Monday, June 8, 2020

In Grief: Missing Grandmother’s Funeral

[Reviewed and updated January 19, 2023]

A reader writes: I have been abroad for nearly two years now and just learned that the only grandparent that I have has a stage 4 cancer. Since two or three weeks she has been having hallucinations and seeing dead family members of hers coming to get her on a white horse. I know that I won't be able to make it back home for her approaching funeral and I am really not at ease with this idea. What are the tips to deal with this? Thank you in advance for the counselling.

My response: I'm so sorry to learn of the serious illness that is likely to take your grandmother's life, and I certainly can understand your anguish in not being able to "be there" for her in person, either to say a final farewell or to pay your respects at her funeral.

As difficult as this is, however, it does not mean that you cannot do something to ease your pain and honor her.

I don't know how old you are, and you'll note that this piece was written in response to a teenager, but I think its contents apply to your situation as well, so I invite you to read this: Teen Misses Uncle's Visitation and Funeral ~ including the additional articles listed at the base.

Since we're still in the midst of the COVID pandemic and so many safety protocols are in place in funeral homes, your family may not be able to hold a traditional funeral for your grandmother at this time anyway. You might explore with them what other options might be considered. You may find that, even if you miss whatever service is planned as being the best they can do at this time, you'll still be included and able to participate in planning and attending a future gathering to honor the life of your grandmother. See, for example, from the booklet, Grieving Alone and Together: Responding to the Loss of Your Loved One During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Sara Murphy, PhD, CT:

Technology may be able to assist you in preserving the elements of an immediate viewing or service that are important to you, while allowing others to participate remotely. Ideas, incorporated at your comfort level, include: 
Livestreaming a private service so friends and family can participate virtually in real time
• Recording a private service and sharing the recording selectively with others
• Collecting written remarks from family and friends via email and reading them at a private service
• Using memorialization pages on social media or funeral home websites so friends and family can share tributes to and memories of the deceased
Holding a memorial service in the future allows extended family and the larger community to support you and your family in your ongoing grief while celebrating the life of your loved one. The funeral ritual usually marks the beginning of the mourning process, but we know that mourning continues long after the funeral ends. 
Having a formal or informal memorial service in the future may benefit you and others by offering a time and place for giving and receiving support over your loss. It is never too late to honor our dead, and it is never too late to share our grief. Planning a larger and more detailed service in the future may also assist you in beginning to work through your grief by giving yourself the time to plan the service you most want.
[To read a copy of the entire booklet, or to request a printed copy to be mailed to you at no cost, see this page.]
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Image by Mircea Iancu from Pixabay
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH

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