How does one go about grieving during a pandemic?
The Covid pandemic has destroyed the fabric of our personal, social, working and community lives. So many lives have been lost. So many families left devastated with the loss of loved ones, whether parents, grandparents, siblings, even on occasion children. Over 600,000 lives in USA alone have been taken by this cruel, uncaring virus.
No country has been left untouched by Covid, including my own beloved Ireland. So much grief, pain and emotional scarring left in its wake. Not to mention the countless others who died during this pandemic from other causes. Their loved ones were grieving during a pandemic, forced to bury their loved one in a time of Covid.
Long-term partners were regularly torn apart, sometimes separated, with one in the ICU whilst the other forced to stay isolated at home, unable to be with the one they loved, during those final hours. Unable to hold and embrace their lifelong companion who lay dying.
The cruelty of Covid death
We have been savagely wrenched away from the person who means so much to them. Forced to say goodbye via some technological device. Others dying in nursing homes with adult children, family and friends unable to be with them, to share their final moments.
Then, there has been the cruel reality of trying to bury our dead during this period. Maybe only receiving the body of the person I loved in a casket, unable to hold, embrace and kiss their remains. Unable to commemorate with friends and family, the life of the special person who is now gone. Forced to choose ten people to attend the funeral and the cemetery with usual Covid restrictions.
Unable here in Ireland to bring the body home for a wake, so all who knew them, could sympathize and celebrate their lives. In some countries, even seeing the body buried in a mass grave or cremated.
Grieving during a pandemic is extra-complicated
How can one truly grieve the loss of someone so special during this pandemic, where so much of how we grieve as human beings. How do we as a society cope with the emotional tsunami of grief which is coming for so many?
Grief is raw, brutal and elemental. It lies at the very heart of our human experience. It challenges us to the core. Who are we as human beings? Why are we here? Where are we going to? How can we continue to keep going, when those we love most in life, are taken from us? How can we cope with the changes which now face us, especially without the support and love of those who are no longer with us?
There will be so much sadness over the months and years which will follow, so many tears shed. The more loved the person who is gone, the greater the depth of sadness and pain.
Time heals, but not all the way
Time is not the great healer, as is so often quoted. We will never truly stop grieving their loss but over the months and years which will follow, we will gradually learn to cope better with the sadness and pain. But a part of us is gone. The circle has been broken and can never be the same again.
We must be kind to ourselves and never feel guilty about the manner of either their death or their burial. It is the situation which was abnormal, not us.
Grieving during a pandemic calls on our resilience
Each one of us must grieve in our own unique way. We must find places such as a room, a place, even the site of their burial, where we sense them most and spend time there, in the rubble of our grief. We must let the tears flow, when they overcome us. It is not weak or abnormal or somehow inferior as we seem to be struggling more than others. We just loved the person who is gone and this is our way of expressing that.
Time will help us to adapt to the major changes that their loss will introduce into our lives. The silence. The social changes. The domestic changes. You will never be the same again. Life will never be the same again.
We human beings are however incredibly resilient. You will find a way to a new life. It will be different, sometimes radically so. The person you loved however, will always be with you on this journey, in the background. Encouraging you. Helping you through your pain and loneliness. Helping you with the silence. Maybe this thought will help you make it through.
Dr. Harry Barry can be reached through his website, drharrybarry.com.
He is author of Emotional Healing (Pegasus). Purchase it on Amazon.
Read more about grieving during a pandemic here.