Five Tips for Socially Distanced Grief Support

The grieving process, already difficult, has become even harder in recent months. Coronavirus has disrupted mourning rituals, many states now limit in-person gatherings, and social distancing is the new normal. Despite these challenges, there are still plenty of meaningful ways to support your friends and family after a loss.  

Affirm multiple losses. Americans are dealing with several simultaneous, collective crises: an economic recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, and racial injustice along with individual issues of increased anxiety and changes to medical and end-of-life care. These factors can easily complicate or prolong grief over the loss of a loved one. Recognizing these additional factors and talking about them with your grieving friend or family member, if they’d like, can help them sort through their multiple layers of grief.

Out of sight, not out of mind. Though you may not be available in person, virtually showing up for your friends is more important than ever. Grief can feel like you’re in a tunnel all by yourself. Having loved ones check in helps beat the loneliness and isolation. You can send a text, funny meme, or photo. Call with specific questions about what’s going on in their lives instead of asking a general, “How are you?”  Voice notes, via text messaging or apps like MarcoPolo or WhatsApp, offer low-pressure alternatives to calling but allow you to take a beat and think about what you want to say. 

Don’t let fear of saying the wrong thing or making the pain worse stop you from reaching out, especially now. You don’t have to say anything profound, or anything at all. When you interact, focus on actively listening and showing your support. Help them move from grief to mourning by bearing witness to their loss and giving them space to express their feelings.

It’s About Them, Not You:  When someone you know experiences a death, your first impulse might be to ask how you can help. But that can actually be counterproductive. People don’t always know what will make them feel better and directing others can feel overwhelming while grieving. Instead, offer support that does not require an action or add to their burden. If your calls go to voicemail, make sure to say they don’t have to call you back. If you arrange to have food delivered, assure them you don’t need a thank you note. If they answer your inquiries briefly or don’t return your calls, that’s okay. Their job is to grieve, and yours is to let them know you’re thinking of them.

Gather virtually: Grief rituals, such as funerals and end of life ceremonies, help people process their feelings. Consider arranging a virtual gathering to help your friends and family connect, share stories, pay respects, and celebrate the life of your loved one. The GatheringUs virtual events team can work with you to create a custom, virtual memorial event and handle all of the technology, freeing you up to participate. 

Stay consistent. The grief process is just beginning after the funeral. Keep leaning into your relationship with the bereaved during the weeks and months to come. Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays often trigger grief; put notes in your calendar throughout the year to acknowledge their loss during these times. Mourning is a new normal for your loved one and, with lots of support, you have the opportunity to become closer through the process.


Our mission at GatheringUs is bring together family and friends to support each other and celebrate the life of their loved ones. To learn more about our virtual funerals and memorial ceremonies, Contact us here. We can help with planning, facilitation, tech support, audiovisuals and design, and work with you to create a meaningful and personal event. We free you up, so you can be fully present with your community.