Goodbye, Grandpa

– An expert guide to talking to kids about death during Covid

By Robyn Silverman

My daughter’s questions started after a family friend got sick with Covid-19.

“If people are sick, they can just give them medicine so they get better, right?” my daughter asked with the hopeful perspective of an 11-year-old. “They can just go to the hospital so the doctors and nurses can help them?”

The questions stemmed from a positive update my husband gave about his martial arts buddy, John R. Cruz, a first responder being treated at Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey.

He’s one of the lucky ones.

Not everyone is as fortunate. We’ve already surpassed 124,000 Covid-related deaths in the United States and nearly half a million dead worldwide.

For adults, these numbers are shocking. For children, they are unfathomable. Some can’t even conceptualize the notion of a single death.

It’s natural for parents to want to protect children from the feelings of worry and distress we are experiencing during this pandemic, but decades of research underscores that being honest with children is the best way to mitigate feelings of anxiety and confusion during uncertain times.

Even young kids are aware of the changes in the emotional states of adults and will notice the absence of regular caregivers, including grandparents.

So how do we talk to kids about death and dying during the coronavirus crisis? These are tough talks, no doubt about it. Here are six guiding principles, with sample prompts and scripts, to keep in mind.

Assess what’s age-appropriate

While parents should always be honest about death, the information you divulge may differ in amount and depth depending on the developmental age of your child.

How do you know where your child falls? It’s a best practice to follow your children’s lead and answer their questions without volunteering additional details that may overwhelm them. If you don’t know the answer, it’s OK to admit it.

Children between the ages of 4 and 7 years old believe that death is temporary and reversible, punctuated by the fact that their favorite cartoon characters can meet their doom and then come back the next day for another episode.

Even after you explain that “all living things die” and “death is the end of life,” it’s normal for young children to ask, “When can that person can come back?” Be prepared to remind them, kindly and calmly, that “once a body stops working it can’t be fixed” and “once someone dies, that person can’t return.”

Older children grow out of this “magical thinking” as they enter tweenhood, questioning the meaning of death during adolescence, while often seeing themselves as invulnerable to it. They may want to talk with you about why someone has died and need guidance about which resources they can trust for valid information about coronavirus and Covid-related deaths.

Ask your children, whatever their age: “What have you heard about the coronavirus and how someone might get it? What do you know about what happens when someone gets sick from it?” Clarify the difference between the virus and the disease and explain who is at the highest risk for becoming severely ill from Covid-19.

Prepare yourself

A conversation about death, especially when you are reporting on a family member or close friend, is especially difficult. You don’t want to just blurt out the news without carefully considering your words. Give yourself some time to gather your thoughts and take a couple of deep breaths.

Ask yourself: Do I want another supportive adult with me while I deliver this news? Where in my home would be best to discuss this with my child? Should my child have a special toy or comforting blanket with him or her when we have this conversation?

Even though it’s best to discuss what happened with your child before someone else tells them, taking a few minutes to calm yourself down and be present is important for you and for them.

Explain what happened

If someone in your children’s world does pass away from Covid-19, be sure to tell them honestly, kindly, clearly and simply. Experts agree that parents should avoid euphemisms such as “went to sleep,” “we lost her” or “went to a better place” to avoid confusion.

Instead, you might say; “Sweetheart, remember Grandpa got very sick and has been in the hospital for the last few weeks? His lungs stopped working and couldn’t help Grandpa breathe anymore. The nurses and doctors worked so hard to try to make Grandpa’s body healthy again but they couldn’t make Grandpa better. We are so sad and sorry. Grandpa died today.”

Then pause and listen. You may need to repeat your words a second time as distress can make it difficult to digest information.

Give room for the ups and downs of grief

In a time of suffering, it can be difficult to know what to say. Honesty about your own emotions gives children permission to be open about their own confusion, sadness, anger and fear.

You might admit: “This is all so hard to take in, isn’t it? I am feeling sad, and I’m crying because I miss Grandpa.”

Don’t be surprised if some of your child’s feelings come out all at once, while others may peek out days and weeks after the death of a loved one. Be ready for the unexpected and know that, when children grieve, they may be crying one minute and playing the next. This is normal.

“Grief is not a linear process,” said Joe Primo, CEO of Good Grief, in an interview on my podcast, “How to Talk to Kids about Anything.”

Good Grief is a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides healthy-coping skills to children grieving the loss of a family member.

“Grief is like a roller coaster. It’s up, down, all around. For kids and adults alike, every single day is different. And as the grieving person, you have no idea how your day is going to unfold.”

Answer questions

Many children will ask for more information and want to know why their loved ones didn’t survive. Reiterate that your loved one had Covid-19 and the medical team worked very hard but the disease made it so the body could no longer work. You might tell your child about complications such as asthma that made it difficult to breathe even before the coronavirus.

It is also normal for your child to ask if you or others in their life will get sick or die of Covid-19 so be clear about the precautions your family is taking in order to stave off the illness.

“We are doing everything we can to stay healthy. We are washing our hands with soap and water, keeping our home very clean and staying away from others to keep from getting the virus,” you might say.

