A reasonable period of grief and a feeling of bereavement when someone close to you dies is, unfortunately, one of the most common and upsetting experiences to face. These feelings usually ease gradually over time as you learn to accept the loss of your loved one.
However, some people are unable to move forward and experience feelings of loss that are so debilitating and long-lasting, that they are unable to function normally in daily life. This is known as complicated grief or persistent complex bereavement disorder.
If you are an older adult who has lost a loved one during COVID-19, you are possibly at risk of experiencing complicated grief, due to the physical distancing restrictions that have been put in place and which are disrupting the full grieving process.
Few pandemics have ravaged the world, like this one is doing, since the early 1900s, with the Spanish Flu in 1918 being recognised as one of the deadliest. Between 20 million and 50 million deaths were attributed to this outbreak. As with the current Coronavirus, there were no effective vaccines or treatments available. Businesses and schools were shut, and people were ordered to wear masks as the virus continued its rampage. Many people perished within a short space of time, and many died alone amid physical distancing, as is happening today.
Deaths from other causes, such as terminal illnesses and diseases, are also being affected by the current pandemic in terms of how your loved one’s body is handled, and which bereavement rituals are allowed.
Those in mourning have no choice but to grieve their loss without the traditional physical and social rituals to which each culture adheres. This is further aggravated by the fact that you are maybe not allowed to spend the last few hours with your loved one, and this probably leaves you with feelings of guilt, anger and helplessness.
Grief is a natural response to loss and the different funeral rituals that you hold onto help you come to terms and coping with that loss and the possible changes to your life circumstances.
Once you reach the stage of accepting the loss of a loved one, it becomes an intrinsic need to find ways of honouring and remembering them. Through doing this, you can either re-establish or find a new sense of purpose and manage to quieten the grief in your heart. This is why it is so necessary to hold a ritual, no matter how small, in a time where large funerals are no longer allowed.
Sonja Smith Funeral Group, an elite funeral group which offers personalised funeral services for cremations or burials, recognises the different needs that each person has in the grieving process. They provide some alternative options that may assist with gaining some closure during COVID-19 when you are unable to give a proper farewell to your loved one.
Alternative Mourning Rituals During COVID-19
Hold a small, private memorial at your home, with prayers, readings and music.
Erect a shrine in your home or garden.
Light a candle.
Plant a Garden of Remembrance.
Plant your loved one’s favourite flower.
Plant a tree.
Lay a plaque in honour of your loved one in your garden.
Write letters to your loved one and keep them in a special box to read from time to time.
Create a website dedicated to your loved one, using photos and video clips to remember special times.
Create a photobook to store precious memories and print as many as needed.
Make a scrapbook of your memories of your loved one.
Use a shirt or dress from your loved one to make a cushion or a quilt.
Encourage the younger children to draw pictures of their special memories with the deceased.
If you are unable to attend the funeral due to the restricted numbers of attendees, send a message to be read out aloud.
Have the funeral streamed online so that other close family and friends can virtually attend.
Record the funeral and send the link to close friends and family.
Ask the Funeral Director to place a message in the coffin with your loved one.
Bereavement is complicated enough during ordinary times, but especially challenging during a pandemic. Anxiety and fear are your constant companions, increasing already high-stress levels. Decreased activity levels, which may be due to partial lock-down or a job loss, result in more time to think, and the lack of social and physical interaction brings a sense of loneliness and isolation.
It is therefore essential that you have a clear idea of how you will manage your way through the additional challenges in coping with the death of your loved one during this time of COVID-19. Equally important, is staying connected with others by using video chats or phone calls to reduce your sense of isolation. Also, try to balance the amount of time you spend grieving with setting goals or making plans for the future or taking up new hobbies.
Sonja Smith Funeral Group strongly recommends that, although the restrictions in place for funerals during COVID-19 have turned the grieving process upside-down, you should not abandon funeral rituals completely, as they not only honour your loved one but also provide the all-needed closure during this transition to avoid the anger and guilt which you may feel moving forward.
It may require some adaption and innovation on your part, but it can be done. Since most people have access to the internet, these alternative rituals can easily be shared across several social media platforms. Although it may not be as good as being there in a physical capacity, it certainly is the next best thing and can be made as inclusive as you wish.
Follow the Active Grief Community https://www.facebook.com/activegriefcommunity/ for more information on Monthly Grief support groups. Facilitated by Dani Donald and Atishca Makan, this is a safe, interactive platform created with the intention of providing a supportive and compassionate space to learn, share and connect with others on a similar journey.
A ceremony and ritual are crucial to close the rifts created by COVID-19. Sonja Smith Funeral Group will help honour and commemorate your loved one in safety and with love and care, no matter the circumstances created by the current pandemic.