Facing the loss of a loved one is always an incredible challenge. Perhaps it was long expected or they were getting up in years, or perhaps they encountered a sudden illness and their passing was abrupt and unexpected. This sudden and unexpected death has been experienced tenfold of late due to the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020.
If you know a loved one is facing their final days, and you suddenly find yourself with the unexpected challenge of making their final days and moments count, it’s important to know that you aren’t alone.
Facing death is one of the most difficult things many of us experience in our lifetime, and it’s not something we can ever fully prepare for. To help you with coping with a sudden or unexpected loss, we’ve collected a few strategies to ease the process. See what works for you and what is best for your family.
From the moment you find out your loved one is only given a limited amount of time to live, everything changes. There are an abundance of questions: What do we say? What do we do? How do we act? How do we prepare? Do we discuss it?
The truth is that there is no one-size-fits all answer for how to deal with facing the coming mortality of a loved one. The idea is that some of these might be able to provide you with some comfort.
Often, counseling and support services can be found at your local hospital or medical facility. They have trained counselors who know how to help you cope with and accept loss, especially when its sudden and unexpected. Don’t be afraid to accept their offer to provide guidance to you and your family.
If you belong to a religious institution or local church, these are also often tremendous resources for those experiencing loss. Reach out to your local pastor or rabbi or whomever belongs to your affiliation, and don’t be afraid to ask for help
Often, a single figure of the family is left to bear the burden of dealing with the forthcoming passing of a loved one. Whether it’s informing other family members or making final arrangements, don’t feel obligated to take on all the burden alone. When others ask if they can help you, let them. Talk to them about the decisions that need to be made, so you can make it easier on yourself.
There might still need to be difficult conversations to have, particularly about funeral arrangements or what their preference is for their cremation remains and what type of urn they might want to serve as their final resting place. These conversations are not easy to have, but it’s better to have them now than to try to figure it out after they’ve passed.
Funerals can be planned out with the help of the funeral home and other family members. Cremated remains can be arranged through there as well. Take time with your family to sit down and find the perfect cremation urn, and figure out what type of engraving you might want. Consider whether you’d like to do a celebration of life or a more traditional funeral. Notify family members with sensitivity and support. It feels like a lot but the burden can be shared.
This doesn’t mean you need to go do extreme things and take expensive trips or find incredible experiences. It simply means to take the time you do have, and find ways to make it valuable. Have family together. Share in memories, but don’t dwell on the past. While you don’t want to normalize the experience, it can sometimes be cathartic to engage in somewhat normal conversations so that your final days and memories are filled with happy and better times rather than memories of tears and sadness.
In 2020, the threat of sudden and unexpected deaths were compounded and made even more real for people everywhere. The unexpected or impending passage of a loved one became more real, more prevalent, and more terrifying with the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions worldwide, suddenly found themselves facing the very real possibility of having to say final farewells to loved ones without warning. It raised new questions and raised the relevance of needing support when it comes to such unexpected challenges.
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the lives of families all across the world. People from every continent found themselves saying farewells to loved ones far sooner than they’d ever anticipated. Some were even horrifically denied the opportunity to say those farewells due to the isolation and quarantines in effect.
It became a surreal moment that humans everywhere were experiencing together, and yet entirely alone. Faced with elderly parents who were too vulnerable to visit or health-compromised friends and family, death faced during the pandemic was unlike anything else.
The unfathomable sorrow of being denied farewells and final moments means your sadness is justified. You are allowed to feel angry, upset and lost. If you lost someone to this illness, there are a few comforting thoughts to help ease the burden off of your sadness.
First, your loved one knows how much they meant to you. They know how much you meant to them. Although you were unable to be with them in person, they unquestioningly felt your love in their final moments, because it’s what we survive off of. We love powerfully and intensely and distance is not something that inhibits that.
Second, it is important to allow yourself some grace. Many people reported that amongst their sorrow was a strong feeling of guilt and helplessness at the inability to bring a loved one comfort, peace, or affection. This feeling has been universal. Our elderly sit in their isolated nursing homes as we try to keep them protected from society, and we feel guilt at the thought of their loneliness. But, these times are passing, things are going to and will get better with time. You can find solidarity in knowing that millions of people all over the world share in that pain with you.
Whether a death has happened unexpectedly, or whether it is forthcoming and you have limited time together, there are not many words that can thoroughly articulate what you're feeling, what you should do, and how you should act. Each person’s experience with death is unique to them, and how they process it is dependent upon the complexities and intricacies of their relationships with their family. Find comfort in knowing that you are not alone, that the sorrow will pass, and these painful moments will eventually end and you will be left with the loving memories that you’ve spent a lifetime developing.