Grieving in exceptional times
Under normal circumstances, grief can feel isolating, however during COVID-19 restrictions it’s especially important to find ways to support and connect with each other. If there are teenagers or young people in your life, you’ll know this time of life can be characterised by restlessness.
A young person’s reference points move from outside the family to peers and to friends. It’s a time for developing independence and it’s a time of change. Experiencing the death of a close relative or friend is hard during these years. The Irish Childhood Bereavement Network (ICBN) has developed some specific resources to help you understand and to support a grieving young person or teenager. Read ICBN resources for supporting grieving teenagers here.
Coping with grief
When someone close to us dies, funerals are one of the key ways we come together. Young people normally hang out with cousins and family or friends their own age, which can help build a sense of community at difficult times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the traditional ways we mark our grief. For the moment, it’s not possible to come together and gather in one location. It’s also not possible to have a large funeral.
However teenagers and young people are experts at socially connecting, and being physically apart doesn’t stop them. They ‘gather’ through a range of social media platforms. Connecting and sharing are important when trying to come to terms with a death and to engage in grieving. While adults often argue with teenagers about the use of social media, during COVID-19 restrictions, its advantages and use as a resource have become clear.
Let young people help show adults good ways to harness social media by:
- setting up virtual family gatherings to share memories, pictures and videos.
- exploring ways to create a virtual ceremony to mark the life of their loved one.
- exploring websites and podcasts from good sources to help find ways to understand and cope with the emotional turmoil of grief.
- helping set up virtual art & crafts sessions for younger siblings and cousins to build memory boxes and other ways to express grief.
- being mindful of the information you share, use reliable sources and be sensitive to the fact that we all grieve differently and there is no right way to grieve.
- letting young people be part of planning the arrangement, they might choose some readings, music and write part of the eulogy.
- respecting their views, allow them to express their feelings in their own way; some might want to do this privately others may want to share.
- teenagers themselves may also communicate across multiple platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc in order to express their feelings with their peers.
Teenagers themselves may also communicate across multiple platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter etc in order to express their feelings with their peers. This is important for them but it’s also important for families who are isolated together to make time to talk, share, cry and hug.
Remember some of these old fashioned things as well:
- writing letters and postcards.
- making a phone call.
- writing a poem or song.
- going for a walk to the loved one’s favourite place.
- baking or cooking their favourite recipe.
- planting something and nurturing its growth – if you have no seeds take a snip from a plant you’re already growing.
- visiting the grave of your loved one while keeping social distance can be comforting for many.
- Balance of structure and ‘downtime’ is important.
- There is no restriction on isolation zone hugs. Being together in isolation may allow more time to support each other with your emotions and feeling around the loss.
- Sometimes we will be angry, sad and confused by all that is going on. Stay emotionally connected and find ways that suit you to express your feelings and emotions.
The COVID-19 crisis affects all of us. We are all being challenged and the best we can do is follow the official guidance and play our part to stop the spread.
Feel free to contact the Irish Childhood Bereavement Network
Other Useful Contacts
Barnardos Bereavement Helpline Service.
Tel. (01) 473 2110. Available 10am-12pm, Monday to Thursday
The Children’s Grief Centre. Visit www.childrensgriefcentre.ie
Print out for a friend
Maybe you would like to print out this page and share with a friend or colleague, or you can download it as a PDF here.
This information is brought to you by partnership with our Irish Childhood Bereavement Network.
Please help Irish Hospice Foundation to continue to support those facing end of life at this unprecedented time of need. Text IHF to 50300 to donate €4. Text costs €4. Irish Hospice Foundation will receive a minimum of €3.60.
Service Provider: LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 076 6805278
As part of our Bereavement & Loss Series, we have also developed Helping Children Grieve during COVID-19 restrictions which you can read here and Grieving in Exceptional Times which you can read here.