Story at a glance

  • More than 133,000 people across the world and 27,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19 as of April 15.
  • Many Americans are also experiencing a sense of loss and disappointment as their lives are disrupted during the pandemic.
  • Experts say it’s especially important to use the methods of communication available to connect with others during this time.

When a Memphis funeral home introduced drive-thru viewing in 2017, it made national news for its novelty. At the time, it was intended to accommodate older people who wish to attend memorial services but may have difficulty getting out of their cars. 

Now, as states restrict public gatherings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, it has become increasingly common. Funeral homes from Kentucky to Pennsylvania to Minnesota are setting up drive-thru viewings to allow people to pay their respects to those who’ve died during the global pandemic. 


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More than 133,000 people across the world and 27,000 people in the United States have died due to COVID-19 as of April 15. But restrictions in place to safeguard public health have also made traditional mourning impossible. 

Brandon Staglin, president of the nonprofit One Mind, spoke to two grief experts in a Facebook livestream on April 15 on how this affects the grieving process. 

What is simple for one person is painfully difficult for another, especially in the face of grief and during this time,” said Dianne Gray, a Nashville-based grief expert. “During this time we are suffering from a lack of tactile connection. For a lot of people that live by themselves, they are missing out on a lack of touch, hugging and visceral connection.”


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This loss in connection makes communication even more important to cope with grief, said Kathy Eldon, founder of the Creative Visions Foundation. 

“Reach out, communicate, don't try to do it by yourself,” she said. 

Still, those who are grieving may struggle to take that step, Eldon said, making it all the more important that people reach out to others in their community, especially those who are alone. 

“Reach out to those who you love and tell them you love them. Reach out to those you are angry with or don’t want to forgive,” Eldon said. “Don’t let people just drift.”

At the same time, many Americans are also experiencing a sense of loss and disappointment as their lives are disrupted during the pandemic. 

“A lot of it is profound sorrow and loss in terms of ritual, in terms of perceived sense of security,” Gray said. 

The stress of living through the pandemic, whether you’ve lost a loved one or not, can lead people to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

“Be mindful of what we are turning to during this time so they don’t become habits or patterns that we’re going to have to break later,” said Gray. At the same time, she added, it’s important to give ourselves grace and understanding during this time and validate our emotions. 

“We are complex beings with complex emotions, most of all love and fear,” she said. 


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Published on Apr 15, 2020