Grief in the time of Covid is unlike anything else we have experienced and deviates from the experiences we have had with death.
The norms of good-byes to our friends and families are without hands held and final kisses. Distant and surreal are the deaths we witness from Facetime calls. There are no wakes with friends that come to comfort us and tell their stories about our loved ones. The connections are, at best, a static line and more often disconnected.
Due to the pandemic, good-bye rituals are postponed with the hopes we can get together sometime soon. Often, the pandemic’s endurance is greater than our own, and we concede our hopes for togetherness and ritual and opting for a small goodbye sooner. This nebulous contagious virus denies us supported closure with friends and family and the stories they bring.
The final gifts we receive from the deceased are the stories of their lives shared by those who knew them the best. When we gather for a wake, a funeral, or a memorial, time and space are carved into rituals to share the joys and connections we had with the deceased. Lifelong friends share the irreverent stories of parents, never before heard by children. The antics of pestering of siblings that went unknown, or better yet, continued for decades! These moments are the gifts of laughter between the tears and sniffles.
We lost my sister-in-law at the way-too-young age of 51 years old just before the pandemic struck. One of her childhood friends came through the receiving line at the wake. She said to my husband, the older brother by five years, “I just have to tell you this! Your sister and I were supposed to be upstairs watching Love Boat and Fantasy Island, the Saturday night sleepover duo, while you were babysitting, but instead, we snuck out of the house. We came through the backyard and were watching you make out in the basement with your girlfriend on the bean bag chair!” This priceless childhood memory shared brought us laughter, some questions, and perhaps some blushing when that high school girlfriend came through the line later that evening! It was an innocent moment of sharing that kept us laughing throughout the sadness of mourning.
Memories shared are the greatest gift we can give those who are grieving. In these current days, our traditional spaces and time of wakes, funerals, and memorials are suspended or often canceled. The loss, the void, the grief, however, are not. I encourage you to find ways to reach out. Take the time to send a card with more than platitudes, send an old photo, make a call, and tell a story, dance to a playlist of nostalgic songs, make a video collage, start a Facebook group...whatever it is, make sure you connect through the stories.
These stories are the legacies. And right NOW is the best time to share the stories as a gift!