When my son, Charles died by suicide on June 5, 2015, my house was elbow-to-elbow full of people by June 7 every day from 11 am-5 pm. That went on for a week. And I was grateful.
Family and friends surrounded me with love and the Southern tradition of dropping by, bringing barbecue, booze, and boxes of tissues. The hugs, food, and flowers from people’s gardens were what got me through that first tragic week and the funeral that followed seven days later was packed with mourners.
I thought there were thousands but all I really know is that it was a big church and the guests spilled out onto the sidewalk outside. I was too numb to take an attendance count but the love and support warmed my face and my heart.
Everyone held me up and kept the world spinning at a time when I didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. The hugs kept me from falling to my knees when a wave of loss would hit me like a blunt force trauma to the chest. Surrounded by friends and family, I could manage the assault of those waves. Without that support, I’m not sure where I would have landed. But I do know it would have been more agonizing than it was already.
That first week, the grief was so raw it took my whole body and mind hostage.
What has plagued me emotionally during this pandemic is the grief people are facing in mandated isolation.
Right now a hug is a finable offense in most states in the US and some countries. And my heart hurts for those who lose someone during COVID19 to any cause of death because they won’t get the same wrap-around support experience I had. And needed.
Human interaction, face-to-face contact is off-limits except that which we can make happen at six feet away or by web-based chat. All that exacerbates the isolation that comes with a devastating and unexpected loss.
One small town in Georgia is a hotspot for coronavirus which so far has been traced back to two funerals held shortly before the virus spiked in the US. Grievers are feeling it while the funeral industry, grief group facilitators, therapists, and churches are struggling to support grieving families. All of us are scrambling to fill in the human touch by providing support with technology.
And if I had one piece of advice it would be that even if you can’t have a physical traditional service right now, do have some kind of virtual memorial even if it’s a group of people sharing stories about that person. Because that ritual is important.
Losing my child in a normal world was hard enough. What would it be like if it happened now? I shiver to think about it.