“We are also wearing masks and gloves when we are at the store to get groceries. And don’t forget, we are continuing to eat nutritious food, exercise and get good rest to keep ourselves strong.”

Provide ways to commemorate and honor

Given that social distancing is making it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to grieve alongside loved ones as we typically do when someone dies, it’s imperative that we find a way to allow children to say goodbye and remember. Studies have repeatedly found that when children are part of funerals and celebration of life events, they fare better.

“Funerals are about mourning,” Primo noted, “and mourning is a core component of a child adapting to their new norm, expressing their grief, and getting support from their community.” Without these traditional markers, find other ways to honor your loved one.

For example, have a small home-based ceremony and commemorate the person’s life by planting a tree, doing an art project, reading a poem, eulogizing and saying goodbye. You can also collect letters, video tributes and memories from others and share them with your children. Many have used Zoom to remember those who died. Ask your children, “How would you like to honor and remember _______?”

This conversation may be one of the toughest you will have with your kids, and one that, given the numbers, will be part of many families’ reality as we cope with incredible loss from the coronavirus. It’s stressful for everyone involved — for your children and for you, too.

Continue to reach out for the support you need so you and your children can be cared for during this difficult time. Even while we must be socially distant, no one should have to grieve alone.

Complete Article HERE!

Dealing with the Grief of What is Still to Come

Most, if not all of us, have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come.

By Sam Dylan Finch

Most, if not all of us, have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come.

While many of us might think of “grief” as being a response to losing someone we love, grief is actually a much more complex phenomenon.

Grappling with any kind of loss can involve a grief process, even if that loss isn’t exactly tangible.

There’s a lot to be grieving right now with the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

There’s a collective loss of normalcy, and for many of us, we’ve lost a sense of connection, routine, and certainty about the future. Some of us have already lost jobs and even loved ones.

And most, if not all of us, have a lingering sense that more loss is still to come. That sense of fearful anticipation is called “anticipatory grief,” and it can be a doozy.

A mourning process can occur even when we sense that a loss is going to happen, but we don’t know exactly what it is yet. We know the world around us will never be the same — but what exactly we’ve lost and will lose is still largely unknown to us.

This can be difficult to come to terms with.

If you’re wondering if you might be experiencing this kind of grief, here are some signs to look for, as well as some coping skills you can tap into at this time:

Maybe you’re feeling a sense of dread, as though something bad is just around the corner, but it’s unclear what it might be. (This is often described as “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”)

Hypervigilance is also a really common way this shows up. You might be scanning for possible “threats” — for example, reacting strongly whenever someone coughs or sneezes nearby, becoming agitated with a stranger who isn’t properly social distancing, or panicking whenever the phone rings.

This can also manifest as persistent anxiety and overwhelm, like “freezing up” when faced with decision making or planning, or procrastinating more often to avoid complex tasks.

If you’re anticipating danger or doom, it makes sense that staying emotionally regulated would be more challenging right now.

Finding yourself easily and persistently frustrated is a very common manifestation of grief.

For example, working from home might have previously felt like a luxury, but maybe now it feels more like a punishment. Not getting your preferred brand of boxed macaroni and cheese might not have felt like a big deal before, but suddenly you’re irate at your local store for not having ample stock.

If small obstacles suddenly feel intolerable, you’re not alone. These obstacles often serve as unconscious reminders that things aren’t the same — triggering grief and a sense of loss, even when we aren’t aware of it.

If you find yourself getting riled up more often, be gentle with yourself. This is a completely normal reaction during a time of collective trauma.

One of the ways that people often cope with anticipatory grief is to try to mentally and emotionally “prepare” for the worst case scenario.

If we pretend that it’s inevitable, we can trick ourselves into thinking it won’t feel so shocking or painful when it does come to that.

However, this is a bit of a trap. Ruminating about morbid scenarios, feeling hopeless as things unfold, or anxiously spinning out about everything that could go wrong won’t actually keep you safe — instead, it will just keep you emotionally activated.

In fact, chronic stress can impact your immune system in negative ways, which is why it’s so important to practice self-care during this time.

Preparedness is important, but if you find yourself fixated on the most apocalyptic and disastrous possibilities, you may be doing more harm than good. Balance is key.

When we feel overwhelmed, fearful, and triggered, it makes a lot of sense that we might withdraw from others. If we can barely keep ourselves afloat, avoiding other people can feel like we’re protecting ourselves from their stress and anxiety.

This can backfire, though. Isolation can actually increase feelings of depression and anxiety.

Instead, we need to stay connected to others — and we can do that by keeping firm boundaries about what kinds of support we can offer.

Some examples of boundaries you could set right now:

  • I’ve been having a really hard time with this COVID-19 stuff. Can we keep the conversation light today?
  • I don’t think I can talk about this right now. Is there something we can do to distract ourselves right now?
  • I’m struggling at the moment and not able to support you in that way right now. I’m happy to (play a game/send a care package/check in by text later on) instead if that would be helpful.
  • I don’t have a lot of capacity to support you right now, but I’ll email you some links later on that I think could be useful if you’d like that.

