How can I navigate mourning the death of loved ones during Covid-19?

Infection and Spread Mental Health

A: This is hard. We celebrate life and grieve loss with our Dear Pandemic community.

Traditional grieving practices such as funerals require additional considerations during the present pandemic to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 while also supporting normal grief following a death. The combination of tragic circumstances, social isolation, and in some cases multiple losses can make the grieving process even more challenging. Applying SMART-ER guidelines to memorial services, celebrating the life and memory of those who died in new ways, and reaching out for additional support as needed can provide solace and strength as we collectively mourn the passing of our loved ones.

For many, togetherness brings comfort following death. Togetherness is complicated at the moment, but not impossible. Memorial practices often include group gatherings, and need modification to prevent additional illness and deaths. The risk of transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a deceased individual is very low in comparison to the infection risk posed by the attendees and staff at a memorial service. Remember, the following measures are most effective when used together. When making plans, consider the following:

SPACE – Large, well-ventilated spaces are preferred to small spaces. Consider services at the graveside or in a large meeting space where it is possible to maintain 6 feet of distance from others. Shared cars with members outside your household should be avoided when possible.

MASK – Definitely wear a mask. Keep it on. Keep your nose covered.

AIR – Outdoor gatherings remain safer than indoor gatherings. If inside, open windows and doors when possible. If weather restricts an outdoor, masked gathering at this time consider planning a celebration of life at a later date.

RESTRICT – In person memorial services should be kept small for now in the setting of significant community spread in most of the US. There have been cases of Covid-19 outbreaks at funerals. Sadly, the virus does not respect anything – even funerals.

TIME – Keep in-person interactions brief when sharing condolences with the bereaved.

ENGAGE – Find safe ways to connect. Connection is essential to many in the grieving process. Connection can happen in many safe forms and should continue well after the death of a loved one. Now is the time to reach out just because, share the memories (good and bad), make plans to connect regularly. Struggling with a loss is absolutely normal. Reaching out for personal and/or professional support is greatly encouraged.

RITUALS – Many memorial practices include touching, sharing of bread and wine, singing, and other very meaningful though risky activities. Carefully consider the tradeoffs of the risk and the ritual. Make safer modifications when possible.

The Nerdy Girls stand with everyone grieving the death of a loved one at this truly difficult time.

Additional Reading (and watching):

Remembering a Life: Grieving Alone and Together During Covid-19

Making Funerals Meaningful in the Age of Covid-19 (video)

CDC guidance on funerals

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