Rites of Grief and Loss in the Time of Coronavirus

“Legacy. What is a legacy? / It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see.” 

Hamilton, Lin Manuel Miranda

There’s no easy time to lose a loved one, but this quarantine period certainly makes our rituals of grief more of a challenge. Many cultures help mourners cling to tradition and structure in times of loss by following a prescribed set of behaviors for movement through grief. But in an age when we can no longer gather with family or hold them close, these rituals have taken on new shapes. How has grieving been different for you during the quarantine?

Changing rites in the face of the quarantine

If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you know that many customs we hold dear simply can’t happen right now. We feel the heartache of keeping away from a loved one’s bedside as they pass from life to death, which can lead to anger and resentment that this experience of saying goodbye is so different from what it would normally have been — and what we believe our loved one deserves. Our funeral rites are different, too. Though we long to see surviving loved ones in person, we’re often relegated to hearing words of comfort from faith leaders through a screen. We long to put our arms around each other in comfort, to pass boxes of tissues down rows of listeners, and to feel the wind on our faces as we stand beside the grave.

In the days that follow a death, we’d normally share a physical space of mourning with loved ones. Amid glasses clinking in toasts to the one we’ve lost, we’d break bread together, partaking in literal comfort foods whose beloved recipes have often passed down from our family or even from the loved one who has passed. Even the bustle of departure has its own rites: quiet conversations as supporters of the mourners wash dishes, shoo the mourners out of the kitchen, and plan a schedule to provide meals for the family in the days to come. 

So many of these rituals of comfort are lost to us at the moment. Does this fact complicate the grieving process, keeping us from moving through the necessary feelings? Perhaps. But we can shift our focus in a healthy way to modify these rituals, meeting our needs in ways that adhere to coronavirus restrictions.

Connection in a time of crisis

We crave closeness and connection as we grieve, but it’s still possible to have these things even during quarantine — even if the result is not entirely the same. Though they fall short of in-person gatherings, video-sharing platforms like Zoom have created digital spaces of support for many, allowing us to share stories of loved ones and to travel virtually to funerals. We find ways to honor loved ones through slideshows, videos, and online photo albums. We stay connected through the magic of social media, working with loved ones to honor the departed and even to hold fundraisers for their beloved charities in their name.

Even in times of isolation, we find ways to create real connections and remember the ones we love. And no matter how alone we may feel during quarantine, these adjusted rites and rituals assure us that we are never truly alone. What are some ways that you or your family have found to grieve the loss of a loved one while in quarantine?

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.