COVID-19 & Grief
By Meredith English, MSHS
A year into the pandemic, our society is grieving our loss of everyday life, and normal coping strategies either don’t work or are not possible. Essential workers fighting the pandemic wonder if there is an end in sight. Our normal support systems have changed. Friends and family have their plates full as they navigate their own grief and fears. A constant underlying worry, for our children, our seniors and ourselves, has become many people’s new normal.
Reimagining grieving during COVID
COVID-19 has changed the way we do everything, and the constant readjustment is exhausting. Families worry about loved ones who are alone day in and day out, yet fear passing or contracting the virus. Many people have been unable to visit with dying loved ones. Their questions go unanswered questions as the medical community struggles to fully understand the virus. Those who have lost a loved one experience a more complicated grief due to the policies in place to keep all safe. The funeral or celebration of life is different than families hoped for. This can delay or prolong the grief, since grief is a journey you must walk through, not around.
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Through it all we have adapted and adopted the best options we have to stay connected. Many have learned how to get online to seek medical help or to join virtual support groups. While we long to be in person, we settle for the next best thing, reminding ourselves we’re doing the best we can and it’s okay to not be okay right now.
Five ways to help grieve during COVID-19
- Carve out time to grieve. Nobody needs to tell you to miss your loved one – you’re already doing that. However, take time every day to journal, read, listen to a podcast, or simply “talk” to your loved one without any distractions. Taking a small action helps combat any avoidance or guilt that can come commonly in grief.
- Identify a support person. Have one person that you check in with daily, whether by phone or text. Ask them permission to reach out when you’re having a hard time. Ideally, this will be a friend rather than a family member grieving the same person.
- Be Specific. When others say, “Let me know if you need anything” do not be afraid to be specific. Ask for help setting up a computer. Ask for help with grocery shopping. Ask for help with phone calls. They, too, will feel better by being able to help in some way. For many, this also helps them grieve.
- Share the memories. Ask others to share their memories or photos. If you are not ready to look at the pictures, hold on to them. Save digital photos to a hard drive to muse over later or use in a future memorialization project. This is a great time to “be specific” with those who are tech savvy.
- Get help. When you just need to talk or don’t want to feel alone, don’t be afraid of reaching out. There are many community resources. Or try out a telehealth session just one time. Even a video conversation can help in a time when we feel so alone.
Meredith English, MSHS is a Delaware Hospice Bereavement Counselor. Delaware Hospice offers free community bereavement services and workshops on various grief topics throughout the year. We also offer free grief resources on our website. For more information, please visit us at www.delawarehospice.org or call us at 302-478-5707.
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