Remember, there’s nothing wrong with setting whatever boundaries you need to take care of yourself!

A lot of what we’re talking about with anticipatory grief is really just our body’s trauma response: namely, being in “fight, flight, or freeze” mode.

When we feel threatened, our bodies react by flooding us with stress hormones and amping us up, just in case we need to react quickly to a threat.

One of the side effects of this, though, is that we end up feeling worn down. Being so activated on a daily basis can really tire us out, making exhaustion a pretty universal grief experience.

This is particularly difficult at a time when so many people are talking about how productive they’ve been while self-isolating. It can feel pretty lousy to hear about others starting new hobbies or projects while we can barely get out of bed.

However, you’re far from alone in your pandemic-induced exhaustion. And if all you can do right now is keep yourself safe? That’s more than good enough.

If you’re not sure how to navigate this form of grief, there are a few things you can do:

Validate and affirm your feelings. There’s no reason to feel ashamed or critical of the emotions you’re having. Everyone will experience grief differently, and none of the feelings you’re having are unreasonable during such a difficult time. Be kind to yourself.

Bring it back to basics. It’s especially important to stay fed, hydrated, and rested at this time. If you’re struggling with this, I list some tips on basic self-care in this article and some useful apps to download here.

Connect with others, even when you don’t want to. It can be tempting to shut everyone out when you’re overwhelmed and activated. Please resist the urge! Human connection is a critical part of our well-being, especially now. And if your loved ones are driving you up a wall? There’s also an app to connect with people at this time.

Prioritize rest and relaxation. Yes, it sounds absurd to tell people to relax during a pandemic. However, when our anxiety is so activated, it’s critical to try to deescalate our bodies and brains. This article has a pretty exhaustive list of resources if your anxiety is heightened at this time.

Express yourself. Creative outlets are especially helpful right now. Try journaling, dancing, collaging — whatever helps you to process what’s happening for you emotionally! I’ve also got some journal prompts and self-care exercises in this grief zine if you’re interested.

Talk to a professional. Online therapy is a blessing right now. If you can access it, therapists are a vital resource for moving through grief and anxiety at this time. I’ve included some therapy resources here, and I’ve also shared some of my best teletherapy tips in this article.

In fact, you’re far from it. So many of us are experiencing a grief process around this time of rapid change and collective fearfulness.

You are worthy of support, and the struggles you’re having are completely understandable, especially given everything that’s shifting around us.

Be gentle with yourself — and if you need more support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We may be self-isolating and even lonely in the weeks to come, but none of us have to be alone right now.

Complete Article HERE!

What’s the point of grief?


Grieving is an experience almost everyone will go through at some point in their life. And is something we often have no control over.

It isn’t just humans either. There is plenty of evidence, albeit anecdotal, that other mammals, particularly primates, stay close to their dead relatives or babies – even carrying them around for a time before descending into a period of depression.

In terms of evolution, if grief were not helpful, it would long have been bred out of our species. The real question then is not why do we grieve, more what purpose does it serve?

Stages of grief

People often talk of the “stages of grief”. The “five stages” model is the best known, with the stages being denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – though these were actually written to describe coming to terms with dying rather than bereavement.

For many working in the area of bereavement of counselling, the stages of grief are little more than of historical interest now, as the stages are seen as too rigid and not individualised enough – grief don’t come in fixed stages and everyone feels things differently.

In fact, most of what we understand about grief today, is down to psychologist, John Bowlby’s attachment theory. Essentially, attachment theory focuses on the “psychological connectedness between human beings”.

The theory looks at the quality of the intimate bonds we make during the course of our lives, with a specific focus on parent-child relations. And it seems that grief is the flipside to these very close attachments we, as humans, are able to form.

Every parent knows the ear-splitting protest when their infant is left alone. If they return quickly, peace is restored. Bowlby concluded that this behaviour evolved to keep the infant close to parents and safe from predators.

If, for whatever reason, the parent is unable to return, Bowlby noticed that after a prolonged protest, the child became withdrawn and despairing. Colin Murray Parkes, guru of bereavement theory and research, and a colleague of Bowlby’s, noticed the similarity between this behaviour and grief.

Science of grief

As a bereavement counsellor and researcher this is something I see in my clients. Initially they cry out in protest, but as time passes, they begin to despair, realising their loved one has gone forever.

Grief isn’t just a mental experience either. It also has a physiological effect as it can raise the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This may explain why many of my clients experience stress reactions in the form of panic attacks, particularly if they attempt to bottle up their emotions.

Modern techniques in neuroscience allow us to see grief in real time. In MRI scans, a brain region called the nucleus accumbens, which lights up when we talk fondly of our love ones, also glows at our grief at losing them.

These reward centres in our brain that make us happy together, keep us bonded by making us sad when we are apart. In this sense, evolutionary biologists have suggested the protest phase of grief lasts long enough for us to search for our loved one, yet is short enough to detach when hope is lost.

