While technology may seem cold or impersonal, at Arbor, we’ve seen the value for years in using technology to help people stay connected, such as letting people virtually attend funerals. This helps everyone come together in their grief, no matter their physical location, or mobility limitations.
In this updated article, we explore how technology can also support us through the next stages of grief, even at a distance. We’ll look at a few online resources that offer advanced support, connect us to other people grieving like we are, help us understand our emotions, and coordinate practical and emotional support among friends.
Finally, we’ll share a few thoughts on how COVID-19 revealed technology’s support for us beyond grief, and how to carry this lesson into the future.
Online Grief Support Groups and Coaching
Sometimes we need human connection outside of our immediate circle of grief (our own friends and family). Grief support groups and coaches help people to heal and move forward in life after the experience of a loss. It can also be very complementary to people who’ve found therapy helpful at another point in their lives.
Online grief support groups are becoming more and more common, and a great option for people with mobility issues, living in rural areas or without handy public transit, and even people who are short on time.
There are many options to find the online group that’s right for you. We recommend contacting your spiritual community or local Arbor branch to learn about online options and reliable recommendations, as well as doing your own research.
A related option is peer-to-peer grief support. For example, the organization Bereaved Families of Ontario provides training and resources for volunteers so that various charities and community centres throughout the province can offer free 1-on-1 and small group sessions. They even offer specialized support for people who may have lost a loved one in an especially traumatic event.
A third option is to do private grief coaching or therapy for one-on-one, personalized support from a trained counsellor. You may find various price points and payment options, so it’s worth asking your network for referrals, looking at what kinds of therapists are covered by your health insurance, and asking potential coaches about their style and training. It’s important to find the right match, and you may need to try more than one.
An important benefit to connecting virtually with a counsellor is that you can even choose one with a unique specialization, regardless of their location in the world.
Arbor’s Bereavement Assistance Program
Every family that Arbor serves receives access to our free, online Bereavement Assistance Program (BAP). This platform offers 24/7 resources for people moving through grief and other difficult times. You’ll find content and support links for topics including:
- Grieving the loss of a loved one, a relationship, a job, etc.
- Supporting loved ones who’ve experienced grief or trauma
- Major life changes like retirement, illness, and relocation
- Mental health
- Crisis support
- Budgeting and financial advice
- Legal assistance
There are frequently updated resources like self-assessments, educational videos and podcasts, blog posts, and budgeting tools. Additionally, the platform has direct links to specialized organizations and a confidential phone helpline.
Everyone processes grief differently and will go through many phases in their grief journey. Whether you need quiet support like a “5 Senses Meditation” video, the location of your nearest grief support group, or a compassionate counsellor over the phone, you’ll find the emotional and practical support you need with our online BAP.
Online Tools to Coordinate Support between Loved Ones
Online platforms make it easier to coordinate a team of helpers for friends and family members going through an overwhelming life experience, such as illness or grief. The best part is that you can create a plan according to their unique needs. And, since participants are given specific tasks and directions, these sites can also reduce the understandable fear of saying or doing the wrong thing.
Meal Train allows you to coordinate food deliveries, ensuring a fresh meal arrives when it is really needed, whether after a long day at the funeral home, or two weeks later when grief is just as strong.
Meal Train Benefits
- Create a calendar to schedule meal deliveries for loved ones
- Meal request templates specify date, time and drop-off location of the meal
- Private - only invitees can sign up to care for a meal
A paid version called Meal Train Plus allows you to schedule other kinds of support, such as childcare, a car ride, or housework.
If this wide variety of caregiving options is better suited to support your grieving loved one, there is a free alternative called Lotsa Helping Hands created by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.
Lotsa Helping Hands Benefits
- Completely free
- Create a private community that only invitees can access
- Share a single calendar where tasks can be requested or offered
- Caregiving tasks are unlimited, and could include meals, rides, housework and childcare
- Community forums can host messages, updates, task offers, and organize teams
The Lotsa Helping Hands forums also serve as an avenue for emotional support from far away friends and family who can share well wishes and upload photos. Local helpers can use the forums to organize team efforts for task-planning, or gathering items spread out between family and friends like legal documents or special belongings. They provide invaluable opportunities for collaboration and emotional support. Even in the dark of night, the messages of love and community available through the forums can help someone grieving to feel less alone.
When you are trying to help grieving family or friends, consider enlisting one of these online services to help coordinate caregiving and build a safe, supportive community.
Perhaps the easiest option of all, this free support series is available completely online, coming straight to your email inbox.
The series starts with a welcome email which acknowledges the pain and shared humanity of the grief process and validates your experience and feelings.
You’ll receive compassionate words and actionable tips to process the early stages of your grief journey during the first 60 days.
We also check in with you throughout the year, especially during holidays and the various “firsts” we must face after a loved one passes, from the emotional to the practical, like filing taxes without them for the first time.
Importantly, we also empower you to care for your physical health and recognize the signs of your healing.
Click here to learn more and sign up for this free email support series.
Some Final Thoughts: What We’ve Learned About Technology and Connection from COVID-19
Here’s a broader lesson that we have really taken on since the COVID-19 pandemic that’s physically distanced many people for the first time in their lives.
Virtual meetings with friends, and online health, legal, or counselling services can improve quality of life for many people.
Consider these situations:
- A young woman who has just moved to another city to pursue a new job, but can keep in touch with her family back home
- A person with limited mobility, or a parent who can let their young baby sleep because of the option for grocery delivery
- An immunocompromised person who is safer not going to the clinic for their prescription renewal appointment
- A young man who has one hour of free time between two jobs and can only chat with his friends today because it’s online
While connecting in person is a beautiful experience, we can continue normalizing virtual options because greater accessibility makes the world better connected for everyone.
We hope the ideas in this blog post help you feel connected with friends and family who are specifically experiencing grief during the time of COVID-19. Please feel free to contact us if you’ve found any additional resources that could help someone else. This is a new time, and we’re all in this together.