Life in Red Deer this year looks much different compared to last, with fewer gathering restrictions and more desire than ever to spend time reconnecting with family and friends. During this time, those in our community who lost a loved one during the pandemic will be revisiting memories and sharing their feelings of grief as they reunite. Tuesday, Nov. 16 marks National Grief and Bereavement Day, an opportunity to recognize and reflect on lost loved ones, along with how the grieving process has been impacted by COVID-19. It’s also an occasion to learn how to address unresolved emotions in the hopes of supporting one another.
A healthy grieving process is an active one, which means those who are experiencing grief or bereavement must take action to find the closure and comfort that they need. This includes not just acknowledging and accepting the loss but saying a proper goodbye. For many Canadians, the pandemic interrupted their ideal send-off traditions, celebrations, and ceremonies.
An important part of bereavement is connecting with others. When imagining a celebration of life for a loved one, what most have in mind is a highly personal event including those who loved the departed. Those who experienced a loss during the pandemic have had to face the harsh reality that they could not remember and grieve as a group due to health and safety restrictions. The hugs and handshakes they wanted to give, the music they hoped would be playing and the memories they wanted to hear as a group were no longer permitted. While private gatherings to honour loved ones allowed families to say goodbye, it might have meant families couldn’t carry out the ideal end-of-life celebration that their loved one would have wanted.
Bereavement and grief are an inevitable part of life. At Red Deer Funeral Home and Eventide Funeral Home, we have seen an increase in families requesting second or delayed funerals to properly grieve and celebrate the life of the deceased as restrictions began to loosen over the past few months. As a funeral director, I see first-hand the role that a celebration of life or funeral plays in the grieving process. It allows friends and families to gather, grieve and remember together. Those seeking a comforting hug or who want to connect with others who are experiencing the loss can, and it’s known across the funeral services industry that grief shared is grief diminished. Often, these important moments of closure take place at a funeral or memorial service.
This National Grief and Bereavement Day and throughout the month of November, I encourage those in our community who haven’t taken the time to communicate and share their grief experience with friends and family members to do so. Find solace in each other when the opportunity is there, and if necessary, carry out the memorial or celebration of life that was imagined but was impossible in the heights of the pandemic. It is never too late to celebrate the life of your loved ones and grief brings us together.
Rebekah Sealock is the funeral home director at Red Deer Funeral Home and Eventide Funeral Home.