A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Grieving and loss during COVID-19: You can celebrate a life safely

Funeral guidance during COVID-19

Dealing with loss of a loved one can be hard. COVID-19 adds additional stress to funeral arrangements with restrictions and safety concerns.

Dealing with loss of a loved one can be hard. The COVID-19 pandemic adds additional stress and worry to funeral arrangements with restrictions, social distancing and health safety concerns.

You want to honor your loved one during this time, but how do you safely grieve?

Funeral planning and considerations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gives some guidance on how individuals and families can make the proper funeral arrangement and celebrate a life safely.

Chris Schwanz, spiritual services manager at Marshfield Clinic Health System, said technology can allow us to be present at the funeral, but we prefer to be physically present with other family members and friends.

“Virtual has been better than not being there at all, but it is not the same,” said Schwanz.

When making funeral arrangements, CDC states that “there is no need to delay funeral services or visitation due to COVID-19. However, some changes to traditional practices are likely needed.”

By taking simple precautions when planning and holding a funeral service, your loved one will be honored in the way that is wished. You also can consider postponing a memorial service until your loved one can be laid to rest with everyone in attendance.

“Many funeral services appropriately celebrate the life of the deceased,” Schwanz said. “Being grateful for the difference the person made in the lives of others and recalling special memories in which they were a part can do the soul and spirit of an isolated, grieving friend or family member a world of good.”

Grieving during a pandemic

Along with the funeral service, grieving the loss of someone during a pandemic can look different. Many find themselves isolated during this time and may have lost their only companion.

Schwanz said common ways to cope with the loss of someone is prayer or meditation. He recommends a regular or daily habit of reading devotional material, or tuning into a spiritually focused program on TV, radio or online.

“Many religious traditions and spiritual practices rely on prayer for comfort, strength and the assurance that we are not alone despite feeling alone,” Schwanz said. “Prayer also can be done over the phone if praying alone makes you feel empty or overwhelmed.”

Support is a phone call away

Many clergy since the pandemic have been using the phone to reach out to those who have experienced a recent loss. Schwanz said anyone who doesn’t have a place of worship or someone to call can reach out to any of the Health System’s chaplains located in Beaver Dam, Eau Claire and Marshfield hospitals.

Contacts include:

  • Marshfield Medical Center-Beaver Dam Spiritual Services: 920-887-5948
  • Marshfield Medical Center-Eau Claire Spiritual Services: 715-858-8557
  • Marshfield Medical Center Spiritual Services: 715-387-7753

“We want to be there for those who are hurt or struggling,” Schwanz said. “You just have to be willing to pick up the phone and call.”

In addition, he recommends reaching out to your family and friends who have gone through or are going through loss with you. “Some of the best helpers are those who have already been there, who have begun to experience healing and hope after a loss,” Schwanz said.

Although this time may be difficult, Schwanz said to remember, “You cannot heal what you do not allow yourself to feel, accept that it is OK to grieve for what was and could have been, and realize grief is a process and recovering is a choice.”

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