Throughout our lives, we all experience “transition touchpoints.” These moments are significant to us not only personally, but psychologically. There is a reason why people often tell stories about giving birth, getting married, graduations, the “first” time this happened, the “last” of something, etc. These “touchpoints” not only mark the transition, they often help us mentally and emotionally work through them.
One specific touchpoint that has always served as a sacred transition is the marking of someone’s passing. While funeral traditions vary greatly from culture to culture, there is always something. A ceremony, gathering, processional, a way of treating the body, a process of honoring that person’s life and offering comfort to those who knew them.
One of the greatest tragedies of the pandemic is the immense loss of life compounded with social restrictions that altered funeral traditions or eliminated them completely. Whether you lost someone to COVID-19 or for other reasons, your “touchpoint” to deal with that loss was likely impacted in some way. Given the essential psychological processes we all need to go through when we lose someone, this has left people feeling “stalled” in their grieving. If this is you, or someone you know, here are some suggestions for reclaiming that important mental and emotional grieving process.
Ways to Reclaim the Grieving Process the Pandemic Took Away
Have the funeral later, or again. If you lost someone at the height of pandemic social restrictions, you may not have had a funeral. Or, if you were able to, you may not have gathered all the people you wanted, in the place you wanted, or engaged in certain traditions. I recognize that funerals can be costly and exhaustive both financially and emotionally. However, if you have the means and the desire there is absolutely no reason not to have that important ceremony at a later date if you need/want to.
Create a personal grieving ceremony(s). Depending on your resources or decision-making ability related to the person you lost, you may only be able to create a personal grieving experience. I have had many clients who felt stalled in their grieving over someone they lost when they were young, couldn’t attend the service, etc. Many of them have designed their own moments, as simple as reading a letter by a lake, visiting a graveside, etc. Remember, it is often not the physical magnitude of something that helps, it is the intentionality.
Grieve the way it happened. If so far you are saying, “Nope, I don’t want to re-do/re-visit any of that. I’m just struggling with the way it all happened.” Great. It’s important to figure out if we need the ceremony/traditions or if we need to just grieve how the ceremony did (or didn’t) happen. Lots of people experience disappointment around touchstone moments that don’t go as planned. In these times we are seeking to forgive and make peace with what didn’t happen, rather than create a corrective experience.
Talk to someone. Grief is not a one-time experience. And, the impact of the pandemic ensures that almost all of us are encountering some kind of grief, even if we did not physically lose someone. Mental health therapists are trained to help people filter through thoughts, make meaning of their stories, identify pain points and help you better help yourself. One of the most valuable things to come out of the pandemic is as long as you have access to the internet, you can have access to a counselor. Seek one in your local area or consider these virtual options:
Remember, just because you are “still” grieving doesn’t mean something is wrong. Grief is not something you “get over.” It is a cyclical part of our connection with those we have lost (read more on that here). However, if you feel specifically stuck related to a loss during the pandemic, one of the options above may be helpful. Blessings in your grief journey.