Ordinarily, grief makes it difficult to know up from down. But, the arrival of the pandemic has only muddied the waters. With all these restrictions, unknowns, and a future that seems uncertain, it can be hard to know what choices are right for us.
Funeral rites give us something tangible to hold onto during the state of upheaval after the loss of a loved one. It’s an active, productive outlet for our emotions, which many grief experts say is especially important to healthy grieving. They also can help with healing, like a springboard from which we can begin to move forward again.
Now, everything is in upheaval. This makes it so much harder to deal with the devastation in our personal lives when the time comes to say goodbye. This is why people have begun to put off any kind of rites, opting to revisit them during better times. However, by depriving ourselves of the closure that a formal farewell provides, we only draw out the grieving process. It causes a phenomenon of suspended grief — we can’t move forward, we can’t say goodbye, we end up stuck in one moment that lasts indefinitely.
It’s understandable why nobody wants to put on a funeral for a limited number of people. What’s supposed to be a time of community begins to sound like a lonely experience. But, let’s examine the situation a little more closely; when you put off the process of saying goodbye you end up grieving alone, and so postponing a funeral only exacerbates the sense of isolation. During a time when isolation is already palpable and mental health is wearing thin, why make the situation even harder on ourselves? If we don’t know when these restrictions are going to be lifted, why put it off with no end in sight?
In our professional experience even before the pandemic, we’ve seen the difference it can make when families are involved in the arrangements. Now, we’re seeing families suffer excessively because they were unable to properly grieve the death of their loved one. Other professionals have seen this, as well, and agree that funeral restrictions have people feeling they have to grieve twice — we’ve shared this excellent article on our Facebook page, and I implore you to check it out if you haven’t already. (https://www.cbc.ca/.../pei-funerals-grieving-pandemic-1...)
Your grief can’t be postponed, so neither should a funeral. There are always options. You can have a small ceremony now, or even a graveside service, and a memorial or celebration of life later when these restrictions are lifted. You can livestream the service to connect with family and friends, and foster that much-missed sense of community; sharing prayers, memories, condolences, songs, etc. can be uplifting during a painful time, and we especially need that now.
There’s a lot we don’t know, especially in such unprecedented times. But, one thing will always be true: grief is a unique, sometimes overwhelming experience. You’re still allowed to have closure, so don’t be afraid to have the service that you need.