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Grieving in the time of COVID-19: Resources and guidance

May 5, 2020 Category: FeaturedLongPurpose
I remember waking up the morning after my mother’s sudden death 20 years ago, and wondering how it was possible that the sun was still shining and the earth was still turning on its axis when my world had stopped.

I was experiencing everything — even rising, dressing, preparing breakfast for my 5-year-old daughter — through a staggeringly thick fog of grief. It dispelled for moments, minutes, hours, in the company of the family and loved ones who immediately gathered at home, and with the sad but absorbing work involved in preparing for a funeral.

But how do you cut through the fog if you cannot gather with family and loved ones? How do you get through if the processes that help you grieve your loss are unavailable to you?

That’s the reality for many during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to help you — or help you help others — we’ve gathered bereavement resources (the majority of them nondenominational, and including everything from podcasts to checklists); asked several faith leaders in Philadelphia to speak to the process of grieving now; and included a virtual memorial service created specifically for this moment in time.

As always with our resource lists, this is a work in progress. If you know of a resource that has been especially helpful to you or others during bereavement, please let us know by emailing us at

COVID-19  has disrupted liturgical rituals and social traditions which help us grieve and heal

Archbishop Nelson Pérez

Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Archbishop Nelson Pérez greeting a congregant. (Photo by Sarah Webb on behalf of

“The worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus has suddenly and dramatically impacted the normal course of our lives over the past several weeks.

Under normal circumstances coping with the death of a loved one is difficult and challenging. The need for isolation, social distancing, and quarantine, though necessary for the preservation of public health, have disrupted liturgical rituals and social traditions which help us grieve and heal.

From our Partners

In the words of Pope Francis, “Grief is a bitter road, but it can be useful to open one’s eyes to life and to the sacred and irreplaceable value of each person, and at that moment one realizes how short time is.”

There is a temptation to sink into despair when grieving, especially during these unprecedented times. When traveling down what Pope Francis calls a “bitter road”, we are never alone, God is always by our side. It is important that you know and draw strength from Him. As people of hope, we will overcome any challenge. The wellspring of our shared hope is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and its promise of an omnipotent love that cannot be conquered, even by death.

Please join me in praying for those who have died. May they rest in peace. Please join me in praying for those in mourning. May they find comfort. Please join me in praying for those who are sick. May they be healed. Please join me in praying for the fortitude of all those working to battle this pandemic. May we overcome it together as a united human family.”

We need to be together as a community to hold our individual and our communal grief

Rabbi Linda Holtzman.

Rabbi Linda Holtzman

Tikkun Olam Chavurah

“When my father died, I clearly grieved. I loved him and was so saddened by his passing. My family and friends all gathered together at his funeral and together, we mourned his loss. I felt comforted and eventually healed.

Last week, I officiated at a funeral on Zoom for someone who died of COVID-19. We joined together, people from around the entire country, and we mourned the loss. The family of the deceased was comforted and will eventually heal. In many ways, the experience was the same as that of my family’s loss, but it was also completely different.

The community gathering together at this funeral needed to be there to comfort the grieving daughters of the deceased but also needed to be there for their own mourning. The mourning felt deeper and wider than the mourning for one individual. It permeated the Zoom screen; it was there in the sadness on everyone’s face and the pain in everyone’s heart. We all needed to be together at this funeral because our grief is a communal one, a personal one for everyone whether or not we have suffered a personal loss. Our entire country, our entire world is grieving.

Grief now is shared by all of us since all of us are feeling a sense of loss and pain. All of us are watching the news and seeing the body bags and reeling as the numbers of those who have lost their lives rise. Right now, in this current communal grief, we need each other in powerful ways. We need to be together to support each other, to lift each other up when our grief is overwhelming, and to stand together in the face of loss.

In Jewish tradition, the Mourners’ Prayer, the Kaddish Yatom, can only be recited if the community is present. The wisdom of that tradition is ever clearer now. We need to be together as a community to hold our individual and our communal grief. Zoom funerals and online community gatherings to face our loss together are crucial for our healing. It is vital that we find even more ways to hold each other at this moment of communal grief.”

The challenge for us as Christians is to think outside of our immediate circumstances

Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller.

Reverend Dr. Alyn E. Waller

Senior Pastor

Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church

“COVID-19 has taken us by storm in so many unexpected ways. Neither our bodies nor our recent experiences has prepared us for this novel virus.

Many of us have become sick, many of us have died, many of us have lost jobs, many of us are essential workers battling the effects of the virus, and many of us are sheltering in place waiting for some clarity to these unprecedented times. We are acutely aware of just how our world has been turned upside down.

The reality for me is that while I have the virus, I’m going to be alright. And, we are going to be alright. The challenge for us as Christians is to think outside of our immediate circumstances and remember that there are people who live through worse challenges, daily, even without COVID-19. As a missions-minded pastor, I’ve traveled the world and have seen abject poverty in many corners, including the United States. Far too many people don’t have access to health care, wonder where their next paycheck and meal is coming from, remain homeless, and agonize over the sufferings of family and friends. This ought to cause all of us to think seriously about how selfishness and sickness have impacted the world.

COVID-19 is a challenge, and we must deal with it. But once we have gotten through our COVID-19 storm, let us not forget the millions of people who live with unimaginable storms every day.”

COVID-19 virtual memorial service

Rev. Brady McDaniels

Coordinator of spiritual care

Deborah Heart and Lung Center, New Jersey



Grief Out Loud podcast


  • COVID-19 and Complicated Grief from the Association for Death Education and Counseling


  • Speaking Grief is a documentary produced by Penn State, which airs on WPSU on May 5 at 8 p.m. (You can also request that your local Public Broadcasting Station air it.)


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