The despair phase, a form of depression, follows – and may serve to detach us from the one we have lost. It saves us from an energy-draining and fruitless search for them. And in time, emotional detachment allows us to seek a new breeding partner. It has also been suggested that both protest and despair may function to foster family and tribal cohesion and a sense of shared identity through the act of shared grief.

A changed world

Most people associate grief with losing someone they love, but in reality people can grieve for all sorts of reasons. In essence, knowing what to expect and feeling secure and stable is important for our survival – so when a loss occurs in our lives, our world shifts and is turned upside down.

In grief and trauma work, this is knows this as “assumptive world theory”. In the face of death and trauma, these beliefs are shattered and disorientation and even panic can enter the lives of those affected.

Life is split into two halves – before the loss and after the loss. We grieve for the loss of the safe and familiar and it feels as though things will never be the same again. The loss of a loved one triggers both the grief of separation and the loss of our assumptive world in which they were a part.

But over time, we adapt to our new world. We relearn the world changed by our loss. Indeed, one of the privileges of working with grief is watching how so many clients learn and grow from the experience and emerge from their grief better equipped to deal with future losses.

Complete Article HERE!

A Death Doula’s Guide To Grieving In The Pandemic

By Molly Longman

Amy Wright Glenn’s outgoing voicemail message reminds me of a guided meditation app. “Before you leave your message, inhale [long pause] and exhale [another pause]… Thank you so much,” she says in a soothing tone.

There’s a reason she’s so intentional about what callers hear when she can’t answer her phone. Many of the people trying to get in touch with Glenn are in crisis. As an end-of-life doula, she talks to people who are close to death, or who have loved ones who have recently passed away.

Not surprisingly, more and more people have been reaching out to the Florida resident during the coronavirus pandemic, which has taken 294,025 lives worldwide, more than 80,000 of which have occurred in the U.S.

Most people associate doulas with childbirth. Birth doulas are trained to provide emotional and physical support to a parent-to-be during labor. (They don’t deliver babies; that’s a midwife.) But the term “doula” can be used to describe someone who acts as an intermediary through any stage of life. There are sleep doulas, postpartum doulas, antepartum doulas. And, of course, there are death doulas.

Before coronavirus, end-of-life doulas were tasked with carrying out the wishes of people who knew they’d be passing on. If someone wanted a specific song playing as they died, or a certain person at their bedside, the doula would help arrange it. They might also work with the deceased’s family as they planned the funeral, says Henry Fersko-Weiss, the cofounder of the International End of Life Doula Association.

But during the pandemic, end-of-life doulas can’t do their jobs in the same way. Due to social distancing measures, they’re not allowed in hospitals, hospices, and senior living facilities. It may be difficult to provide their services virtually. Some sick people only have limited “phone time,” and they’re using that to call family members, not doulas, Fersko-Weiss says. Funeral services are being put on hold, or are heavily restricted.

Still, people are finding ways to reach out. Often, the people seeking support from end-of-life doulas right now are in immense pain. “The most difficult consultations I’ve had recently have to do with suicide, and the sorrow of those who’ve had family members or friends die by suicide,” Glenn says. “For some who already had mental health struggles, this pandemic was a tipping point… I‘ve cried about that.”

The Unique Pain Of Grieving During COVID-19

One of the reasons this pandemic has been so devastating is that people are dying alone. In Japan, they refer to this as “kodokushi,” which translates to “lonely death.” Many patients in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities are not being allowed visitors because COVID-19 is so contagious. Their last conversations with their loved ones may take place over FaceTime.

Bridging that distance is not easy, though end-of-life doulas are trying their best to help. Fersko-Weiss says that many doulas are encouraging their clients to write letters to family members. People who are close to death have a unique perspective, which makes the wisdom they impart especially impactful, he says. When possible, Glenn suggests terminally ill patients ask their doctors about going home, where they can be surrounded by loved ones as they pass. “Being with someone as they die is very powerful,” she says. “It’s one of those life-changing memories.”

The experience of grieving alongside so many others can pose a challenge as well. “I don’t think it helps people to know they’re not alone,” Fersko-Weiss says. “It may make you feel better, very briefly, to know there are other people who might be suffering more than you are. But your grief is your grief, and you can’t escape it. And you may feel it more deeply because of everything else we’re losing — on top of the death of a loved one, maybe you lost your job and can’t go back to work, and you also feel like you can’t ever get back to the way things were.”

On some level, that’s often true. “For any grief, whether it’s related to COVID or heart disease or cancer, we never go back to who we were before,” Glenn says. “The experience can deepen us; we can get through it and grow. But the fact that it will change us is irrevocable.”

How to grieve in a pandemic

When asked whether she has any suggestions for people who have lost loved ones recently, Glenn offers this advice: lean in. Open yourself fully to the pain of mourning.

“Grief doesn’t need to be fixed,” she says. Glenn discourages the people she counsels from thinking of grief as an illness that needs to be cured. Instead, it’s more like a scar: It will change and fade, but it will likely be with you forever. The goal is not to erase it, but to grow accustomed to it and find ways to live with it. “Grief is woven into our world,” she says. “The work of grief is to mourn, to express, to share our stories, feelings, and find our way to our own meaning of what love, life, and loss are.”

