“The concrete experiences that help you to move from denial to acceptance are not so much there.”
There are reports on social media of relatives only being able to watch the funerals of their loved ones via livestream due to the lockdown.
Asked what advice she would offer if she were counseling such families, Bassett said: “It’s not so much advice as it is about listening and allowing them to tell their story. One might think that it’s helpful to at least see something of the funeral on the computer. But in some ways it is and it isn’t. We will all have our emotional reactions to that.”
“The only way you can possibly support somebody is by finding out or by listening to or helping them to hear what it is about the experience that was particularly hard for them.”
“It’s not a factual discussion. It’s not: ‘Well, would you have preferred not to have the livestream facility?’ It’s about: ‘Well, what feelings did that evoke? How do you feel now? Is there anything positive that you could take away from the fact that you did actually see something of the funeral?’ And just listening and listening.”
“A lot of it is about rehearsing that story, which is the way that we humans tend to heal.”
The Church’s task
Bassett said with churches closed and public Masses suspended, Catholics need to find creative ways to help those in mourning.
“It’s really important that the Church continues to be what it is and to do what it already does,” she said. “Because it’s perhaps one stable support in a world which is very uncertain and doesn’t feel very stable at all at the moment. And if you’re grieving, you feel even less stable.”
“The kindness and care of the priest, the rituals that we have, are all in place. What we’re finding is very creative ways of reproducing them or continuing to do them without actually walking into church.”
She suggested that priests could remember the bereaved in their Mass intentions and light candles in church for them via livestream. She encouraged lay people to pray for the grieving and to offer them condolences.
(Story continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
She said: “We all have our part to play. That means speaking to people, listening to people, making time to make that phone call or probably still make that casserole and leave it on the step.”
She acknowledged that many worry about saying the wrong thing to those in mourning.
“Well, actually, maybe it’s not so important what you say as the fact that you say something,” she said. “You acknowledge and then you are there for the person.”
“So we all have a role in this and it’s all going to go on for a long, long, long time because grief is not a quick fix.”
She also welcomed plans to hold “large-scale memorial services” after the pandemic, so that those who have lost loved ones “feel that the wider Church is understanding something of your pain.”
Hope and growth