Below, Grief Counselor Lianna Champ writes about coronavirus and funerals. Who’d have thought that funerals could have changed so radically in such a short time!
Due to Coronavirus, our capacity to cope is greatly reduced. And this is even before we have been impacted by the death of someone we love. And then when we do experience a death, we are forced to grieve alone. All our usual and expected mourning routines and rituals are denied to us.
Coronavirus & Funerals
Being unable to take part in a funeral with all its rites and rituals has taken away the power of ritualistic healing through this time. We have also been denied the physical comfort we need from our family and friends before, during and after a funeral. Therefore, more than ever, we need to find new ways of being emotionally present because we cannot be physically present.
Even though we may withdraw into ourselves in this time of lockdown and isolation, it is crucial that we push ourselves to reach out to each other. It is essential to our wellbeing to find new rituals and ways of respecting and honouring those who have died. We must adapt to this new way of living and being. There is no choice. We must also let it be ok to feel the pain of our grief. This is how we heal – by recognising and experiencing our emotional pain when it happens. The ability to experience and to share our emotions is all part of being human.
Through this time of forced isolation, we have to accept what is out of our control. It is in this acceptance and letting go of trying to control everything, that we will find our strength. The Coronavirus cannot take away our love for each other, our hope for recovery and our self-care. If we rally against the unfairness, we will block out these things.
We also have to find new ways of expressing our feelings of grief and of sharing our grief journey with those in our lives. The Coronavirus has taken away the end of a life as we know it. We must not get ‘stuck’ on a Coronavirus ending, but focus on the important part of any life – the lifetime of love and shared experiences.
Funerals & Lockdown
With restricted attendance at funerals and self-isolation, you may not be able to attend the funeral of someone you love. Most funerals are now being live streamed so you can be a witness to the ceremony. Take time to prepare before the streaming. Have a candle to light, photographs of the person who has died, memorialise your surroundings to reflect their personality. Dress for the occasion as if you were going to attend in person. Grief isn’t just emotional, it’s physical too and doing these things will help you.
Never has social media been more needed and this will be your lifeline through lockdown.
Using social media may be a new skill you have had to master and it is good that we keep on developing and learning new things. You are never too old to put another feather in your cap.
Bereavement is the ultimate experience which forces major change in our lives. And so it is vital that we have some semblance of preparation for ourselves and those in our lives. Share your love in words with your family and friends. Tell them what they mean to you, what they have taught you and what’s important to you in your relationships with them. Think of the footprint you would like to leave behind and Iive it so you leave your family with the things that mater – love, kindness, courage – whatever it is that your choose, so that when an ending comes, every time they find themselves doing the things you did, they will be comforted and give your spirit an energy. This is how we remember the people we love.
Try a Zoom family and friends gathering. Make sure that the chat can be downloaded at the end. Before starting the conference, ask everyone to write down what the person who has died meant to them. Write down their favourite memory or how they met etc. Then they can read it out in the chat. Download the chat and collate the memories.
Agree a set time with family and friends when you all light a candle at the same time next to a photograph and play a favourite song. When we light candles, we come into communion with each other spiritually and we give an energy into the spirit world of the person who has died. In her Easter speech, HM The Queen spoke of the power of light overcoming darkness. And so it is that when we gather in spiritual community and hold someone in the light, we invite a healing power. By lighting our candles we invite the power of love and grace. We invite the power of inner strength and peace. This unity means that no-one is left alone with their grief, that you can reach out to each other with your words, your videos and help comfort one another at this time.
Her Majesty also said that self-isolation presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation. So, rather than living from the outside in, this teaches us to live from within. We can learn a lot from meditational or prayerful silence.
Memory is how we hold onto the things we love. Let our happy memories be our comfort in these times of need. Speak them out to each other and keep the spiritual bond shining. In the midst of brokenness and broken-heartedness, may we know the grace of love that sustains us.
When I miss those I have lost, I am always glad for the life we had together. I don’t think about how they died, I think about how they lived.
Stay well. Stay safe.
Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in grief counselling and funeral care and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