ORLANDO, Fla. — Every year on June 12, the Orlando community comes together to hug, heal and mourn as it remembers the city’s darkest day and the 49 lives lost inside Pulse nightclub.
On Friday, amid a global pandemic, those gatherings looked different. We’re urged not to hug, hold hands or even be within 6 feet of one another to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
But how does a community connect without physical connection? Annual remembrance ceremonies are going virtual, with community members logging on to Facebook or Zoom to join in.
If you’re looking for more, here are some ways you can safely grieve, mourn and connect from a distance:
Dr. Katherine Daly, director of Counseling and Wellness Services at the UCF College of Medicine, said the best thing to do during this time is to be intentional. Not only with your actions, but with your words.
"We have to be intentional. We can’t let those milestones pass by. That’s a part of the healing and the grieving process,” Daly said.
She said that can mean gathering in small groups outdoors while adhering to CDC guidelines for social distancing and sharing memories of loved ones lost, doing an activity that they loved or supporting a cause that was important to them.
Daly also advised being intentional with how you communicate if you can’t be physically near the ones you love who are feeling the impacts of the day.
“Tell them you love them and you’re thinking of them,” she said.
She said “I love you” is often saved for family members and partners, but during this time of distance it can be important to use those words with your friends as well.
"You have you use your language intentionally,” she said.
If you’re stuck on what to do, here’s the organization’s advice:
- Act: Do something to help others in our community. This could be volunteering for a nonprofit or simply doing something nice for someone with the intention of showing love and kindness.
- Love: Spread the love by sharing your stories, photos and videos of why you act, love or give on social media using the hashtag #ActLoveGive.
- Give: This year, One Orlando Alliance is spotlighting the response to COVID-19 and encouraging donations to organizations providing support to those in our local communities. This could be donating to a food pantry, making/distributing masks or giving to a relief fund that supports our most vulnerable. What matters is that you are sharing what you can with a cause that is meaningful to you.
Warrior One Yoga is offering free yoga classes Friday via Zoom all day for anyone who can join.
“We wanted to offer those classes so that people could stay connected to the studio, and we made them free so that anyone who needs a space to grieve, process, heal, celebrate, remember anyone who needs a safe space would have it right from wherever they are,” said Danielle Cosgrove, with Warrior One.
On Saturday, the Orlando Gay Chorus will present a free online Totally ’80s concert from 3-4 p.m. Log on to hear fun ’80s songs and all for a good cause: the Central Florida LGBT+ Relief Fund.
On Sunday, Rose Dynasty Foundation will host Drag Storytime with Momma on Facebook Live from 2-3:30 p.m. Momma will be reading a special book for children in a family-friendly drag environment.
On Tuesday, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida is holding an online Grief Support Group. Topics covered in this group involve stress of grief, tips for coping during the anniversary dates/holidays and learning how to reach out for help during difficult times. It is free and open to all.
Through Aug. 20, the Orange County Regional History Center presents a newly curated online exhibition, The Stories They Could Tell, now available on the museum’s website. The online exhibition is fully bilingual, with text in both English and Spanish.
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