Tuesday 15 Jun 2021

Grief in the time of the pandemic: reality of life

Not only are people now grappling with the loss of normalcy, but also with anticipatory grief

FR DR SAVIO VAZ SAC | JUNE 06, 2021, 12:32 AM IST
Grief in the time of the  pandemic: reality of life

The Covid-19 pandemic has also played havoc and spared no one, irrespective of age. It snatched away those in their prime, left their families mourning. Nobody could have imagined such a situation in her or his lifetime.

The pandemic has not only brought life to a standstill but also controls further our expression over death and grief. Grieving the loss of a beloved one in the Covid-19 pandemic is overwhelming. Mourning over death is a human response. For many family members, the pain and sorrow over the irreparable loss became more acute because of the inability to say farewell to their loved ones. Heartrending and distressing was the fact that family members, friends or clergy members were unable to visit the sick and the dying in their final moments. It is an existential fear in many people -- the fear of dying alone. Accompanying the person in his process of dying, letting go, is a noble act of companionship. He or she requires support to calm down the uncertainties and fear of loneliness. 

The traumatic experiences of the pandemic will surely have lasting effects on the bereaved. The end-of-life rituals are religiously and culturally known grieving practices and are crucial for the spiritual and mental health of the individual. We can say funeral rites are personal, familial, communitarian and societal process of handling grief. On one hand, friends and relations could not attend the burial services or even make condolence visits out of fear of risk of infection, on the other hand, families of people, who died of Covid-19, experienced stigma. People avoided them or even rejected them. Getting infected by Covid or dying of it is neither a curse nor a disgrace. Any person can be susceptible to it.

Grief, we know, is an inevitable reality of life. It is the natural response to the loss of a person, who was valuable and loved. Everyone’s response to grief is different. How to cope with bereavement? We have no common or one method of dealing with grief. An important factor in supporting the bereaved is that one has to offer time to the grief-stricken. For that, one should be a good and sympathetic companion, maintaining confidentiality and trust. It is not just offering the best techniques in handling grief.

Relevance of Church funeral rites

The Catholic funeral rite is theologically a celebration of life and it takes a holistic approach in dealing with grief. Every religion and culture has its centuries-old last rites practices. It is not just honouring the memory of the departed with a eulogy or providing solace to the family, but letting God and faith give an answer to the most profound question of the time: Why? But in the end we have to surrender to God’s will and wisdom. Faith, hope and love, the three theological virtues play a significant role in our Christian life. The gathered community in the Church believes in handing the life back to the Giver of 

life itself. 

The salvific life, which begins with baptism, continues after death. Earthly life is transformed through and with Christ. The Church’s good old tradition offers us an extended period of mourning and prayers for the dead. It helps us to manage our grief and pains with the suffering and death of our Saviour, with the unshakable hope of resurrection. Just like life, death or dying is a natural and integral part of life. For the believers, it is the door to everlasting life. We celebrate life and that is the God-given-life. Given an appropriate time in the future, the funeral services of the departed in the pandemic should be celebrated again.

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