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How to find new ways to unite in grief and celebrate a loved one’s life

Image of a group video call on a laptop

So many people are reaching out for help at this time, unsure where to turn. Coronavirus has changed our world and now more than ever, we realise how much we need closeness, physical contact, and that instinctive reaching out to one another that we rely so much on in our times of need.

Coronavirus has weakened our position before we have even started to grieve for the loss of someone we love. Being denied the physical comfort we need from our family and friends before, during and after a funeral means we must find new ways to unite in our grief and celebrate a loved one’s life. And even though it may feel easier to withdraw into ourselves in this time of lockdown and isolation, it is more important than ever that we push ourselves to reach out to one another. It is essential to our wellbeing to find new rituals and ways of respecting and honouring those who have died. We must adapt to this new way of living and being. We have no choice. We must also let it be OK to feel the pain of our grief.

We also have to accept what is out of our control. It is in this acceptance and letting go of trying to control everything, that we will find our strength. The coronavirus cannot take away our love for each other, our hope for recovery and our self-care. If we rally against the unfairness, we will block out these things.

When I miss those I have lost, I am always glad for the life we had together. I don’t think about how they died, I focus on how they lived

The importance of talking about grief

When you allow yourself the freedom to express your grief, you actually begin to reduce it and this is where we start to heal. The ability to experience and to share our emotions is all part of being human. Reach out to each other. There is no right or wrong way to grieve – whatever you are feeling is right for you.

Become part of the virtual funeral

With restricted attendance at funerals and self-isolation, you may not be able to attend the funeral of someone you love. Many funerals are now being live-streamed so you can be a witness to the ceremony. Mark this day and this time, and give it the gravitas and respect it deserves. This is an important step in your grieving experience.

When we go through certain rituals for grieving, we let some of it go. Take time to prepare. Have a candle to light, photographs to hand. Memorialise your surroundings for the person. Dress for the occasion as if you were going to attend in person. Grief isn’t just emotional, it’s physical too and doing these things will help you. When we walk through our grief we get rid of some of its weight.

Use your phone, iPad or laptop to reach each other

Never has social media and our electronic devices been more needed and this will be your lifeline through lockdown. We can use these to unite with each other.

Try a Zoom family and friends gathering. Make sure you save your chat so the content can be collated at the end. Before starting the Zoom chat, ask everyone to write down a favourite memory of the person who has died and what will stay with them forever. Take turns to speak without interrupting one another.

Hands holding fairy lights

Agree a set time with family and friends when you all light a candle at the same time next to a photograph and play a favourite song. When we light candles, we come into communion with each other spiritually and we give energy into the spirit world of the person who has died. In her Easter speech, HM The Queen spoke of the power of light overcoming darkness. And so, it is that when we gather in spiritual community and hold someone in the light, we invite a healing power.

Coming together in these ways means that no-one is left alone with their grief, and even though we cannot reach to one another physically, we can with our words and our love. FaceTime, videos and phone calls bring us closer to the people in our lives.

Enjoy your memories

Memory is how we hold onto the things we love. Reach out and speak them out loud to each other and keep the emotional bond shining. In the midst of brokenness and broken-heartedness, we know that it is our memories and the sharing of those memories that sustain us.

Bereavement is the ultimate experience which forces a major change in our lives, so it is vital that we have some semblance of preparation for ourselves and those in our lives. Share your love in words with your family and friends. Tell them what they mean to you, what they have taught you and what’s important to you in your relationships with them.

Think of your own footprint and how you want to be remembered. Think of the things you would like to leave to your family that matter to you – love, kindness, courage – whatever it is you choose, so that when an ending comes, every time they find themselves doing the things you did and that were important to you, they will feel you close and be comforted. This is how we remember the people we love.

When I miss those I have lost, I am always glad for the life we had together. I don’t think about how they died, I focus on how they lived.

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Lianna Champ

Written by Lianna Champ

Lianna Champ has over 40 years’ experience in grief counselling and funeral care and is author of practical guide, How to Grieve Like A Champ.

Written by Lianna Champ

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