On this Memorial Day, I am especially reflective about the many layers of grief we as a country bear on our shoulders. In this strange time I consider how we grieve collectively, nationally. The veterans we love, our family and friends, spent years of their lives protecting us. Today we honor them and are called to reflect on all veterans who have died, those we love and all of those we never met.

But today we are facing the challenge of how we can honor them during a global pandemic. The spirit of Memorial Day has always been one of gathering. Gathering family and friends together to eat, play, and enjoy one another. It has been a day to go out to memorialize our beloved Veterans with flowers and flags. It is a holiday in which closeness to one another is the balm that soothes our grief. For fleeting moments we enjoy pride and love of country. What is a Memorial Day when we must take special care to not be too close to one another?

In a previous blog in this series I wrote about the need to touch down to the reality of grief, even when it can be painful, and then we can “go up” into the respite of laughter and distraction. This is a way of not taking too much on at a time. In acknowledging there is no real goal or end to the grieving process, you must pace yourself throughout the rest of your life. This is not a process to rush, it can be harmful to do so. But what can we do on a day such as today, when we cannot attend to our grief through this cycle of solemn remembrance and celebration? Looming over our heads is the reality of how war has impacted our lives for generations of our loved ones as well as the reality of this pandemic. They are in direct conflict with one another.

What I see today is a people longing to come back together, to find some normalcy with one another. People are beginning to go outside more, sometimes in overwhelming numbers. As a bereavement counselor, it is hard for me to say “do not do that” but as a medical worker, I must advise that sometimes we are forced to find creative ways to grieve and cope in extenuating circumstances. How might this difficult time help us to form new ways to grieve? This work, this grief work, is built on the wisdom of generations before us. Maybe during this time, we can create new wisdom to pass on to generations ahead. I hope for the future that they will remember how we grieved in these times, and what new ways we learned to cope.

Today I encourage you to reflect on the beloved veterans in your life and find space to honor them. What new wisdom can we bring to future generations? Feel free to share here in the comments. One surprising way we have learned to cope through this pandemic is by using video conferencing. The staff at HHSCW have been pleased at the success of this Virtual Support Group in fostering friendships and relationships. As a person who enjoys the “face-to-face” I was nervous about how we might connect empathetically to one another through video chat. However, it has gone very well, we have shared many laughs and tears. May we find other creative ways like this to grieve together and stay safe.

Due to restrictions on large gatherings, we have had to postpone the annual Celebration of Life memorial service that we hold on the Patio of Memories at the HHSCW. Our new date is July 23. I hope you will join us! Our intent is to provide our community with a space to honor and celebrate our loved ones. It is an event open to all. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.

In the meantime, join me for our Touchpoint group on Tuesday at 2 PM. It generally lasts about one and a half hours. Click the link below for more information on how to join us, everyone is welcome, no registration required.If you would like to schedule one-on-one support with me via Zoom, please email me at bereavement@williamsburghospice.org


Abby Embry
Chaplaincy Director



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