There have been many changes in our world over the last several weeks, but death hasn’t stopped. In addition, we’re experiencing a new layer of loss as the ability to mark a passing in our usual way isn’t possible at this time. However, grief (feelings following a loss) still happens even when mourning (the expression of grief) is on hold.
Mourning is an important part of our healing process following a loss, one that’s kick-started by a funeral or other ceremony that happens soon after a death has occurred. Ceremony and ritual are expressions of our culture and our beliefs, they mark life’s significant moments and bring us together, building and solidifying connections. They create structure, an emotional scaffolding for life’s big moments. Without the ceremony of a memorial, grief can feel amorphous and mourning may be delayed.
Funerals don’t just mark the beginning of the mourning process. They also help us to acknowledge the reality of a loved one’s death, create space for remembering the life they lived, and offer a venue for extending and receiving support. Funeral elements such as the presence of the body, casket or urn, meaningful music, sharing of memories through pictures and story facilitate mourning.
In the absence of the usual ceremony, it’s critical to honour our loss by finding ways to create a similar experience to scaffold our grief. We can do this by holding a small ceremony of our own design, a practice that is highly recommended at a time when a funeral or memorial can’t happen soon. It might include special music or readings, prayer or meditation, displaying pictures, sharing stories, lighting some candles, and finish with a simple meal. Think of the significant elements of a funeral and find ways to create your own version. Perhaps the most important part of the funeral experience is the opportunity to connect with loved ones. Following a loss in these times of social distancing, it’s especially important to use every technological means available to you to reach out to family and friends. You may choose to share your at-home memorial experience with others through online video or to keep it among the members of your household. Either way, be sure to reach out to your support system and your fellow mourners regularly. Although you are apart, you are together in your grief. With intention and creativity, you can support each other through this difficult time.
Blog Author -- Jodie Voth, RMFT
Jodie is a full-time therapist and owner of Voth Family Therapy. She enjoys working with teens and motivated adults who are working through transitions and relationship challenges.