• Omega Celeste

Unfamiliar Grief

I watched as the names rolled in everyday. The sad thing is that some lives were claimed by Covid-19 and others are just collateral damage due to lack of care. Either way, to lose someone now, today, doesn't look the same as it did just 45 days ago.

I'm black, I'm a believer, I go to church, a Pentecostal church and funerals are a salve. They are the Neosporin for what hurts. While they don't remove the pain or existence of injury, they aid in the healing process. These gatherings help to remove some of the sting. We don't have our salve, we don't even have the bodies. And although healing is still possible, it may take longer and might leave more of a scar.

Funerals are truly celebrations of life. We get to reflect and pay proper tribute to someone's life, together. They are where we say goodbye and come to be strengthened by the fellowship, encouraged by the music, and empowered by the word of God. For some of us, it is the closure we seek. Getting a program, looking at collages, hearing the stories and seeing the people, it's familiar. I've seen it too many times, you let out a quiet sigh, drop of the shoulders, tilt your head and gaze at someone you once knew. Some try to make it as quick as possible and others take their time savoring the moment. We could bank on the fact that there'd be one last time. The final viewing, this was healing for us.

A few weeks ago we would've looked forward to gathering after the funeral or the burial. Food, great food and the laughs! Laughter has a way of arresting grief and putting it in it's place. Old friends could reunite, and family members (the ones we like and the ones we don't) could gather again. We'd create new memories laughing at old ones, and the joy of that gets put into an account we can draw from when times get low. We took pleasure in seeing the children run and play because seeing them enjoying life gave us hope. It's here that we're able to breathe, and relax just a little because "that part" is over. It signifies a period of rest. This instance of corporate closure we were guaranteed is no more. This was healing for us.

Your experience may look like what I described or it could be different. Whatever it is we used to do, we can't anymore. And now....now if we're lucky we can live stream an all but empty church with just a funeral director, a preacher and possibly a family member or two. Everyone in N95 masks and gloves. There is no signing of the guest book, the way we let the family know we were present and accounted for in the event we didn't get to see them. There is a replacement book, Facebook; where we can leave a message on the deceased persons wall, or the wall of close relative. We. Were. Here.

Facebook asks "What are you doing?". We're grieving and mourning the best way we know how and it's hard. So where do we go from here? How do we grieve now? I think the best thing we can do is to stay connected as much as we can and be honest about what we're feeling. I don't have the answers but I went and found some.

Jason Spendelow Ph.D. suggests the following:

  • Acknowledge that grieving at this time is more challenging than coping with loss outside a health crisis. You have additional sources of stress to contend with, so you must practice self-compassion. Signs of self-criticism might come in the form of beliefs like "I should be doing better than this" or "I am failing to keep it together." Failing to acknowledge the additional stress associated with the pandemic runs the risk of blaming yourself for something that is out of your control. 


  • Staying connected to others is very important if you are grieving AND socially isolated. Often we don't feel like talking to others after losing a loved one. If you lack this motivation, try to book times for phone calls and video chats. Arrange these conversations as appointments you must keep. Agree on times with people in advance so you are more likely to follow through. 


  • Alternate between "loss" and "restorative" activities. This idea comes from the dual-process approach to grief which says that people move been loss-related activities (e.g., looking at photos of the deceased, crying, talking about the person) and restorative exercises (e.g., making plans for the future, spending time on hobbies).   


  • Consider minimizing the time you spend watching the news. It is sensible to be aware of major announcements by government and health officials. Outside of that, don't watch the news if it increases your stress levels. 


Read more here in this Psychology Today Article of coping with grief during this time.


Have you tried any other helpful ways of coping with grief during this pandemic? What does your healing look like now? We're hurting together and for me that means we can heal together too. One day, one choice at a time. #distantbutnotdeserted



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