celebrant, Mental Health & Wellbeing

how to grieve in isolation…

I’m not going to pretend that this is easy, it’s not… Grief and loss aren’t easy at the best of times, but in ‘normal life’ we muddle on through first by putting all our efforts into a service of remembrance and celebrating the memories and impact on our world of the person we lost.  Then, at the same time we reach out to our community of family and friends, we cry on their shoulder, we hug. We lean.

Yet here we all our, in worldwide lockdown, quarantined from our friends and most of our family… and then, the worst happens.  Someone we love is taken sick or is dying (be it Covid 19, a life limiting existing illness or a sudden new and dangerous situation).  They get rushed to hospital.  You can’t visit.  It’s almost impossible to get through on the phone to check on their well-being as the NHS staff are rushed off their feet.  Your friends can’t bring you food, or open arms. And if you lose them, there can be no ‘proper’ send off, funeral or wake.  But remember we may be self isolated BUT WE ARE NOT socially isolated.

It’s tragic, there is no doubt about it and no way to sugar coat it. You will potentially feel alone and helpless.  And the impact of it is likely to cause further mental health issues alongside those caused by the unsettling dystopian reality we are all living and the dealing with feeling isolated.  Our loss of identity, purpose, structure and control over almost everything.

It sounds so bleak.  And I’m sorry for saying it.  But I wanted you to know that those levels of despair are normal, real and understandable. It’s easy at the moment to think you are failing if you feel any of these things on a day-to-day basis as there are so many people (including me) posting positive and uplifting or funny memes , blogs and lists of ideas and activities… The truth is, at some point in all of this we are all going to feel lost and afraid… add grief to the mix and, well.. what do we do with it?

Advice with regard to funerals is changing frequently, as with all things, but the latest is this but we may find that the lockdown takes matters further as the crisis continues :

As an Alternative Celebrant I’ve been trying to think of things we CAN do and that MIGHT help :

  • Your friends and family are still there… it will be virtual hugs, Skype calls, 24 hour phone access, help lines.  They, as in all times where their friend is hurting, will feel helpless and they will be more than willing to reach out to you and have you reach out to them
  • I’ve discovered ZOOM – a free on-line meeting app and my suggestion is to use it or similar (I’m not overly techie but I can adapt if necessary) to hold some sort of interim memorial
  • You can still use a celebrant – I am still available to talk with you about your loved one, write a script for a service and even deliver a service via a video conference software system.. I will also diarise a later date to do it again, but properly and with everyone there.
  • Remember, it’s not that you can’t have a wake or big service , it’s just that you can’t right now… That means that when you can it can be even bigger, and include more information and stories than you thought possible.
  • Start gathering together your favourite photos, and stories.
  • Look through your video clips and either you or a techie friend can create a video montage for you for a memorial at a later date
  • Ask your friends and family to write you a letter/note and post it to you sharing a memory or image
  • Take advantage of any help line support you need... no-one is judging you… thy are there to offer support and a modicum of comfort ..
  • share your pain – there is no need to try to be stoic

If any of you out there have other suggestions you want to share, please please do,  I’m muddling on through like the rest of you.  We’re all in this together, as they keep saying. WE just need to pool our strength and our limited resources and get through this TOGETHER

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