Growing up my dad shielded our family from attending viewings and funerals. His father died suddenly from a heart attack when my dad was a teenager and attending his father’s viewing proved to be a traumatic experience. He did his best to never attend another viewing again. Even though he rarely spoke about his experience we all knew that viewings were something to be avoided. 

My dad’s mother died when I was 23 years of age. It was the first funeral I went to and our family did not attend the private viewing. My dad’s experience as a teenager went on to shape the way our family looked at saying goodbye to those that we lost. 

In the last two years, grieving for our family and friends has been drastically changed. My mother passed away in 2021 and we chose to have a private graveside service. My mother had very few friends or family remaining and it was more in line with her wishes to have a small service with only her immediate family. In a way, I was relieved we could grieve privately. 

Benjamin Franklin had a famous quote that included “nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

How we grieve a death is different for everyone. Our grief experience has been put to the test in the last two years as we were faced with a global pandemic, social distancing, and feelings of isolation. It has been an emotionally draining time for those that felt cheated out of having a traditional funeral, viewing, or a trip to the cemetery to say goodbye to those who meant the most to them. 

I reached out to two people I have met over the years to see how they have met the challenges of their grief experiences during the last two years. I spoke to a daughter of a client of mine and lost her elderly mother in the spring of 2020. I also spoke to a hospice chaplain who shared some of the ways she needed to pivot to support her families. 

One big challenge for both of them was finding alternative ways to share funeral services with those that were unable to travel or participate because of precautions.

They both provided valuable thoughts on how they have faced the last two years and some suggestions for those that are also struggling with how to grieve as we continue to face pandemic concerns. 

  • Funeral services or celebrations of life may need to be done in a different way. Traveling to a funeral in the early onset of the pandemic was not possible. In an effort to allow more people to attend services, many funeral homes and places of worship switched to live-streaming the service. Graveside services have become more common in an effort to allow for social distancing and offer the advantage of being outdoors for the service. Virtual celebration of life can offer a helpful way to share memories of your loved one. My client’s daughter and her extended family participated in a Zoom celebration to honor their mother and it allowed the family to have a shared experience. 
  • Recognize that grief is unique to you. Author and grief expert, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, describes grief as what you feel and think about death. It could be sadness, confusion, anxiety, anger or regret. You may also experience physical signs of grief with trouble sleeping, changes in energy, headaches, or heart palpitations. How we show our grief is through mourning. We may cry, spend time putting together a photo display, or confide in a friend about the death. Mourning is what helps us to move forward. My client’s daughter and the hospice chaplain both emphasized the need to reach out for support from others when struggling with the death of a loved one. This could be in the form of a grief support group or a private therapist. It is also important to be open to speaking with your family doctor to see if you may benefit from antidepressant medications to help with the grieving process. 
  • Healing can come with rituals of remembrance. Participating in a variety of rituals of remembrance can help ease the pain of the loss. Examples include: keeping a remembrance item with you on a daily basis such as a watch or a piece of jewelry, celebrating your loved one on their birthday or the anniversary of their death, creating a memory book or shadow box filled with photos or objects that represent the person you lost, or making a donation in their name to their favorite charity. 

We have been challenged in the last two years with a variety of losses. The loss of a loved one has also felt overwhelming and has changed how we grieved that loss. As a reminder, it is very important to reach out to friends, family, and care providers if you are struggling with your grief. 

Additional resources that you may find helpful include:

Modern Loss

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