Kinship is essential, Glenn adds. She says during the initial mourning period, people need to express their internal sense of loss.

But funerals, traditionally a time that friends and families could gather to grieve together, are being canceled and postponed due to social distancing restrictions. This can compound the burden of grief.

“There have been four deaths in my family where we never had a funeral,” says Caroline Caruso, who first learned about death doulas from a friend. She was inspired by her experiences during the pandemic to train as one herself. “The ritual of the funeral is getting robbed from the family, and it’s devastating to the collective,” she notes.

Right now, then, people must be more intentional about finding companionship. They can call or video-chat friends and family. Or get creative: “You could hold a vigil every day at 2 p.m. Use the time to sit in meditation or prayer or song, and ask friends and family to do the same — even if you’re not in the same physical space,” Glenn suggests. “It’s about knowing that your grief is being shared.” Fersko-Weiss also suggests working with a doula, a therapist, or a grief counselor virtually.

Your conversations with friends and loved ones can revolve around your grief and the departed, but they don’t have to. Reconnect to things that have traditionally made you feel good, whether that’s cooking, working out, or watching a funny movie with your best friends on Netflix Party.

You’ll have good and bad days. Over time, those painful, confusing, overwhelming early stages of grief will pass.

“Yes, my work involves holding space for sorrow, but it also involves holding space for hope and courage and resilience,” Glenn says. “When I listen to someone describe their mourning, it isn’t only sorrow I’m hearing about. It’s love. It’s an incredible honor to listen to someone express their love. And express their stories and hopes and fears. Grief is the window into the human soul.”

She adds: “Like birth and death, grief and love can’t exist without each other.”

Complete Article HERE!

If You’re Grieving Right Now, Here Are 5 Shows That Get It

It may sound odd to highlight fictional stories about grief at a time when so much of the real thing is around. But experts say there is catharsis in seeing someone struggle with familiar feelings. Above, Sterling K. Brown as Randall and Susan Kelechi Watson as Beth in NBC’s This Is Us.


If there is one emotion that hangs over our world these days — other than fear and anger, perhaps — it is grief.

There’s the grief that comes from watching the death of George Floyd captured on a bystander’s video, pleading for his mother and his breath, while a police officer kneels with a knee on his neck.

There’s grief over what that moment said about police and the policing of black people, along with grief over the protests and violence in some American cities as people demand answers.

And there’s the grief of Coronavirus, as we mourn lives cut short, and shoulder the loss of jobs, business opportunities, weddings, vacations, graduations, senior proms …

In this difficult time, television shows have emerged as a surprising resource, with important examples of how people process grief and handle journeys of loss. An increasing number of fictional dramas and comedy series center on characters struggling with grief in raw and emotional ways, which some experts say can actually help all of us learn how to process those feelings better.

“I do think there’s a lot of power in the media starting to embrace grief as a conversation,” says Joanne Weingarten, the Senior Clinical Coordinator of adult programs at the Our House Grief Support Center in Los Angeles. “The thing I find really powerful about these shows, is that they don’t solve grief in one episode. When you live in a culture that says after three days when someone you love dies, you should be back in the workforce, that can be really confusing.”

Some have used the term “traumedies” to describe comedies about pain and loss. But there’s a wide range of shows mining the subject, featuring grief and grieving characters centrally.

In a way, it’s counterintuitive to typical TV development, which focuses on likable characters viewers want inside their homes — grieving characters can be unlikable and difficult to watch.

Holly Daniels, a former actress (House and Castle), now has a doctorate in psychology and serves as Managing Director of Clinical Affairs for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists in Los Angeles. She says TV shows that treat grief as a momentary state often miss the mark, feeding into a culture that tells viewers major life problems can have simple solutions rooted in consumerism, like purchasing the right car or the right house.

“Being in the rat race of our consumer culture, [the lockdowns sparked by the pandemic] forced us to kind of take a step back and figure out what is meaningful to us,” Daniels says. “Consumer culture disengages us. … We almost needed something this global to make us step back from that and look at our lives. … That’s what I see in these shows.”

It may sound odd to highlight fictional stories about grief at a time when so much of the real thing is around. But experts say there is also a catharsis in watching someone struggle with feelings you are having — it’s also one of the most powerful dynamics that binds us to television — and there is a lot about grief and grieving that today’s TV shows get right.

Here’s my list of the best TV shows that depict grief these days, along with a little analysis from the experts.

I Know This Much Is True (HBO)

In this miniseries, based on a Wally Lamb novel, Mark Ruffalo gives anguished, emotional performances as two people; twin brothers, Dominick and Thomas. Though the first episode features Thomas committing a horrific act while struggling with mental illness, it is Dominick we see constantly suffering from grief – pushing away friends and family members after the loss of his mother, his baby, his marriage and more.

