The pandemic brought grief into everyone’s day to day, and not just for those who have tragically lost someone to COVID-19, but also through grieving the lifestyles and experiences we had before lockdown. Grief just feels like it follows us everywhere we go and with the pandemic never seeming to be over, with new variants sending us into new lockdowns and uncertainty being the new norm, it feels as though we might never be able to heal or move on from what we have all been experiencing.
Moving on from death
One of the most obvious forms of grief we have been experiencing during the pandemic is that of losing someone we love. There has perhaps never been a worse time to lose a loved one than right now. Restrictions mean that there is a cap on how many people can be present at a funeral and those who attend must wear a mask and socially distance themselves from other households at all times.
Instead of being a time to comfort and support one another, funerals have become even harder, even more devastating than they were before. And that is just considering the people permitted to attend. For those who must watch their loved one’s funeral from a live stream, the heartbreak is even worse. For many of us, the sense of closure that we so desperately crave from a funeral service has been taken from us, even if our loved one did not die of COVID-19.
While it may not be an immediate comfort, it is helpful to remember that opportunities to say goodbye and celebrate the life of a loved one do not begin and end at a funeral service, as important as they are to so many people. So many people have found solace and comfort in being able to plan memorial services for a later date when families can finally reunite and hold one another like they’ve wanted to all this time. Memorials should not be treated as second best to a funeral, but rather a chance to do things the way you want and hopefully, find a way to move on.
Saying goodbye to plans
Funerals are not the only things forced to change due to restrictions and lockdowns. How many milestone birthday parties, weddings or graduations have had to be cancelled since the beginning of the pandemic? Learning how to grieve and move on from the idea of any one of these sorts of events is something that many of us are facing for the first time.
The first step is to, of course, acknowledge and be honest about your feelings of sadness and disappointment. It’s all too easy to feel selfish or unreasonable to be upset about an important event when the health or lives of others is on the line during the pandemic. However, it’s important to remember that loss takes many forms and this kind of guilt is not productive.
After the disappointment passes, however, it may be worth considering the opportunities to be creative. There may never be a second chance at a 21st birthday party or graduating from school, but behind every cloud there is a silver lining. We can allow ourselves the space to be disappointed, but attempt to make things memorable in a different way. For example, we can celebrate milestone birthdays within COVID restrictions for now, while organising the party of our dreams for an undetermined later date and give ourselves something to look forward to and work towards.
Some people whose weddings were cancelled opted instead for elopement or smaller weddings that fit within the current guest limit. These events have ended up being beautifully creative even amongst the disappointment of being denied a wedding of their dreams. In a way, being forced to do things differently because of COVID gives us the chance to reassess what really matters. When we’re put in a position where we have to do things differently, we may sometimes find ourselves happier or more fulfilled for it.
Saying goodbye to normal
In some ways, it’s the small things in life that really trip us up in the end. The pandemic has taken many things from us, including millions of people’s lives. And yet what we seem to have struggled with the most in regards to living through a global pandemic is not necessarily the life changing things, but the mundane, everyday privileges that we once perhaps took for granted.
For some, even walking into an indoor space without a face covering seems like a distant memory, especially for those who are vulnerable and prefer to exercise extra caution even if it’s not required by law. Being able to stand less than two metres apart from another person is not something we ever would have thought of as something we’d miss, until it was taken away from us. Even being able to visit our loved ones whenever we please is now something that we consider to be precious after so many have been separated over and over again because of rising cases.
As the pandemic continues and experts predict a long road ahead before a real light emerges at the end of the tunnel, it’s worth considering the effect that these seemingly meaningless habits have on our mental health over time. Human beings are social creatures, and even for those of us who prefer a more introverted lifestyle, feeling so emotionally and physically cut off from others can take its toll over time. For many people, this “new normal” that has become necessary – a life of social distancing, mask-wearing and constant vigilance regarding ours and others’ health – feels like a loss in itself. Perhaps it is a much more abstract loss than the loss of a human being, but it is a loss nonetheless. That of a more seemingly naive or innocent time, before we understood what the repercussions of living through such a tragic historical event really meant.
If we treat this as a loss, then it stands to reason that we must also grieve for the lives we used to lead and for the time so many of us have lost that we won’t ever get back. However, there is, perhaps, a light at the end of the tunnel. Because while it is true that the years we spend living through the pandemic, especially 2020, will be remembered as years we “lost”, it’s possible that we could also look at this time in terms of what we have also gained.
The world will likely look very different once COVID-19 is finally a distant memory, and hopefully for the better. Many of us have already gone through the pandemic having received a rude awakening in terms of the importance of family, of picking up the phone to stay in touch even when you’re busy. We’re reminded that it’s important to check on your elderly neighbours and to donate money to homeless shelters who are struggling even more due to the pandemic. We’re encouraged to shop with local businesses again in order to give them our support during a tough financial period.
And while the pandemic has made far too many of us feel cut off and alone, it has also forced us into a position where we are made to slow down, for better or worse, and re-evaluate what matters. And if there’s one way in which we can all hope to move on from the collective trauma of this pandemic, it’s at least by remembering how precious our time is and to make the most of the amount we are given.
We are a family-led business offering funeral services in Essex since 1958.