Grieving in Isolation

The COVID-19 pandemic compounds and complicates the grief process. It’s as though the whole world is in mourning.

Many are dying alone in hospitals and healthcare facilities cutoff from families.  Funeral services and comforting embraces are limited.

There is a solitude inherit in grief itself. Others may empathetically bear some of sorrow’s weight; but the deepest pain is privately borne.

Yet, we need the comfort that comes from physically connecting with one another — warm embraces, a clasp of the hand, a smile on the lips, or tears in the eyes.

Friday will mark six months since Linda’s death. The intensity of the sadness has subsided and the waves of sorrow wash over me less often. Adjusting to life without her presence remains a daily challenge.

The “social distancing” and isolation are having an impact on my own grieving.  I grieve for and with those who are infected with the COVID-19 virus and their families. The sheer number of casualties is breathtaking.  But they are more than numbers; they are mothers, fathers, spouses, children, friends, colleagues, family.

I feel a certain kinship with them, a solidarity that is deepened by my own loss. There is a strange comfort in such solidarity, a sense of connection with others who grieve. I understand more fully the Beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

The isolation is forcing me to revisit and work through painful memories. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, my busyness had enabled me to avoid fully coming to grips with some guilt, regrets, and other negative components of grieving.

Now I can’t escape them. The long hours of solitude and silence bring buried thoughts and  emotions to the surface. I’m naming them as they arise, reflecting prayerfully, and sharing them in telephone conversations and messages with family and close friends.

Although I am alone most of the time, I’m not really isolated in my grieving. I remain connected in multiple bonds of love and friendship. And, I’ve committed to reaching out to others who are grieving. With the pandemic, “others” includes almost everyone.

A hymn we sing often at Bethany, the memory care facility where I serve as volunteer chaplain, is “Blest be the Tie That Binds.” We always include this verse:

We share each other’s woes,

our mutual burdens bear;

and often for each other flows,

the sympathizing tear.

Let us find ways of sharing our grief even in this time of isolation. In so doing, we may come to know “the peace that passes understanding.”



10 thoughts on “Grieving in Isolation

  1. THANK YOU KEN. That verse of “Blest be the Tie That Binds” has been part of my life since I was a child – a child of many parent-people in the Murphy Builders’ Class as CSUMC. As you probably remember, they closed every one of their gatherings by standing in a circle, holding hands, and singing all the verses. I learned to love those words and those people. I’m grateful for your attention now to what your busyness had allowed you to keep at bay; may we all be so attentive to what God has to show us. Thanks be to God.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on grieving in this time of COVID-19. Naming our sadness, or disappointment, our loss that goes with this whole crisis, can be helpful–even essential–in moving forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ken, I thank you for sharing. You are so often in my thoughts as you grieve, and it must be painful to be isolated from the people you love! Marti and I are well, and thankfully together. I am so grateful that she is with me, and I do thank God!

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  4. I am so glad my cousin posted this and shared. My husband of 53 years went to his heavenly home on April 1,2020 and we are adjusting to life in these new circumstances. Because of the virus and travel restrictions, we will not have a celebration of his life at this time but when we do, it will be a joyous occasion. I am blessed to have taken my husband out of a rehab facility and back home to enjoy his final days. I just couldn’t stand the thoughts of him being alone and me not being able to sit with him. Through all of this virus mess, I have still seen God working and I thank Him for calling my precious Vance home and sparing him from this virus.

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    • Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry for your loss but share your gratitude that your husband was at home with you when he passed. My wife of 58 years died October 3 and I give thanks that she was at home and surrounded by me and our daughters. I miss her very much but give thanks that she is now at peace in the loving presence of God. May you be sustained by the assurance that “nothing in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


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