At times, Dominick seems the brother most in need of help, as his twin’s commitment to an institution sends him into a spiral of anger, self-loathing, guilt and anxiety that lasts years. In the miniseries, Dominick’s ex-wife, girlfriend, best friend and stepfather all step back in the wake of his blistering anger; for viewers, it makes watching the middle episodes of the miniseries a challenge as we plunge deeper into his dark world.

Experts say: “Grief is really messy; it can be a lot of tangled emotions, positive and negative, over many months or many years,” says Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, a physician who also was an executive producer of End Game, a Netflix documentary short about end of life issues. “Anxiety is the missing stage of grief that nobody talks about, but so many people are feeling right now. Giving ourselves permission to feel that can be really therapeutic.”

After Life (Netflix)

Ricky Gervais plays a more depressed and suicidal version of himself as Tony Johnson, features editor for a small community newspaper, who is drowning in grief after his beloved wife dies of breast cancer. At first, he plans to kill himself, then copes by doing whatever he wants — often lobbing insults at those around him, as only Gervais can — as a way of punishing the world. But when others try to help him, his attitude changes.

Experts say: “This show does a really good job of not sugarcoating his grief,” says Weingarten of the Our House Center. “It shows that he is angry, sad, and at moments wants to end his life. But, slowly, he tries to put one foot in front of the other, [though] there are setbacks.”

Dead to Me (Netflix)

In one of the oddest buddy comedies on TV, Christina Applegate plays Jen Harding, a realtor struggling to handle grief after her husband is killed by a hit-and-run driver. Her life improves when she meets Judy Hale, played by Linda Cardellini, another widow at a grief support group who becomes a fast and close friend. But (spoiler alert!) when Jen learns that Judy isn’t exactly who she says she is, their relationship changes. In the second season, which debuted recently, Jen is still struggling to control her anger as their roles switch and she is forced to hide a terrible secret from Judy.

Experts say: “You want to make sure you’re not putting pressure on yourself in the early stages of grief to see silver linings or find meaning or do work to make yourself a better person,” says Daniels, noting the pressure on Applegate’s character to improve during support group meetings. “If you’re in the angry phase or you’re in the ‘Everybody leave me alone, I need some space’ phase, that’s OK, too. Just by showing us how these characters are feeling and letting us see that, without someone jumping in to fix it right away, is a huge help to a lot of people. … It really can be a comfort.”

This Is Us (NBC)

NBC’s super-successful family drama centers on three grown siblings — two biological and one adopted — born on the same day. But the show depicts them at different times in their lives — as tweens, teens and adults — slowly revealing that much of the series’ storylines are centered on how the siblings have been affected across the breadth of their lives by the death of their father.

Experts say: “That’s a show people at the [Our House Grief] Center talk about a lot … [because] we grieve not just for the current moment, we grieve for the future we planned with the person who died,” says Weingarten. “Every time there’s an event that you expected that person to [attend], there will be some grief involved.”

Sorry For Your Loss (Facebook Watch)

This under-the-radar series is probably the best original show Facebook has produced yet for its Watch platform. Avengers franchise star Elizabeth Olsen plays Leigh Shaw, a young widow who left her job writing an advice column to move in with her mother and sister after her husband dies. As a widow, Leigh feels the most entitled to show her grief, but the series reveals that everyone in her family is struggling with the loss of her husband in different ways, including her husband’s brother.

Experts say: “When someone in our life dies … everyone else [in our life] is grieving the same person, but they have a different relationship with that person,” says Weingarten. “Even though we’re grieving the same individual, what we’re missing about that person might be radically different. So engaging in conversations with others and talking about what you miss about that person can be really powerful, because we can learn about the people we loved after they are gone.”

There are many more great TV shows centered on this subject, from HBO’s Six Feet Under and ABC’s A Million Little Things to Amazon’s Undone and Netflix’s Never Have I Ever. Even classic good guys like Harry Potter, Batman and Superman were forged into heroes by the crucible of grief, rebounding from the deaths of their parents to become forces for justice.

Daniels says such fictional work can provide lasting lessons, as trauma from the pandemic and world events remains with us all, even after the immediate crisis ends.

“We’re always going to carry this time with us,” she says. “But maybe struggling together can bring us closer to each other. Maybe we’ll find more connection. And TV shows which [depict] that arc of healing and reconnection … that’s a really important storyline for people to see.”

Complete Article HERE!

The History of Mourning in Public

After a massive factory fire in 1911, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to stage a “symbolic funeral.”

Demonstration of protest and mourning for Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911

By: Livia Gershon

Days after U.S. deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000, cities across the country erupted in protests against police brutality and racism, centered on the memory of George Floyd, killed by police officers in Minneapolis. Floyd was eulogized by the Reverend Al Sharpton in Minneapolis on June 4, as mourners listened in person and over livestream, and memorials to Floyd have sprung up in murals, protesters’ chants, and on social media.

In 2014, social theorist Stacy Otto looked at mourning in public and why modern taboos often encourage silence about death.

