Conversations in Grief Blog: Photos or it Didn't Happen
The phrase goes, “Photos or it didn’t happen,” the idea being if an event wasn’t documented with photographic evidence it never happened. In a culture where we share everything from our breakfast plate to major events through photos and videos on social media, having an event go undocumented or unseen is becoming less common. Something as simple as walking our dog is now newsworthy as we can take a photo on our phones and share it. When being “seen” is an important value, being ignored or unseen can leave us feeling hurt or disenfranchised on social media and the same is true in grief.
When grief feels overshadowed by other events or issues, it makes the whole process of grieving that much harder. As humans, our grief must be witnessed and communal mourning is a significant part of our grieving process. During these past months so many have grieved alone. The isolation brought on by COVID-19 has taken away the hugs, casseroles, and in-person condolences many need to cope with their loss. For many families, a funeral or celebration of life date has been scheduled, rescheduled, or never set because it simply hasn’t been safe to have one. These events often mark a significant part of the closure needed for many. The unfinished tasks of honoring the dead in ways that we value, together with the people who loved them, only makes grieving harder.
In my work supporting the bereaved, I often speak with people, who are trying their best to cope with their grief alone. We still don’t have an end date to all this pandemic and many are exhausted. I write all these things not to make us feel more miserable about the state of things but to say to you, “we see you,” and “we acknowledge your grief.“ You may not have had a chance to mourn with family and friends. You may be doing your best to “keep going” on your own, and you may just be so tired of being alone and unseen. I want you to know that we are here for you and we see you.
For those who may be reading this and aren’t grieving, I encourage you to reach out to those you know who are. So many are struggling to grieve alone because of COVID and that phone call, or card, or email can provide a lot of needed support. Reach out even if you think they are ok. In the 2003 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, there is a powerful moment where Sam and Frodo are near the end of their task and Frodo can’t go on. Sam then tells Frodo, “I can’t carry this for you but I can carry you.” The only way we can truly continue to keep going in this pandemic is if we help carry one another when we need it. We can’t take away another person’s grief, but we can let them know we see their grief and help support them in the days to come.