The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on how we live and work, limiting our ability to interact with others and freely move about in the world. Tragically, it’s also affecting our ability to pay tribute to loved ones who have died.
Unfortunately, if a loved one dies during the pandemic, regardless of the circumstances of their death, it is unlikely that a traditional funeral or memorial service will be possible, at least in the immediate future. There are still things you can do, however, to honor your loved one, or to support someone who has experienced the death of a family member or friend.
Honoring the Lives of Loved Ones and Others Who Died During the Pandemic
If you’re grieving the death of a loved one who died during the pandemic, either from COVID-19 or other causes, you may find your grief journey to be more complex than it would have been under more normal circumstances. Know that you are not alone. Isolation, ongoing uncertainty and not having had a traditional gathering to say goodbye to a loved one can complicate our grief and make it more difficult to begin to grieve.
In addition, as a nation and a world, many of us find ourselves collectively mourning everyone who has died during the pandemic. The magnitude and impact of our losses will be felt for years to come.
Whether you’re mourning the loss of someone you know or are moved by the sheer number of people who have died overall, one of the best ways to honor our grief is by remembering the lives of those who have died.
Honoring a Life – Ideas and Inspiration
- If you weren’t able to have a service for your loved one, start planning one now, even if it can’t be safely held for several months. It’s never too late to honor a loved one. Read our tips for planning a future service to get started.
- Light a candle in the window.
- Gather a few friends, family or neighbors for an outdoor candlelight vigil.
- Write a journal entry about your experiences, challenges and losses during the past year.
- Write a letter to a family member or friend who died, reflecting on your relationship and what that person meant to you.
- Call a friend or family member who has experienced a loss.
- Plant a tree or memorial garden.
- Donate to a loved one’s favorite cause, of volunteer your time to help others in need.
- Start a memory jar to capture memories of the person who has died.
- Make your loved one’s favorite meal.
- Host a storytelling gathering and invite guests to tell stories about a loved one who has died, safely in-person or on Zoom.
- Send a card or letter to a grieving friend. Learn more about Expressing Condolences.
- Create a piece of art in memory. Visit the Activities section of this site for inspiration.
- Learn about the people who have died of COVID-19 by visiting a website featuring their stories. The New York Times and Legacy.com both feature tributes to individuals who have died.
Note that funeral homes have local, state and federal guidelines that need to be followed regarding funerals that are held during this time, with some states banning funerals entirely. There are also guidelines that need to be followed when the individual has died, or may have died, of COVID-19. These guidelines are in place to ensure the health and wellbeing of you and your family, funeral home staff and attendees of any funeral or gathering. Things change on a daily basis, so speak with your funeral director for the most up-to-date information.