Otto begins with the horrifying fire at New York’s Triangle Waist Company on March 25, 1911. In 18 minutes, 146 people—mostly women and children who had been sewing garments in the factory—died. About half of them jumped to their deaths in attempting to escape the fire. Immediately, the public grasped the connection to the blossoming movement for workers’ rights. Just the previous year, the company’s seamstresses had struck for safer conditions.

By early April, seven corpses remained unclaimed, and labor activists sought to hold a public funeral. The city refused to allow it, fearing that the dead would become labor martyrs, so the unions held a symbolic funeral. On a cold, rainy day, 400,000 people gathered to march and mourn. As a show of respect, women’s garment workers in the funeral parade marched for hours without hats, umbrellas, or overshoes.

As they turned a corner and caught sight of the burned building, a contemporary source reported, the quiet of the march turned into “one long-drawn-out, heart-piercing cry, the mingling of thousands of voices, a sort of human thunder of the elemental storm.”

Otto writes that this highly emotional ritual of mourning reflected a Victorian culture. Through the nineteenth century, she writes, death was omnipresent and grieving was publicly visible. People wore jewelry made with the hair of their lost loved ones. Mourners wore visible signs for a prescribed period—a full two and a half years for a widow (though, notably, only three months for a widower).

But within a few years of the Triangle Fire, Sigmund Freud branded prolonged mourning as pathological melancholy. While Freud later changed his views, Otto writes, the idea that grief must be resolved definitively, quickly, and privately took hold in the twentieth-century United States. Increasingly, people died out of sight in a hospital. A near-miraculous decline in infant mortality made tragedy less salient as a widely shared experience.

And yet, ninety years after the Triangle fire, New York City experienced another moment of intense public grief following the attacks of September 11, 2001. People gathered spontaneously in vigils. Posters of the missing blanketed city walls, followed by memorial shrines built around the city so densely that, Otto writes, “the entire city effectively was transformed into the largest public shrine ever erected.”

Otto writes that the shared horror of 9/11 broke through modern taboos in an explosive expression of grief. Today, whether and how we publicly grieve our national tragedies reflects both how we view death and how we view our shared national life.

Complete Article HERE!

Refusing to give death the last word

Between the coronavirus and police killings, Black communities are coping with seemingly endless grief. The absence of funerals during the pandemic has been particularly devastating to a culture in which collective mourning plays a vital role.

Flag dancer Tinah Marie Bouldin performed at the memorial service of Kenneth O’Neal Davis Jr., 70, at the Whigham Funeral Home

By Nyle Fort

But the death toll only tells one side of the story. The other side is the anger of being unable to see or touch your deceased loved one for the last time. It’s “a different type of grief,” says Carolyn Whigham, my mother’s longtime partner and co-owner of Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, N.J. “This is where you snot. Cry. Stomp. Shout. Cuss. Spit.”

I asked Carolyn and my mom, Terry Whigham, about their experiences as Black undertakers during the coronavirus outbreak. The stories they shared speak to the scandalous nature of the pandemic. We’re not only grieving our dead. We’re grieving the inability to properly grieve.

This is not our new normal. This is the death of normal.

Terry Whigham (center) and Carolyn Whigham (left) worked with funeral home assistant Vernest Moore at the Whigham Funeral Home.

THERE WAS NEVER a dull moment growing up in a Black funeral home. After school, my brother and I played hide-and-seek between and inside caskets. Our chores included rolling old Star-Ledger newspapers used to prop up bodies for wakes. In the summers, when I wasn’t at basketball camp, I passed out peppermints and tissues to family members of the deceased. I knew I didn’t want to make a living burying the dead. But I was spellbound by the way we mourn.

Service after service I witnessed the electricity and elegance of Black grief. The adorned body laid out in an open casket. Elders dressed in their Sunday best tarrying and telling stories of the good ol’ days. Teenagers with a classmate’s face emblazoned on R.I.P. T-shirts. A spirited eulogy followed by a festive repast where soul food is served and family drama unfolds.

It’s a ritual of death transformed into a “celebration of life.”

For Black communities, who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, bans on funerals have been particularly devastating. I understand why. Not only did I grow up in a Black funeral home, but I’m currently finishing my dissertation on African American mourning.

Burial traditions have long animated African American culture, politics, and resistance. During slavery, insurrectionists like Gabriel Prosser and Nat Turner plotted rebellions at slave funerals. A year before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Mamie Till held an open-casket service for her slain son so “the world could see what they did to my baby.” The publication of the images of Emmett Till’s mutilated body, many historians argue, was the match that sparked the civil rights movement.

Ruthener Davis at the memorial service of her son, Kenneth O’Neal Davis Jr., who died from complications related to COVID-19.

Three years ago, white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and slaughtered nine black parishioners. The day after President Barack Obama eulogized pastor and state senator Clementa Pinckney, activist Bree Newsome scaled a 30-foot pole at the South Carolina State House and removed the Confederate flag. “I was hoping that somehow they would have the dignity to take the flag down before his casket passed by,” she said in an interview after her arrest.

