Grieving & Remembering COVID-19 Deaths
Eva Ting, Founder of Here to Honor, shares ways to grieve and remember your loved ones lost to COVID-19. We hope our Farewell Partner readers find comfort in the many unique ways to honor those that are departed.
Earlier this year marked the one-year anniversary of the first reported COVID-19 death in Wuhan, China. One year later, there are over 2.1 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide with over 425,000 deaths in the United States. We find ourselves in unimaginable grief with the onslaught of these astounding death tolls. We also find ourselves bearing grief not fully processed and shared given our inability to physically gather and comfort one another due to the ongoing pandemic.
What does it look like to grieve and memorialize so many who have been lost in such a short period of time? We need to have spaces of memorial and mourning. Although no formal COVID-19 memorial has been constructed yet, temporary memorial spaces are being created across the country. In New York City, artist Kristina Libby started the Floral Heart Project, creating floral heart sculptures in various neighborhoods around the city in collaboration with 1-800-FLOWERS. Libby’s floral hearts remind us of ephemeral beauty and demarcate a temporary sacred space for grief, remembrance, and love.
Photo of Kristina Libby’s Floral Heart Project, taken by photographer Erica Reade
In Phoenix, Arizona, the nonprofit Marked by COVID created a traditional ofrenda on the Day of the Dead at the Arizona State Capitol, and also displayed enlarged photos of 50 victims and 500 chairs, each lit with a tealight candle, to honor the nearly 6,000 Arizonians who had died up to that point. The COVID Memorial Project, organized by a group of friends in Washington DC, placed 20,000 white flags on the National Mall in September to memorialize the 200,000 deaths in the US at that point.
Memorial spaces exist in the digital arena as well. COVID Memorial is a website dedicated to sharing remembrances of loved ones lost to COVID-19 and also encourages public health measures to prevent future deaths. COVITUARY provides free online memorial space for obituaries, tributes, photos and videos, and visitor comments.
Whether it’s a physical or digital space, these options enable us to mourn and remember together and are very crucial for our emotional health. “Psychologists predict that 15% of the population or 50 Million Americans could suffer from PTSD following COVID-19,” says Libby on her Floral Heart Project website. “The severity level can be even deeper when people are forced to delay their grief and abstain from funerals, shivas and other mourning traditions. To combat the potential deluge of PTSD, we must show support for those suffering and those lost.”
If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19, how might you honor their memory and acknowledge their life as part of your grief process? Perhaps it’s participating in one of these physical or virtual memorial spaces. Or perhaps it is creating a distinct online memorial to share their stories, photos, and memories. Even though gathering physically is challenging, perhaps it is to hold a gathering virtually, with the aid of a virtual service provider such as Farewell Partners.
The loss we’ve experienced and the grief we feel will still be there on the other side of this pandemic. Let us hold space now for one another’s grief and be intentional about ways to mourn and remember together.