Services Pending

dreamstime_s_78845696“My beloved uncle died unexpectedly from a heart attack, and I am isolated hundreds of miles away,” a young woman told me in our video counseling session last week. “What are we supposed to do? Only 10 of the family members come to the service and burial and stand six feet apart with masks on?”

Obituaries describe this unprecedented time we currently share: “Services pending due to Covid-19.” “Due to CDC restrictions there will be no service.” “A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.”

And for those whose loved one is dying from the virus or other causes of death, there is the added anguish of their dying and death occurring without family and friends able to keep vigil at the death bed.

Since the beginning of time, communities have gathered to comfort those who mourn. Embracing the bereaved with our love and compassion is a profound ritual that offers meaningful companionship for the days, weeks, and months of grieving to come. In this season of pandemic, our emotional needs become secondary to our need for physical survival, causing a disruption to this essential ritual.

If you experience a loss during this time, you may have loss within the loss because of the separation from your loved one at his/her death or the physical absence of your community after the death. Allow yourself to grieve these losses as well.

If you are part of a grieving community, stay present the best you can through means other than physical presence. When the restrictions lift, no matter how long after the death occurred, offer yourself as you would at the time of death with a listening presence, acts of service, offerings of food, and sharing stories about the one who died.

CLICK HERE to purchase a copy of my book “Getting Grief Right.”

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Dr. Patrick O’Malley is a psychotherapist in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in grief counseling. For 35 years, he has counseled individuals, couples and families in his private practice. Dr. O'Malley has recently published a book, "Getting Grief Right" about grief recovery.

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