Designing a Memorial or Public Event to Remember Those Who Have Died from COVID-19? Questions you may want to ask during the planning process
Permanent memorials, temporary memorials, remembrance events, and public gatherings are important and necessary for supporting and acknowledging the individual and collective grief and losses arising from the pandemic. There are many important ethical and political questions worth considering as individuals, organizations, and governments start to design and plan memorials and events, such as:
1. The pandemic has disproportionately affected some communities more than others, both locally and globally. A memorial or event that fails to acknowledge and address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour
(BIPOC) communities risks further harm to those communities. How can your memorial or event register the uneven impacts and disproportionate losses experienced by BIPOC communities? Does your planning committee have sufficiently diverse representation to help you collectively work through this question?
2. Healthcare workers have been widely recognized as heroes during the pandemic, because of their tireless labour and the risks they have taken to assist others and save lives. Does your committee plan to recognize or acknowledge healthcare workers who have died in a way that makes these losses more visible or distinct in your memorial or event? If so, is there a way to acknowledge and remember healthcare workers without implying that their loss is more “grievable” than other losses? (For more on the concept of “grievability” see the resources section)
3. If your group or committee plans to list the names of people who have died from COVID-19 in your memorial, how will you build this list of names? If you are considering using public records, will you reach out to family members for permission to use their loved one’s name? Some families may prefer privacy. If you will allow people to submit names for inclusion in the memorial, will you only allow submissions from family members? If so, how will family be defined? Can it be defined broadly to include other forms of kinship, for those who may have broader definitions of family? Will you ask the person submitting the name if they have consent from other loved ones for the name to be included in the memorial?
4. If you are planning to ask loved ones of people who have died from COVID to share their experiences as part of your memorial or event, what supports will you offer before, during, and after the event (or before, during, and after the loved ones share their experience, for a recorded event or permanent memorial)? Aftercare support has been shown to be especially important for people recounting traumatic experiences of grief and loss.
5. Racism (especially anti-Black racism) and gender-based violence (especially domestic violence) have been described as “co-pandemics” to COVID-19. Will your memorial or event somehow address the impact, grief, and losses of these co-pandemics? What about the grief and losses arising from mental health crises (which have increased during the pandemic) and other health issues (where treatment may have been delayed or unavailable due to the pandemic)? Is there a way to support those who have experienced these other “co-pandemic” forms of grief and loss to feel acknowledged and included in your memorial or event?