What does this have to do with the coronavirus? Black grief does not begin or end at the funeral procession regardless of how someone has died. Our dead live on in the food we eat, the songs we sing, the children we raise, the ballots we cast, the movements we build, and the dreams we struggle to make real. But how can African Americans work through the psychological wage of unfathomable grief without the sound of a Hammond B-3 organ, or tender touch of an auntie, or the smell of cornbread and candied yams, or the sight of our loved one’s beautified body?

“Could your big mama cook? Did you save any of her recipes?” Carolyn asks a family friend whose grandmother, who was known for her peach cobbler, passed away from COVID-19. “No, because it was all in how big mama did the crust,” the granddaughter explained.

“Well, maybe grandma couldn’t write down how to do the crust but did you stand over her shoulder and watch how she kneaded that flour?” Carolyn asks. She wants to make sure that what remains in the wake of loss doesn’t pass away with grandma.

The great poet and activist Amiri Baraka, whom my family funeralized in jazzy splendor, spoke to this in his book “Eulogies”: “I want to help pass on what needs to live on not just in the archive but on the sidewalk of Afro-America itself.”

How do we keep that tradition alive amid deserted sidewalks and overcrowded morgues? Hell, how do we keep ourselves alive as we witness, once again, Black death go viral?

The memorial service of Kenneth O’Neal Davis Jr., 70, who died from complications related to COVID-19, was live streamed at the Whigham Funeral Home.

I HEARD ABOUT the killing of Ahmaud Arbery the day after my friend’s father died of COVID-19. Then I heard about the killing of Breonna Taylor by police officers who burst into the wrong home to look for a suspect who was already in custody in Louisville, Ky. Then 21-year-old Dreasjon Reed and 19-year-old McHale Rose, two Black men killed by Indianapolis police within an eight-hour stretch. Then, before I could finish writing this story, George Floyd, another Black man, was killed by a white police officer, who pinned him to the ground for eight minutes as he pleaded for his deceased mother and yelled “I can’t breathe,” echoing Eric Garner’s last words.

I refuse to watch the videos of the killings of Ahmaud, Dreasjon, or George. I’ve seen the reel too many times. Different city, different cop, different circumstances. Same horror story. But when I heard that a detective in Indianapolis said “it’s going to be a closed casket, homie,” evidently referring to Dreasjon’s funeral, I lost it.

Unfortunately, I’m used to police playing judge, jury, and executioner. But this officer had the audacity to assume the role of an undertaker, too. It’s nauseating.

Black people are not only dying at alarming rates from the virus. We’re still dying from pre-existing conditions of racial injustice. There is no ban on police brutality during this pandemic. We are losing jobs and loved ones. Police are dragging us off buses for not wearing masks, while prison officials are withholding personal protective equipment to our loved ones behind bars.

Truth is: The pandemic is unprecedented but all too familiar. The endless grief hits close to home. In one year, my family buried my brother, father, and grandmother. My mom visits my brother’s crypt almost every day. Between funerals, she steals away and sits with his remains. For Thanksgiving she brings him pork chops smothered in gravy. His favorite. On the anniversary of his “transition,” as she likes to call it, she gives his shrine a makeover and sings Sam Cooke’s “A Change Gon’ Come.” Chad had an old soul.

A casket in a viewing room dedicated to Sally Alexander, Terry Whigham’s mother.

I last saw my brother on his 32nd birthday, four days before a heart attack took his last breath away. My memory of his funeral comes in shards. I remember the sound of the drums and the look on my mom’s face and me laughing quietly to myself at the idea that he had won our final game of hide-and-seek.

In the midst of our own grief, my family has provided dignified memorial services to Black people in New Jersey, including Sarah Vaughan, Amiri Baraka, Whitney Houston, and the countless beautiful lives whose names and stories don’t make national headlines. Like the daughter of the woman who banged on the funeral home window. A week later, the woman held her shirt still as my mom, standing a short distance away in personal protective equipment, pinned a brooch that contained a photo of her daughter who’d just been cremated.

The woman wept and said, “It’s the little things that mean so much.”

She’s right. A spirit of care and compassion sits at the heart of our heroic efforts to stay alive, too.

Organist and singer Joshua Nelson performed during a memorial service.

In the midst of all of the death and violence, Black people continue to fight back, risking our lives to save others. I witnessed hundreds of protesters wearing face masks chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” at the intersection of West 62nd Street and Michigan Road in Indianapolis, where Dreasjon was shot and killed. I thought about the residents of Canfield Drive in Ferguson, Mo., who, before Mike Brown’s blood had dried, planted flowers between teddy bears and empty liquor bottles to commemorate his death. I pictured Bree bringing down the Confederate flag, and the heartaches and heartbeats of Black joggers as they “ran with Ahmaud.” Today, I marvel at the bravery of people across the country protesting George’s killing and resisting patterns of police violence amidst the deadliest pandemic in over a century.

Even Carolyn and my mother — who don’t consider themselves activists — provided a hearse for a funeral procession protest honoring the memory of the 45 inmates who have died from the virus in New Jersey prisons.

My family’s funeral home embodies the incredibly essential work before us all today: burying our dead while refusing to let death have the last word.

Complete Article HERE!