So much has changed in so quickly. As we all begin to move through these shifts we are being asked to quickly adjust to a new sense of normal, for what seems like indefinite amount of time. We have more questions than we have answers right now and the unease that this creates in us all is pervasive and palpable.
As we navigate these new norms in the midst of COVID-19, we are being asked a great deal. In some circumstances the safety protocols put into place dictate that we must remain separate from those that we hold closest and most dear to us, even when they are critically-ill. Social distancing restrictions have begun impact our ability to mourn in the way that we are used to—at our loved one’s bedside or even during memorial services alongside others that knew and loved this person with you.
In the wake of these changes how do we allow ourselves the space to mourn the loss of our loved ones?
Before we explore this, we would first like to acknowledge the distinct difference between grief and mourning. Often these words are used synonymously, when in fact they are different. Grief refers the complex tapestry of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that are triggered by loss. Grief is the internal experience of the loss. Mourning, however, is the outward or external expression of our grief experience and is a key component of our healing from loss.
Mourning rituals vary widely across communities, cultures, and belief systems but often include commonly recognized rituals such as funerals and celebrations of life but can (and do!) include a wide variety of activities that extend far beyond these examples.
Below are some ideas for meaningful mourning rituals or memorialization activities to consider during social distancing:
1. Live stream the memorial service
2. Consider a cremation or small burial now and a larger gathering in the future
3. Create an online photo-slideshow or scrapbook of memories you and others shared with your loved one (you can even invite others to contribute pictures)
4. Sing, play music, or reminisce about memories using a video conferencing platform
5. Create small daily rituals that you can do on your own or as a group to remember and honor your loved one
6. Create a memorial garden or plant a tree
7. Create a memory box
Whatever you do, know that there isn’t a one size fits all model for grief and mourning. Sometimes, especially during this unprecedented moment, it takes some exploration and creativity to find what works for you and those that you share your grief with. Please feel free to share any ideas, thoughts, or comments you have below.