Pandemic Upending Traditions Around Grief After Loss

One expert says saying goodbye via FaceTime or holding a funeral over Zoom can prolong grieving.
Posted at 9:33 AM, Dec 16, 2020

In a year of unprecedented death, traditions around funerals and grieving with loved ones have also changed.

“It was a very cruel thing, in my opinion, that we had to do this,” said David Lopez. 

Lopez lost his grandmother to COVID-19 in April. Just a week after she was diagnosed, his family had to say goodbye via FaceTime. 

“It’s definitely impacted us in a way of how we process everything,” Lopez said. 

Lopez recorded the call for the rest of his family to see, because he wasn’t sure if it’d be the last. He says not being at his grandmother’s bedside has been difficult to grapple with. 

“To not have those opportunities, prolongs in some ways our experience with grief,” said Dr. Lynn Bufka. 

And like thousands of other Americans, Lopez’s family held a Zoom call since funerals were not permitted — further complicating their grief. 

“The opportunity to remember and to cherish those memories of someone that we love, is so helpful to us as we emotionally let go of their living presence in our lives. Those sharing of moments happen so naturally when we’re physically together,” Bufka said.

With coronavirus cases on the uptick again, new restrictions are placing limits on gatherings across the country. But Dr. Bufka says there are some ways to improvise, like visiting the gravesite, which lets you physically mourn while being socially distant. She also encourages people to talk openly with others that are grieving. 

“When we lose someone we love, it reminds us so much of the connection we have with the living. And it’s really nice to fortify those connections,” Bufka said.