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. Elana, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this post. There are so many faces with these numbers … we’ve lost a friend to COVID-19 already. I worry how many more there will be. Thank you for sharing your gifts and talents in this blog. We have found comfort in your posts and in your recipes. And I hope that you are able to mourn and feel comforted in new ways. Sending you strength and hope.

  2. I am so sorry you’re family has been burdened with this. I hope happy memories bring comfort.
    I work in a nursing home in NY. I am a Director of Social Services. We were one of the first to close to all visitors. Family and friends of residents were upset. It was already forcing anticipating fear before it even touched us.
    I have faced many challenges in my life. Going to work and hoping none of your residents get it or co-workers or self? That thought alone was one of the most emotionally taxing. My sons’ father is in Manhattan in the NYPD. Our sons, the youngest 11, were home alone daily. This was heartbreaking.
    We accepted a patient from the hospital who had first tested negative. The virus began to spread within our facility. We took our temps before shifts. I had a temp and sore throat one day. The fear of not knowing. At the time, the anxiety producing task of finding a test was harrowing. I was negative. Headed back to work. Some of my colleagues, not so lucky. But they all came back.
    We have 1 positive resident now and all negative staff. We lost residents and knowing their families weren’t with them was terrible. End of life is my specialty, but this was nothing we’ve dealt with before.
    My kids are still alone. And will continue to be, as schools won’t reopen here.
    I’m scared, but not nearly as much as before. I’m sad that this happened and how it happened and perhaps how it could have been prevented. I miss hugging people. I keep reminding my children, there are things we simply can’t control in life. This virus is one. I remind them that we can only control how we react and deal with this strange experience.
    Thanks for asking us to share.

    • Erin, thank you so very much for sharing your story here. I’m so sorry you are on the front lines and wish you didn’t have to go through all of this, especially given your children. Please take care and stay in touch to LMK how you’re doing.

  3. Elana, such beautiful written about terrible sorrow.
    so sorry for your loss
    I appreciate how you are open generous articulate and helpful to others in the midst of your tsunami of grief.

    I am also your neighbor – were became acquainted years ago in a toddler and mommy playgroup. I loved getting to know you then and very much honor you now.
    Love, Kathleen Rye

    • Kathleen, thanks for your super sweet and supportive comment. Trying to recall the toddler groups, would have been a long time ago, something close to 20 years. Was it related to Waldorf? So great to reconnect :-)

  4. My heart goes out to you and your family. I am praying that in your faith, may you find peace and light in the midst of this chaos and darkness. Much love to you, Elana. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

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