn’t change the love or support that is there. We can grieve from home together so in the future people can grieve at funerals together.
If you are reading this and experiencing grief I am sorry for your loss. We are living in times where grief is especially hard. I hope that in reading this you know you are not alone. Your grief may not look or feel the same as in times gone by, but that doesn’t change the validity of it, the amount you loved your lost one, or the support from those around you.