Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Health And Welfare

Adopting tech tools to facilitate virtual grieving

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To help South Africans to celebrate loved ones’ lives during lockdown, Sanlam has launched The Memory Collection – an online platform to memorialise individuals in an innovative and lasting way. With regulations restricting inter-provincial travel, funeral capacity and physical contact between family members, people are increasingly turning to digital tools to facilitate virtual grieving. Finding powerful ways to connect is pivotal. That’s what the Memory Collection is all about.

Jabulile Smith, Marketing Manager at Sanlam Developing Markets Limited, says, “At Sanlam, we prioritise paying out most funeral claims in four hours so families can focus on what really matters – celebrating a person’s memory. Even though we cannot be together, we can feel connected by the memories we share. That was the inspiration for the Memory Collection; a new way for South Africans to honour those who have passed. Globally, we’re witnessing ongoing innovation in the funeral planning and grieving space, as we all seek opportunities to support each other in a time of social distancing.”

The digital platform will allow members of the public to upload photos and share stories of their departed loved ones. These will then be added to the Memory Collection that can be accessed online as a space for those who are gone but never forgotten.

Finding new ways to grieve

Psychological implications:

Forbes reports that not having the right bereavement rituals, support and processes in place could leave grievers at risk of prolonged grief disorder (PGD) and complicated grief (CG), which is characterised by preoccupying, persistent symptoms, and affects 10 to 20% of mourners in normal times. Grief is already an isolating process. With the pandemic, it’s more important than ever before to find real ways to reach out.

Cultural implications:

South Africa is a place of incredibly rich and diverse cultural traditions and beliefs. Big events like funerals are opportunities for togetherness and ritual, to set a family’s mind at ease that their loved one is at peace. The inter-provincial travel restrictions and 50-person attendance limit have caused considerable distress, with many families also unable to afford the prohibitive expense of transporting the departed home. The corpse is now required to be transported separately with a certified undertaker. This requires at least two vehicles to be hired. Add to this the time pressure of burying a COVID-19 victim within three to seven days to comply with national regulations, and many are no longer able to take their departed home to rest. This has prompted an even stronger need for virtual grieving alternatives that bring families together irrespective of geographical confines. These cannot replace age-old customs, but they can bring some comfort, perhaps.

Jabulile says, “The pay-out we provide can be used for anything that the family needs. Right now, that might be planning a virtual funeral and equipping family members with the devices and tools needed to connect online.”

Many funerals are now being live-streamed. Memorials are also being held online. When planning a virtual funeral, consider:

– Appointing a family member or friend as moderator to guide proceedings

– Asking guests in advance to prepare a story to share

– Collecting photos to share as a PowerPoint or video

– Putting together a soundtrack of songs from family and friends that remind them of
the person

– Asking guests to contribute their memories and photos to the Memory Collection

Globally, there’s also a move to more people sharing memories via social media groups. We’re seeking means to publicly and privately celebrate the lives of our loved ones. Virtual peer support groups are also popping up, and many psychologists have taken their services online, offering grief counselling support.

Jabulile says, “Our grief rituals, customs and traditions are vital ways to deal with death.A big part of this involves the emotional release that we get from sharing our memories. Our Memory Collection publicly pays tribute to all the ways your special person contributed to your life. It also allows you to read other people’s stories of how your loved one impacted their lives. Sharing these stories is profound. It can be deeply healing. It can make us feel less alone. It’s an empowering way to commemorate a relationship in this time of lockdown restrictions and beyond this.”

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