Group Mourning in the Era of COVID-19
Group mourning has been a significant part of human culture for as long as history has been recorded. Group mourning rituals help us to process, understand and cope with death. Group mourning is particular important during periods of wide scale deaths, such as during wars or pandemics. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the lives of everyone in the world, including the lives of those who have lost family members, friends and other loved ones to COVID-19.
However, unlike a traditional group mourning scenario when physical group mourning is acceptable and even expected, COVID-19 has upended traditional mourning traditions due to the risk of spreading the disease. In the era of COVID-19, group mourning has rapidly shifted to accommodate the changing physical and emotional needs of mourners.
Memorials take many forms--art pieces spray-painted on walls, rows of neatly arranged crosses, candlelight vigils. Memorials are common in the wake of tragedy--and the international tragedy shared by those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 has inspired many moving memorials and art pieces. Memorials, as a concept, are designed to be both taken independently and as a group. You view them personally, but you are not the only one: day after day, others see the memorial, and so the experience becomes a type of group mourning.
Virtual mourning is not necessarily new, but its developments have certainly sped up quickly thanks to the need for new virtual technology in order to maintain social distancing. Virtual group mourning often takes place at virtual funeral or memorial services. While only a limited number of people may be allowed to physically attend, the group experience is broadened thanks to the virtual technology. Systems such as AFTR even allow for graveside services to be streamed, which makes it easier to turn a limited service into a group experience.
Social Media Sharing
Another element of group mourning that has become particularly common during the era of COVID-19 is social media sharing utilized for mourning. Creating tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook memorials and similar social media based mourning outlets is a way for people to cope with loss while allowing others to share in their grief and offer condolences and understanding.
Mourning is a highly personal affair--but like many of our everyday experiences, it is something that we often experience as a group, whether that means getting together at a funeral service or--thanks to the need for increasing virtual technology--watching a stream of a funeral service online.