Catholic Church

Grief Brief #24

Losing a loved one to death is always a difficult experience for family members, acquaintances, and friends. There is a large measure of sadness in the hearts and lives of those who will be grieving. The Funeral Mass, a Memorial Service, or a Celebration of Life Event can help, all who have lost someone, to honor and remember those persons, as they mourn.

A very ardent wish of those losing a loved one to death is to be present as their person leaves this present life. Being able to say words of assurance as well as farewells, being able to pray or even to sing as one gathers near the dying person is desired by so many. Some would choose to hold the hand or give a last hug or kiss to their dying loved one. Words of assurance and support that are offered by a priest, minister, or a member of the Pastoral Care Team in a given facility are so comforting to all present around the death bed.

We are all aware of the terrible virus that has invaded our world. Life is so very different as the pandemic rages. Hundreds and thousands of persons around the world are stricken by this cruel virus. They have been separated from loved ones and remain in the critical care settings of hospitals or are quarantined in Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Centers, or Group Living Facilities. There have been strict isolation procedures put in place for all who struggle with the illness. Families are being asked to quarantine themselves and to shelter in place. The facilities housing the ill are “off limits” to them.

We know all too well that many of the persons struggling with Corona Virus (Covid -19) will die, and that is in large numbers. Death, in the many facilities where they are cared for by heroic doctors, nurses, and other dedicated health care workers, will not include the presence of the beloved family members or friends. How very different this death experience is from what we spoke of earlier. Because of the lethality of this virus only health care givers have contact with the sick patients. Death, for the most part, occurs with loved ones learning of it after it has occurred. Health care providers try to convey this news in a compassionate manner, but it is little comfort to loved ones who have been blocked from gathering around the bedside.

When we consider this scenario, we realize how very different the experience of death and grief is for those who have lost their loved ones in such tragic circumstances. Will their grieving not be much more difficult? Grieve they will, and grieve they must, but a large measure of caring and compassion must be there for them. Under the present situation, and due to staggering numbers of deaths, funeral services and burials are often postponed for a later time.

As we remember with deep gratitude the front line caregivers who render heroic services to our loved ones, we also lift up our hearts in prayer for the many families who are forced to face their losses under these dire circumstances.

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