The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of our daily lives. Sadly, this extends to loss, with many of us having had loved ones pass either due to COVID-19 (with 154,811 deaths in the UK as of August 6th 2021) or in the midst of the pandemic’s various restrictions.
Inevitably, how we process and grieve the loss of our loved ones, or memorialise and honour their lives with others, has changed. Many have been unable to grieve their loved ones in ways they typically would because of funeral restrictions. Others haven’t been able to say goodbye in person due to social distancing guidelines.
What were the effects of COVID-19?
For much of the pandemic, there was a limit of 30 attendees at any funeral service. However, at their strictest, these regulations permitted only immediate family. This left many unable to say goodbye to their loved ones and isolated from honouring the person they had lost, the comfort of other mourners and the closure that funerals and memorial services provide.
Regardless, people have been embracing creative and practical solutions to barriers imposed by the COVID restrictions, so those close to the deceased are still able to mourn, pay their respects and be included in the service.
How has our grieving process changed?
Our grieving has become more public. Whereas before we may have wanted to be alone or limit our interactions while we deal with the loss of a loved one, the pandemic has increased our social isolation and in some cases, stopped us from visiting the loved one who has passed. As a result, we may be more open to grieving with others and coming together to honour people’s lives.
On public forums like social media and the internet, we have become more engaged, taking an active role in commemorating and appreciating people who have made a difference to our lives. For example, Britain’s weekly clap for the NHS workers and our honouring and memorialisation of Captain Tom Moore, where an online book of condolence was set up for people to send in their messages.
How have people been grieving their loved ones throughout the restrictions?
- Livestreaming – One of the biggest examples of this is the growth of livestreaming funeral services.
With a range of platforms available, and many crematoriums now equipped with cameras and microphones, live streaming has allowed family and friends, who could not attend in person due to restrictions, to view the service and feel involved. Beyond helping us grieve in the pandemic, livestreaming has also allowed those who live abroad, or would otherwise be unable to attend, to grieve alongside their family too.
Even in a post-COVID world, these technologies are a great way to give everyone a chance to honour their loved ones together, regardless of physical distance.
- Online pages – With online pages, people have been able to pay their respects and grieve by leaving online messages, reading about the deceased and donating to the cause or chosen charity. These are on the internet, so are accessible to anyone at any time, acting as an updatable record to honour the life of the loved-one.
- Recordings and streams of music performances, poetry
and words – Due to the pandemic, those who are unable to attend a funeral have been finding unique ways to contribute to the memorial and celebration of their loved one’s life. Some have recorded singing, words, music and poetry for use in the service.
What happens next?
While the restrictions are now lifted in England, some of the ways in which we’ve been grieving over the last year and a half are likely here to stay. Although virtual solutions may never replace saying your goodbyes in person, they offer an extra option to those who – for whatever reason – are unable to attend. Funerals will continue to evolve and adapt alongside peoples’ circumstances and needs to ensure they can grieve and celebrate the life of their loved one in the best way possible.
For information and support with grieving and bereavement, visit Mortons Monday Club.