My children’s father died of Covid in December 2020. After his death I joined a Facebook group Covid-19 Loss Support for Family and Friends. One of the questions that comes up daily is what expressions of support do you find most comforting? For many of the members it is just knowing that someone else has shared this experience. We see lots of heart and tears emojis. It helps. It matters that others have acknowledged our loss. What other ways can we support one another in times of death?
After the death of my mother-in-law nearly thirty years ago, I was surprised at how comforted I felt upon receiving a card from an old friend some six week after her funeral. I appreciate written expressions. After the death of my children’s father, my friend Sarah sent me a handmade card with the following:
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there,
I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there.
I did not die.
Of course, this gets to our beliefs in the nature of our existence and what lies beyond death. And the origin may or may not be Hopi—not sure about the diamond glints on snow reference. Nevertheless, the images and the hope are soothing.
When my Momma died ten years ago, Sarah sent another hand-made card with the following message on the front:
Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven
where the love of our lost ones pours through
and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.
Inside she wrote,” I hope you find your way outside on the next star filled night and throw your mother a kiss.” I went outside that very night and did exactly what she hoped. That sweet proverb and her kind wish helped me tap the depths of my grief over Momma’s death, and from that moment I began to heal, not swiftly, but steadily, surely, I found that life goes on and I could put one foot in front of the other. For the first time in my life, I had a pattern for grieving and thus a pattern for healing.
Covid has changed the nature of our experience of death and thus likely changed the nature of our experience of grief and necessarily our experience of healing. We will need to learn together.