Since March 2020, there have been various restrictions on large gatherings including funerals and memorial services.
As time goes by we see some lessening of some restrictions, but the use of face masks and social distancing promises to be the new normal for some time to come. When losing a loved one during this time of pandemic grief, it is magnified because we may have been unable to say goodbye and after the death we are unable to gather together and interact with one another in the usual manner. Funerals may be held privately or with strict mask wearing and social distancing restrictions in place.
First of all, there is no easy way to grieve and everyone grieves differently. The pain of losing someone is magnified as we work through the uncertainty of our daily lives during this time of a pandemic. I hope that the following suggestions assist those who are on their journey of grief and loss.
During this time of social isolation too much thinking can intensify your grief. Rather than focusing on your sadness, you might want to make an honest effort to practice quiet meditation. In my experience, an effective way to meditate is to pray. The church has prayed for the dead from the beginning. The early Christian community in Rome gathered in the catacombs under the city to pray for those faithful followers of Christ who had been buried there. They believed that their prayers served to assist those who had died, just as the prayers of the dead could also aid the living members of the community. This unity in prayer is called the communion of the saints. As Catholics, the repetitive prayers of the Rosary take on new significance as one reflects on the various mysteries of the rosary which are touchstones of our salvation story. If you are unable to attend a live Mass, watching an online Mass and remembering your loved one during the course of the Mass will also lift your spirits. A walk in the fresh air appreciating the natural beauty around you can also be rejuvenating. A visit to the cemetery can also put things in perspective and provide an outlet for your grief.
In addition to addressing your mental and spiritual health, you must take care of your physical health. Be sure you are getting plenty of rest, eating properly and getting moderate exercise. Keep up with your personal appearance and don’t put off seeing your doctor or getting necessary medical testing. Intense grief can make anyone physically ill.
Another way to grieve is to take time to write down your favorite memories of your deceased loved one and to reflect on how they impacted your life. At Catholic Cemeteries of the Diocese of Wilmington we have a special service known as an online memorial page. This service is available free of charge and everyone interred in one of our diocesan cemeteries automatically has a blank memorial page that loved ones can access and place memories and photos. To access the memorial page of your deceased loved one go to cdow.org/cemeteries and on the bottom of the page click “Download our App.” Memories are our greatest inheritance and help us to express our hope that we will all meet again in the joy of heaven.
With the approaching holidays you can begin to think of ways to celebrate the life of your deceased loved one. Perhaps you can make a favorite recipe, set up a small memorial and light a candle, make a special flower arrangement for the table or design an ornament for the Christmas tree. Don’t be hesitant to share your thoughts and feelings and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Just remember that this year the holidays will be different and you should accept that fact. You have entered a new and different stage of your life.
In closing I would like to share a prayer that we say when families come to our cemetery offices to make arrangements to lay a loved one to rest.
Lord, be near us in this time of grief. Lead our loved one safely home. Comfort us in our sorrow and send us your grace as we place our dear one into your loving care. We ask this through your Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mark Christian is executive director for Catholic Cemeteries in the Diocese of Wilmington.