Much of life and the rituals of passage were suddenly halted early in 2020 to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while scientists worked to develop effective vaccines against the disease. But now, more than a year later, as pandemic restrictions lift, families who lost loved ones or missed memorials are making up for lost time and holding much-delayed gatherings to mourn and celebrate.
Survivor’s guilt or the inability to share grief with friends and families has left many mourners carrying a heavy burden alone. Even if many months have passed since losing a close friend or family member, it’s not too late to have a meaningful memorial. Rather than regretting not having the closure and connection with others in paying tribute to the life of a loved one, experts say it’s important to hold some kind of service.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, holding funerals or memorials, even if it’s an informal outdoor gathering to share memories, music, and food, helps gives survivors comfort and see the many people who shared a love for the departed. Although many families turned to an online format for services during periods of quarantine, live streaming can’t replace face-to-face interaction where people can share stories feel a sense of connection.
Not sure where to begin planning a delayed celebration of life? The grief support website What’s Your Grief? helps mourners and people supporting someone experiencing grief cope and learn about the complicated experience of loss. By keeping in mind that there is no “right” way to grieve, more families open up to the possibility of finding new and perhaps even more meaningful ways to honor the lives of loved ones.
The takeaway? As people start to socialize in person again, taking time to celebrate birthdays, graduations, and weddings as well as share the grief of losses will help people heal and regain a sense of optimism many lost during the global pandemic. It may feel strange at first to gather in person, but with time and baby steps, we can move forward into a future with greater hope and confidence.