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Making Sense of COVID19 death and grief

The word 'bereaved' means being deprived of, or being robbed. How do we process being robbed of a family member who had so much life yet to live? How do we make sense of his death when we could not be there with him to say goodbye? Those moments at the end of a life were taken from us. The rituals to honor his life were also stolen. But who is to blame? We can spend countless days and even years trying to make sense of it all. Instead, we will carry his legacy forward. We will remember his laugh, his corny jokes and tell a few in his memory. We will think of him in his favorite hunting spot which we will frequent annually. We will tell his grandchildren stories of him and show his picture with pride. We will cry and mourn. But we will also never forget him. It is a senseless death but we can bring meaning to it. We can remind ourselves that he was not alone when he died as he was comforted by the most caring healthcare professionals and his priest was able to pray with him and bless his body and soul.

It is helpful to remember that grief is not linear as once believed [i.e., Kübler-Ross’s five stages] and grief counselors and researchers highlight grief as having two distinct phases: acute and integrated [Shear, K., Center for Complicated Grief, Columbia University].

In the acute phase, the griever can be so devastated it is hard to function. Emotions may be raw which impairs our cognitive and even our physical functioning. As time moves on, one integrates the loss into their life. There are still bad days and plenty of sadness but you begin to see ways in which you can move forward. You may catch yourself laughing again or wanting to resume an activity you participated in before the death. One thing I ask mourners to do is to think about what the deceased may say to them about his/her death. What would they want you to be doing? Perhaps you can carry on their legacy by starting a foundation or getting involved in a cause that was important to them. Any small display of remembrance related to the deceased's life will help to bring some meaning to their death and comfort all who knew them.

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