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Grieving Without Gathering

Man sitting in dark room in front of bright computer screen
Grief is impacting us all right now, even if we haven't suffered through the death of someone we know. There are ways to come together and cope, though. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

Grief is our internal process of dealing with loss, but coping with that grief requires external support. So, how can we process loss without being together?

For losses of well-known public figures, it can look like a virtual gathering of strangers to share their collective memories and reflect on the global impact the person made. Nashville's NPR member station, WPLN, did just that with their Radio Wake for John Prine, following the beloved singer-songwriter's death from coronavirus on April 7. 

For personal loss, like that of a family member, it may mean making do with a less-than-ideal memorial service now with plans for a grandiose celebration of life once it's feasible to be around each other again.

San Francisco-based documentary filmmaker and audio producer Gabrielle Berbey shared a story about how her very large Filipino family had to hold a funeral for the family matriarch, Zenaida Mendoza, over Zoom, and the awkward, disappointing and sometimes absurd experience of talking about a lost loved one through a computer screen. 

Funeral Over Zoom
Gabrielle Berbey and her family celebrating the life of her grandmother over Zoom. (photo courtesy of Gabrielle Berbey)

When you hear the word grief, the first thing you typically think of is death. But we're all experiencing another type of grief due to the pandemic - disenfranchized grief, over the loss of the lives we once had. We spoke with Nancy Shomo, a grief counselor from Harrisonburg, Virginia, about methods for coping, such as writing a letter to the source of your grief, or identifying reasons to be grateful even when it may seem like hope is lost. 

A Note on the Finale

The next episode of Social Distance Assistance will be our last. The point of the show is to bring you stories of the creative ways people are helping during the pandemic -- but we also hope we've inspired you to be a helper, too. 

Will you tell us how you’ve been a helper these past few months? Your story could be on one of our upcoming episodes! Record a voice memo and email it to [email protected]. Or call us and leave a message at (804) 404-2859‬.