Grief is like the ocean – it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.Vicki Harrison
Recently I was invited, yes invited, to a facebook funeral. The first thing I looked for was how people were interacting. Thanks to COVID-19 and the restrictions surrounding it, the funeral was a very lonely affair. People were gathered apart. The choir had masks on. The priest had a mask on. The mourners had masks on. The bereaved had masks. I could only imagine how lonely the bereaved felt because not only were they bidding farewell to their beloved, they couldn’t comfort each other the traditional way or be comforted by well-wishers. Grief is a cruel master any day of the week, grief is a pitiless atrocious devil in these COVID times.
Of course, almost universally, this is not how funerals are supposed to be. Bereaved people need comforters to hold them, comfort them, pray with them and celebrate the life gone together.
One lady who lost her mum told me, “I need people to physically come and see me – zoom calls are good but the feeling is not the same. I need people to hold me and tell me everything will be ok. I am emotionally isolated, even when people call me and offer words of comfort, it is not the same as looking into someone’s eyes as they speak and feel the love.” Grieving in isolation will not be a thing, but unfortunately, that’s the situation so staying connected is the next best thing.
Despite mourners receiving countless messages from well-wishers, it appears the need for someone to physically hold you and surround you with love is vital for emotional support.
Over the course of my life I’ve lost people I loved and I know how comforting it is when people keep you company; it is comforting when someone meets you at the airport and gives you a hug – now most people can’t even travel to bid farewell to their loved ones.
Probably, as with most things, people will have to put their mourning on hold until COVID is tamed. Some things were not designed for virtual experience. The downside to postponing mourning, or having memorial services is that people will have to relive the ordeal/experience again and experience the emotions associated with it all over again. Could this be more detrimental to mental health than the virtual reality of funerals? I think so.
COVID statistics show at least over 1.6M COVID deaths worldwide. That means 1.6M plus families who didn’t mourn their loved one in the ‘normal’ way. And their friends. It can be speculated at least every human on earth has been affected by a COVID death directly or otherwise, which means a lot more people will grieve for a long time and grieving in isolation has to be the ultimate recipe for mental health disaster.
COVID restrictions require people to wear masks, wash hands, social distance to keep the virus away and protect loved one. Grieving in COVID times will require people to protect themselves and their loved against an impeding doom of mental health related crisis.
Isolation is a lonely affair, and isolation while grieving is much worse, when some people find themselves alone in the same house where the deceased person lived. This brings back painful memories and at times, ghosts at every turn. Grief combined with worry and anxiety brought about by Covid19 can be damaging to your mental health and wellbeing.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, there are organisations and helpful websites loaded with information.
Survival tips: –
While you may feel alone or are physically alone, know that you don’t have to be alone with your grief. There are organisations ready to help e.g. this Cruse helpline UK 0808 808 1677. You can also call or text your friends and family. If you find some of them are not responding in the way you hoped, this is often because of their own fears and situation. Or they might be feeling helpless, as they know they can’t fix your grief.
It can help to explain what you need at this time – whether that is someone to call in the middle of the night or someone you can share funny stories with, about the person who has died.
Look after yourself.
This may sound obvious but at these times it is so easy to want to hide away. We are being encouraged to! But do try and get some fresh air or sunlight each day – even opening a window can help. If you are allowed, go for a walk or run, or do some exercise in your home – exercise can be really helpful.
Try to keep to a regular routine of getting up and dressing, and eating meals at the usual time, whether you are on your own or part of a family group. The structure will help, even if only a little. However, it would be advisable to avoid too much TV, especially the news.
You may find you have days when you are more energised, and the grief isn’t as consuming – this is normal. Some people can feel guilty when this happens, but there is no need. It is all a normal part of grieving. Equally if you are really struggling that is also normal. Please don’t feel guilty or angry with yourself. It is a journey. You could also reach out to others who might also be finding it difficult, you may be able to help each other. Seek practical help from friends, family or neighbours.
Bereavement can have some unexpected emotional and physical effects. Knowing that others are going through the same things may help, but if you are finding it impossible to cope, do reach out for help.
Please leave a comment and let your voice be heard.
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