It is Never Too Late To Grieve

It is everywhere you turn these days. It is within us and around us. We see it, feel it, hear it and sense it, yet we cannot always articulate it.

I am talking about grief. The pain and discomfort we are feeling as a result of the countless losses we are experiencing. In my lifetime, I have never witnessed such compounded and collective grief, as I have these past few weeks. 

We are experiencing the loss of our routines, schedules and jobs. We are struggling with our loss of finances, stability and security,  meaningful events, human connection and for thousands, the loss of a loved one due to both Covid-19 and other illnesses. 

It is global grief,  a compounded sadness. It is a grief  that is causing many of us to feel exhausted, confused, emotional, and overwhelmed. We may express it differently, but how it makes us feel is quite similar. 

As a culture, we have not been great at handling grief. Being sad or being around sad people makes us feel uncomfortable. We tend to ignore it, and hope it will go away. We tend to keep ourselves so busy that we will not have to think about it or feel it. But if you are anything like me, there are only so many house projects, new recipes and skills we can try to learn (I even resorted to learning how to yodel – sad but true), before we are left with our own raw thoughts and feelings and have to face the many losses we are experiencing. 

Acknowledging the loss, and being careful to not compare our losses to others, is crucial during times like this. David Kessler – an expert on grief and loss says, “if we don’t name it we can’t feel it, and if we don’t feel it, we can’t heal it.” Naming our losses is the first step toward working through the pain associated with it. From the high school student that will be missing their prom, to the first time grandparent that has to wait to hold their new grandchild, each and every loss matters. 

It is a particularly challenging time to experience the death of a loved one, Covid-19 related or otherwise. Under dare I say, “normal” circumstances, when we experience a death we at least know what to do. We meet with a funeral director,  plan a funeral or celebration of life, gather with friends and family. We hug and cry and we simply be together. With social distancing in place, it means how we mourn a death looks very different. Complicating our grief, is that many were robbed of a chance to say good- bye to their loved one.  Many are feeling the effects of the ’incomplete good-bye’. 

It’s never too late to gather and it’s never too late to grieve.

We are having to postpone our Funerals and Celebrations of Life and many may be tempted to skip it all together, even when restrictions are lifted. I really want to caution against this. As a Celebrant who has worked with hundreds of grieving families over the years, and from my own personal grief experiences, I know it is never too late to grieve. Although just one piece of the grief journey,  gathering together to honour a loved one’s life, unites us in our grief and pain and does bring a tremendous measure of healing. 

Such gatherings are for the living, not the dead.  In times like these, where the initial grieving is done in isolation, it will be even more crucial to gather together when the circumstances allow. To provide a space for the collective grieving to be experienced, shared and felt, where that virtual hug can be replaced with a warm embrace. Where ceremony and ritual have the power to heal some of the deeper wounds left by these unusual circumstances. It’s never too late to gather and it’s never too late to grieve.

So during these unprecedented times, let us remember to be kind to ourselves and to one another. Rather than focusing on what we cannot do, let us focus on what we can. Let us find ways to virtually hold each other’s hands, to be thoughtful in our comments and connections, to be gracious in our actions and to commit to doing the best we can for one another until we can do better.