Grieving Death In The Time Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

After Losing a Loved One to COVID we gather our extended family. 🤗 Virtual hugs extend through the computers that stand between us, reflections of our 😰 isolation. Screens bind us to our grief instead of each other. This is a new way of mourning en masse, in a time unlike any other.

Grieving Death In The Time Of The Coronavirus Pandemic

Screens separate us from all that we cannot touch. The hand we cannot hold. The hug we cannot give. Mourning trapped, incompletely expressed. Grieving death in the time of the coronavirus pandemic is different. It’s darker and lonelier.

Success Is Less Than 100,000

As I write this, the US government has announced that 49,861 people have died of Coronavirus. One of those is from our family. Another is a friend. Two of the many dead have names and faces for us. Still. None of the others are just numbers.

9/11 x Sixteen = 49,861 Deaths

Coronavirus has killed more than 49,000 Americans. That is sixteen 9/11s in a few weeks. Americans have lost family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. This is a tragedy of extreme proportions. And because we were not prepared for this war, we have no way to grieve the fallen.

No Way To Grieve

I pray that none of you go through what our family has been through in the last week. Why? Beyond losing someone, current circumstances make this one of the worst times to grieve.

No Way To Say Goodbye

With the highly infectious nature of coronavirus, we are unable to say goodbye to our dying loved ones. Visits are not allowed. Because it is a pandemic and things are so chaotic on the front lines, you may not be able to contact a loved one. Or they may be intubated, sedated, and unable to speak. This too is not uncommon.

Mourning Alone

After death comes the screens. Often there are no funerals because it’s too dangerous to gather. No memorial services. No gathering of loved ones to say goodbye. Forget about being with family and friends. You will not get a hug, you will get a text message. If you have someone to organize it, you’ll sit shiva and mourn on Zoom calls.

The Normal Healing Process Has Been Disrupted

Coronavirus has upended so many of the routines and traditions that are integral to our lives. Death, funerals, and grieving are no exception. In one article on Vox Media entitled, How Coronavirus is Changing the Way We Grieve and Mourn the Dead, a rabbi was quoted saying, “the normal healing process has been disrupted.” Sadly, my family has experienced this firsthand.

Grieving Death During The Coronavirus Pandemic

Here are some of the ways that grieving death during the coronavirus pandemic has changed from prior times. This is our new normal:

  • Small socially distant funerals
  • Drive-by funerals
  • Live stream funerals

Sudden Death x 50,000

Coronavirus has caused death and along with it a simultaneous barrier to proper grieving. The suddenness of all this is another shock. It is as if 50,000 people died in car crashes in a few weeks. There is an incompleteness to these deaths. No goodbye. No gathering. Nothing. And it hurts.

A State Of Collective Shock

With no way to say goodbye, thousands of times over, our country is in a state of collective grief that has turned into shock. This is a massive amount of trauma for people, and a country to absorb.

A Tsunami Of Grief

This swell of loss may very well turn into a tsunami of grief in the coming months if the virus is not contained and controlled by those in command.

How To Support Loved Ones Grieving Death During The Coronavirus Pandemic

This article called 6 Ways to Help Loved Ones Grieving Death During the Coronavirus Pandemic shares thoughtful ideas for supporting friends and family who are grieving a death right now. Here are a few ways you can be of support:

  • Do ask if you can help plan an online funeral
  • Do ask if you can share happy memories
  • Don’t ask, “how can I help” –this transfers the burden
  • Do send a note, email, or text
  • Don’t hound if you receive no response, give space

Have You Lost A Loved One During This Time?

This is what is happening with me. But what about you? Have you lost someone during this time? Someone dear to you? Or a friend? A colleague? A neighbor, or acquaintance? It doesn’t matter if it was from coronavirus because we’re all in the same boat, taken by surprise and deprived of the rituals that anchor us when death visits. How are you coping?

Coronavirus Around The World

People from around the world responded when I wrote about Coronavirus and My Family. I’m so grateful that you came to talk to me from your homes in South Korea, New Zealand, France, Ireland, England, Israel, and the US. During this time of isolation, you are a lifeline for me. So leave a comment and let me know how you’re holding up. I want to know how you’re doing. Hugs to you and all and stay safe!

