Grieving in the Time of the Pandemic
How do we grieve in the time of the global pandemic? We were not ready for this kind of grief.
COVID-19 has changed so many pieces of our lives — some we can name and some we have yet to realize. We grieve the loss of many things. Among our losses we might include loss of plans, loss of a job, loss of financial security, loss of life the way we knew it. We each could add to this list. We grieve not being able to visit those in long-term care centers and those who live in these centers grieve the lack of visitors. We are up to our eyes in PANDEMIC FATUGUE, even as we know that this pandemic will be with us for a long time.
One thing that has changed is how we grieve the loss of life. The number of deaths in the world and in our country alone is overwhelming, and we have yet to grieve these deaths as a country or as a world. In our parish over the past five months many people have experienced the loss of someone they love: husbands, wives, children, relatives and friends. Since the end of March, we have not been able to honor these deaths with the consoling rituals of our faith tradition. At viewings (if available), the numbers of participants were very limited. We were not able to share the memories, hugs and expressions of sympathy that are so helpful for the family. We were not able to welcome the body home to the Church or celebrate the Mass of Christian Burial, a ritual that allows the Church community to surround the family with hope in the midst of sadness. Graveside services were also limited in number and Bereavement Luncheons were not allowed. Now we can hold the funeral Mass, but the many guidelines leave us with a sense of incompleteness. Those who are grieving are left with a feeling of living in liminal space, the in-between of the beginning and the ending. Those grieving are betwixt and between and feel lost and disconnected. Sometimes many of those who knew the person have yet to hear of his or her death.
I repeat: How do we grieve in the time of the global pandemic? We are not ready for this kind of grieving. Grief always finds its own path, but COVID-19 has complicated the grieving journey. We are grieving at many levels: societal, personal, and global. We are grieving at the collective loss of the world as we knew it. This is unprecedented for most of us. We have no patterns and we find ourselves navigating in unchartered waters. This grieving will unfold as we move through the unknown future of life with COVID-19. We are not completely rudderless. We move knowing that God is with us and will never leave us comfortless. We move with each other. This moment offers us an opportunity to stop, slow down, think and reconnect with the things in life we believe to be most important. As we move through this grieving, we want to hold on to our humanity and emotions with deep compassion and tenderness.
One thing we, as a Church community, can offer those who have experienced the death of a loved one, is our prayer for the dead. Prayer is more powerful than we can ever imagine. It is not limited by geography or time. We are interconnected with each other and have the power to help each other through the intention of our heart. We may feel as if we are living in the Land of Oz and desperately trying to get home again. We need each other now more than ever; we are all caregivers and care-recipients.
Over the next several weeks we want to bring forth the memory of those who died during the past five months. Some families were able to hold a funeral Mass in our Church. For some families, a Mass or a prayer service was held at the funeral home, and for others there was only a graveside service. We want the families and those who loved the people who died to know … we remember your loved ones, and we remember you. –Sister Teresa