Grieving my mother’s death without the reassurance of rituals

THIS YEAR ON MY MOTHER’S BIRTHDAY, IN OCTOBER, I WOKE up from one of many dreams I’ve had about her since her death. I’d been sitting with family and friends in my grandmother’s backyard, our lawn chairs scattered across a carpet of sun-dappled grass. We were all talking, sharing memories of my mom. I don’t remember the specific stories, but I know there was joy, more laughter than tears—even though, in my dream, my mom was also gone.

Like so many grieving families in 2020, we haven’t been able to gather or mourn together. My mother died of cancer in May, and my husband, kids and I had to watch the small funeral service via livestream from across the country. Until the day before, I wasn’t sure we would be able to do even that—two months into the pandemic, the funeral-home representative told me they had never set up a livestream before. My mom’s priest had privacy concerns about filming, and said

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