Did you ever think there would be a time in our lives where the ability to attend a funeral or a memorial service would no longer be an option?
Well, that is exactly the lot we have been given with the arrival of COVID-19. People, friends and family members are being denied the ability to have those last moments in tribute to loved ones due to increased safety measures.
I know for myself I have spoken to numerous individuals who have expressed extreme anguish at not only not being able to be present at the bedside as someone they love is dying, but also that they are being prevented from attending large gatherings at funeral homes or church settings.
I cannot even imagine how one wraps their mind around some of these things and then how on Earth they even begin to process their grief due to stolen moments from a virus that has been so unpredictable.
It’s like I told my parents this week, after social distancing from them for over two months, I absolutely found that I couldn’t stay away from them anymore. I found myself being in conflict between my heart and my mind because I am always talking about “living for every moment” and how to “not take life for granted.”
These two things made me start thinking about how much time I was cheating myself of spending with family because, truthfully, COVID-19 could arrive at any moment, and then would I find myself beating myself up and regretting all of the time lost if the end result was going to be the same? Would I look back at decisions made and wonder if I had done the right thing, or would I spend the rest of my lifetime surrounded with regrets?
These questions are difficult to answer because, first and foremost, the health and safety of others should be my number one priority, and it still is something I think about daily.
In counseling sessions, I listen to the anguish of COVID-19 separation, and I hear the heartbreak as people are grieving not only the death of a loved one, but also the time lost that they can never get back.
Ironic isn’t it that we have lived in such a fast-paced world that quality time spent with others was sometimes placed on a backburner, but now that the opportunity to do these things has been taken away from us, we crave it now more than ever?
It is so strange to hear about virtual funerals or to read obituaries that describe graveside services of 10 people or less. How are those decisions being made, and how does healing begin if we are omitted or even prevented from attending an age old ritual that has always been taken for granted?
Truthfully, everyone is simply doing the very best that they can, and even knowing this, it is still extremely difficult to understand. Gatherings of people, signing of guest books, singing songs of praise and sharing stories of loved ones are essential aspects of grieving. Now we have to become more creative and often delay services until months down the road in order to “celebrate the life” of our loved ones because simply accepting the loss of a funeral service weighs heavily upon our hearts and is just not acceptable.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, we are going to discover how deeply the emotional loss of what we are currently experiencing has taken its toll. I’ve often said lately that dying during this pandemic is terrible timing (not that anytime is a good time to die) because we are unable to properly “send them off.”
But you see, despite the hardships, death continues to wait for no one, and for those of us left behind, we will still grieve — the act of grieving itself is just going to add some new layers.
Rituals are an important aspect of healing, and so we must continue to discover ways to honor those we have lost, now and in the near future (safely).
Jenny Filush-Glaze is a licensed counselor and owner of Serenity Community Counseling LLC. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.