What to Say (and Not Say) to Those Who are Grieving a COVID-19 Loss
The COVID-19 pandemic is robbing us of many things. Chief among them is physical connection while social distancing measures remain in place. Although hugs are sidelined and public funerals are not an option right now, you still have plenty of opportunities to show love and support to the bereaved.
Whether they are expressed virtually or from afar, your words and actions can be a beacon of hope to the grief-stricken. If someone you know has lost a loved one to COVID-19, here are some do’s and don’ts to help you navigate your supportive role during this unprecedented time.
- Don’t say “I know how you’re feeling.” Although you may have lost a loved one in the past, you can’t really know how someone else is feeling in their loss―especially since the circumstances now are very different. Because of the shelter in place related to the coronavirus, your friend was likely not able to be physically present with their loved one while they were ill or when they passed. This can make for exceptionally complicated grief. They are also dealing with unusual and difficult circumstances you did not encounter. Instead, be a good listener and acknowledge his or her pain. For example, you could say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. This must be extremely difficult for you.”
- Don’t ask, "How can I help?" Although it is natural to want to offer support to loved ones who are grieving, this close-ended statement places the burden of asking for assistance on the bereaved. Instead, put yourself in the mourner’s shoes to identify practical ways you can lend a hand. Send over some masks, Lysol wipes, or other important essentials. Pick up some groceries, have dinner delivered, or offer to cut the grass.
- Don’t disappear. In times of loss, it can be easy to send a condolence note and then lose touch. However, remaining in your friend’s life during this challenging and lonely time is more important than ever. Staying present can be as simple as sending a text or making a phone call. The most important thing is to make sure they can still feel your love and support. How often you reach out and what you say depends on how close you are to the bereaved. If you spoke frequently before the passing, continue doing so.
- Do offer to help plan a funeral or memorial. Funerals and memorial services provide solace and a sense of closure for those who have lost a loved one. In the age of coronavirus, these rituals have changed to smaller gatherings, online events, and celebrations of life at later dates, but they remain vitally important. If the bereaved person wishes to have a funeral or remembrance event, extend an offer to help with the planning and orchestration.
- Do share happy memories. Reliving joyful times can bring immense comfort during periods of sorrow. If you have fond recollections of the person who passed on, do not keep them to yourself. Simply sending an email to those who were closest to the deceased, detailing the memory that always brings a smile to your face, could make their day.
- Do offer helpful coping strategies. Grief is a complicated beast and we all process loss differently. Consider passing along helpful resources such as What's Your Grief to the bereaved. This site offers guides and resources (like e-courses and webinars) on issues surrounding death and mourning. Many people also find virtual support groups to be beneficial when working through grief. You could say something like, "I found this helpful when [insert name] passed away and I thought it may also help you at this difficult time."
It can be hard to know the right thing to say during tough times like these, but your grieving friends and family are sure to appreciate your compassionate support. If you have questions or are seeking additional resources, please contact our caring professionals. It is always our pleasure to be of assistance.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.