Human beings struggle with change. Communal rituals help us frame the changes we are going through and provide opportunities for insight that can help us have a smoother transition and gain support from our family, friends, and community. Coping with death is one of the most difficult of life’s milestones to navigate.
Due to social distancing and quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, we see the sudden development of being unable to join together in person for funerals, memorial services, wakes, calling hours, sitting Shiva, etc. When a death occurs due to COVID-19, family members have often been denied the opportunity to be with their loved one at the time of death. Rituals that have sustained us in our respective cultures for thousands of years have been eliminated in a matter of weeks.
One of the most important gifts we can give is supporting the bereaved. It is important to express compassion and sympathy for the loss of traditional ways of grieving, and also to help create whatever rituals and connections are possible in the space of what is missing.
And while it may be most urgent to focus on mourning during this time of COVID-19, we must also remember that there are many other important milestone rituals falling away during this time of social distancing: holiday celebrations, communal worship, graduations, weddings, baby showers, births, confirmations, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversaries, and birthdays. Fortunately, with creativity and technology, recognizing these milestones doesn’t have to stop while in quarantine. And while this new frontier of connecting certainly doesn’t compare to the real thing, the internet and human creativity is blessing us with ways to gather and encourage each other while remaining socially distanced.
Let’s get creative!