Amid COVID-19, there are about a million and one ways for your brain to detour into worries and what-if scenarios. Will I keep my job? How are my parents and elderly loved ones going to fare through all of this? Will my child go stir crazy without playmates and playgrounds? Will our economy bounce back? Those are just a few of numerous questions that so many of us have faced during the coronavirus pandemic.
One scenario I was not prepared for was my best friend, at the age of 36, being struck and killed by a car on a morning walk. This shock to my entire solar system felt cosmic. Even in the most ordinary and stable of times, the sudden loss of a young life feels like a monstrous beast to navigate. But throw a world-wide pandemic into the mix, and the pain, confusion, and anger seem almost insurmountable.
When we grieve, it is in our nature to show affection and emotion. I believe it is built into our DNA to want to gather together to provide comfort and solace to one another. My friend was not just my friend; she was a wife, a mother, and an educator who touched countless lives. How do we process such a hard goodbye and comfort one another while being physically apart? How do we uplift her family as they adjust to a new normal in an unnormal environment? The answer is quite simple: we do it together.
The same tools that I have implemented countless times into my remote working life came into play.
1. We found each other! The community who loved her and would be present in her family’s lives in person are the same forces who joined together to be present while socially distanced. It probably helped many of us are “elder” Millennials who can navigate and learn new technology with some ease while understanding Boomers would need some alternatives and assistance to come together at this time.
2. We immediately created a shared drive of folders, with files and a running to-do list. We were not just preparing to say goodbye to our beloved friend. We were also making sure her family had what they needed, checking things off a time-sensitive to-do list such as hiring grief counselors, talking to insurance companies, figuring out childcare, and numerous other items that tend to fall through the cracks when you are lost in grief and pain.
3. There was such an outpouring of love and a deep desire for those she impacted to share their stories, tell how she changed their lives, and reach out to her family to show support; we built an interactive website. (I say “we,” when in truth, it was an incredibly tech-savvy member of her tribe.) On this site, people uploaded countless photos, stories, and even music and video clips. This site is not only a way for all of us to process our grief now but will act as a living memory book for her son as he grows. Additionally, Facebook is another place where the loved poured in. Facebook has a tool that allows for a legacy contact who can manage your page in cases such as these.
4. There were numerous group texts and video calls. I spent so much time virtually with one of her other close friends; we now have forged our own unbreakable bond of a unique friendship.
5. And then we celebrated. We had talked about a small service in person and the rest virtually, but due to the spike in Covid-19 cases, in the end, the entire service was virtual. I am honestly not sure if there has ever been a more personal, intimate, or beautiful ceremony. There was a formal program with music, poetry, funny stories, photos, and a video. I even busted into song a cappella style at the end of my eulogy. But most importantly, there was love. There was so much love. It was palpable. It was tangible. We all felt it sitting miles and oceans apart but together. By being a virtual service, hundreds of additional people we able to join and participate in the service who likely could not have attended in person. Seeing all of the attendees felt like this enormous net of love and support and showed how many lives she touched.
Grieving during a pandemic was not my first choice. None of us chose to lose those we love, especially without an opportunity to say goodbye. But to my amazement, there is a resilience of human nature that rises above pain, hurt, disappointment, and anger. This resilience is ingenuity, a determination, and a calling deep within oneself. You will rise to the occasion to celebrate a love so great. You will step in and step up for your neighbors and fellow man. You will honor the life that you lost by this resilience, and in doing so, you grieve. And as you grieve, although you will forever be changed, you begin to heal.