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Your bravery in writing about your grief paints a picture we don’t normally see on the news.


112 responses to “Grieving Death In The Time Of The Coronavirus Pandemic”

  1. Hey Elana. It’s Carrie. I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad on April 9 to the virus. He would have been 90 on May 1 and I should have been in NYC. It’s been miserable. So much that can’t be done – say goodbye, have a timely proper service, be with family and friends and then trying to deal with anything legal is impossible with the courts closed. Wow. The NY Post did a nice tribute which makes me smile. Sending you a virtual hug.

    • Carrie, I’m so sorry for the loss of your father during this terribly difficult time. Sending you a thousand virtual hugs and stay safe.

  2. I am so very sorry about your losses. Your bravery in writing about your grief paints a picture we don’t normally see on the news. I cannot imagine losing two people to this virus. We are fortunate that our daughter and her wife are recovering from it. They were struck about a month ago but are doing well. In the middle of all the panic, our grown son was diagnosed with colon cancer and will begin chemo therapy May 4. We are very optimistic and the doctors believe he will make a full recovery. I pray for you and your family.

    • Barbara, thanks very much for your kind words. I am so sorry for all that you are going through right now, you and yours are in my prayers.

  3. Its so hard to lose loved ones and the grieving process can last months. My heart goes out to you and my arms want to wrap around you and while you cry I would be saying, “It will get better. It wont hurt so much. It will get better. “
    Elana, you are such a friend to our family through your blogs and recipes. We are hurting with you.
    Hang in there. You are loved.

  4. God bless, comfort and keep you, your family and friends in His care at this most difficult time, dear Elana!

  5. I lost my grandmother. She was almost 88. The family was able to do zoom chats with her while she was in the hospital for 30 days. She was sedated and intubated, however we were all able to say our goodbyes and tell her how much we love her. While I am grateful for those moments it truly is surreal. Everyone grieves differently to begin with, and this whole thing is bizarre. I pray for you and your family, and all of us. I hope that as a society we remember how important hugs are- and our humanity.

    • Marissa, I am so sorry that you lost your grandmother, and sorry again that it had to be during this time. Everything happening right now is really helping me remember what is important. Stay safe.

  6. So sorry for the loss of your family member and friend, any loss is hard, but at times like this it is even harder to cope with than when life is normal. And life is definitely not normal at the moment , not for anyone, there are so many not normal things happening and we just HAVE to keep going and HAVE to cope with it all, even though we really don’t want too. We must ..
    Be as kind to yourself, your family and friends as you can. Accept that life “Sucks” at the moment but just keep going , you will come through it and hopefully when we all get to the other side we can all have the memorial services and the gatherings of family and friends to honour the lives of those we have lost, but not forgotten,

    we will all need this to manage the grief that we have/are experiencing, not just the loss of life, the loss of innocence for the children, the loss of opportunity, the loss of jobs and the loss of communities and the loss of the many healthcare and other front line workers who took great risks to help people , often at the cost of their own lives.

    Hopefully we will come out of this much wiser and kinder than we were before, more caring and considerate of others.
    Marthea …. from Australia

  7. Elana,
    I am so sorry for your losses and commend your bravery to write about the grieving process, which is always complicated but so much more so in current times. I will pray for healing for you and your family.

  8. I am so very sorry that you are going through this, Elana. Sending you warm, virtual hugs from Israel.

  9. I am saddened to hear of you losing people you love to this virus. Your words are gracious and warm in sharing your experiences and how you are grieving. It will help others. My thoughts are with you and family as you find ways to show love and support to each other. Yes everyone of the people who have died have names and families. I pause for them as well.

  10. There are no words. Death takes from us. Our hearts are broken open, never to be the same.
    Life goes on, but we are left behind, for the moment. It will ease up in time, and of course, we will be different.
    I know this is hard to hear at this time, and I speak from experience and compassion when I say this, but there is a gift that comes with grief over time. Be what you need to be for yourself at this time and take care. Know that you are loved and valued.

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