Reshaping Grief: The New Practice of Remembering Lives Lost

With cemeteries temporarily closed for a week, here are ways you can continue the tradition of remembering the lives of the departed.

As we continue to go through difficult times, we learn to cherish each moment with families and friends. The pandemic disrupted our routines and even traditions like visiting the graves of our departed loved ones on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. As these days draw closer, we are reminded to commemorate the lives of those who passed and pray for the people they left behind. However, the rising cases in our country hinder us from visiting cemeteries and crematoriums. Although we lose a cherished tradition, we can always find the time to gather in our homes and honor the memories of our beloved.

(Photo from Neil Thomas)

Closing of public spaces

In preparing for Undas, which are on November 1 and November 2, Metro Manila mayors have decided to temporarily close all cemeteries and columbariums. This will be implemented from October 29 to November 4. The decision comes on the heels of the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in the country. Public gatherings are still prohibited to eliminate the possibility of transmitting the novel coronavirus. Thus, Metro Manila mayors encourage people to visit cemeteries weeks before or after the mentioned holidays. Doing so limits the number of people visiting these public spaces.

 For those visiting beyond the closure dates, government guidelines state that a maximum 30% capacity is allowed for each public or private cemetery and memorial park. This will go on from September 17 to November 15. Each visitor must still observe safety protocols such as wearing face masks and face shields and practicing social distancing. These will give people the much-needed assurance that we can safely honor the lives and mourn for our departed loved ones.

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(Photo from Erik Jan)

Keeping the solemnity

Although visiting public spaces are discouraged, parishes and churches remain open for virtual masses. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) launched a website, Undas Online. It’s a platform to hold mass intentions, prayer requests, and to celebrate requiem masses. Beyond the live masses, families who lost loved ones from COVID-19 may stream audio and video reflections as well. Those whose beloved is in cemeteries outside Metro Manila, they can visit once the closure dates are over. Simply secure travel passes from local authorities or the provincial government.

As for wakes and funerals, these will remain online for an indefinite time. The Department of Health released guidelines that within 12 hours, those who passed away from the coronavirus must be cremated. For the safety of the kin, funeral homes are not allowing visits. So, the family and friends can only watch a live feed of the memorial service through FaceTime or Viber. For those who died of non-COVID-19 cases, the kin can visit the service but must present a certification from the hospital first. During the visit, funeral homes are allowing only up to 10 people, each one practicing strict safety protocols as well.

Indeed, the new approach is difficult as we are losing the full experience of expressing our grief. Yet these times prove we need to adapt as much as we can. Nevertheless, no matter where we honor the departed, the solemnity, and the spirit of remembrance lives on.

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