During a pandemic we will have more people in our communities being touched by death, and fewer ways to support them. Here are some creative ways that congregations are preparing and supporting their members and friends.
In a time of physical distancing, how might we respond to deaths that cannot yet be marked by gathering in person?
You may want to create Grief Kits that can be delivered to the backdoors or porches of congregants.
Our Grief Kits are paper bags containing:
As the Coronavirus epidemic continues, the amount of grief we are holding—individually and collectively—feels unprecedented. We grieve for those who have died from the virus. We grieve for those who died of other causes, who we were not able to visit. We grieve for the loss of livelihood: the jobs that went away, the jobs that changed beyond recognition. We grieve for the loss of our own health, the health of others, our own abilities, the abilities of others. We grieve for the loss of all the things that were once core to us that we can no longer do. We grieve the loss of the well-being we had before the trauma we’ve endured in this pandemic. And we feel anticipatory grief: fear and sadness that attempts to prepare our bodies and our minds for the griefs ahead.
Our Unitarian Universalist congregations can hold space for this grief, even when we cannot yet gather in person. A congregation I once served, Winchester Unitarian Society, had a long-standing peer-led grief ministry that had been going on for more than a decade. I saw the power of gathering in circles with those who grieve. I saw how years of gathering monthly with others helped people move to a place of greater healing and wholeness. And I saw that it doesn’t take a professional to facilitate a group like this—just leaders who are good facilitators, have good boundaries, and have a deep familiarity with the dynamics of grief. (The UUA’s new online spiritual care course could help you know if you’re that kind of person.)
In this year of so much grief, and so little opportunity to gather in person, The Circle Way has come out with a guide for hosting Virtual Grief Circles—circles that have all the characteristics of the excellent grief support group I knew, but they happen online.
And of course, your congregation’s minister(s) and lay pastoral caregivers are excellent people to set an appointment with. Grief is such a common human experience. Even when we feel so alone, we are not. Others have been there too, or are there right now. We can share wisdom and mutual support as we move through the grief, together.