Dealing with Grief and Loss at a Distance

Part two of our four part Expert Counsel series on “How do we grieve, in this new Covid world?

Reverend Giulio Lorefice Gabeli

We are living in an unprecedented time of change and transition because of the Covid-19 Outbreak. Life as we know it seems to have disappeared and threatens to never return to what it was. The new normal that is being presented for the future demands social distancing and restrictions on the size of public gatherings, whether they be weddings, funerals, or religious services. The popular mantra today in BC, that has been declared so aptly by our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, says it all, “a few faces in big spaces” seems to be the new norm.

Regardless of the religious traditions, in dealing with death and grief, many individuals congregate to mourn, remember, and comfort each other, but sadly today because of the outbreak, that is no longer acceptable. Obviously, this has created quite a few challenges to those that have suffered the loss of a loved one, as grieving individuals normally turn to their families and community of friends to help them get through their pain and loss.

How does one deal with loss and grief in this era? How can there be closure for a person or family if there cannot be a memorial or funeral service accompanied by a loving community of family and friends? These are certainly particularly challenging times for dealing with death and grieving.

On the flip side of the coin, we also live in a very technologically advanced society, that has given us the privilege of gathering on virtual platforms like Zoom, Webex, Vimeo or Facebook Live. This enables us to connect visually, audibly, emotionally, and spiritually.

Recently, I conducted my first celebration of life service on Zoom with the family and friends of a wonderful member of my Congregation, who died as a result of Cancer. What needs to be mentioned is that the Zoom platform enabled an atmosphere of connectedness, even though some of the participants were thousands of kilometers away in other countries.

The atmosphere created by the Eulogy, the Tributes and the Homily were just as moving and inspirational as it would have been if we were gathered physically, in a Temple, Synagogue, Church or Funeral Chapel.

Of course, we could not hug or kiss each other in a physical way, but the family was able to express their love and appreciation for each other and give each other virtual hugs. This really was a source of great comfort and encouragement. It was quite moving to feel the love and see the tears and hear the laughter as funny memories and stories were being shared about the deceased loved one. It was quite a unique experience for me, which sadly may not be the last time that we will be engaged in grieving from a distance. Now, I must say it clearly; a virtual gathering can never fully replace the impact of a physical one and a virtual hug cannot give you the same sense and warmth of a physical hug; but it’s the next best thing that is available for us today.

I would like to share with you a final thought in light of the challenges that we are facing today, with social distancing and the prohibition of public gatherings:

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” — Romans 8:28.

This verse written by the Apostle Paul, really makes sense to me in a strange way, in this new normal.

In the absence of a close physical gathering to deal with grief and loss, today, there is an opportunity to broaden the engagement of family and friends even from distant lands because of virtual platforms. These individuals very often, would not be able to, under normal circumstances, be present in person. Now they can feel connected and share the experience together in real time, with the rest because of todays technology. That, my friends, is an incredibly good thing.

If this new normal continues for longer than we think; do not be discouraged because every crisis can, and will always, present unique opportunities.

Reverend Giulio Lorefice Gabeli

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