Grief and the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic

This is a time when we are experiencing many losses. We are grieving the loss of what has been normal in our lives thus far. Presently, we are experiencing the loss of human contact: kissing a child on the cheek or extending a hand to a friend. These are unusual times. This is happening globally; it extends around the world—we are collectively grieving. We are feeling the loss of family gatherings, weddings, memorials, the many events and experiences that connect us to one another. Perhaps there’s comfort in the message that this is temporary. This will end. What exactly will end and what will be forever changed?

Anticipatory Grief

Many are experiencing anticipatory grief: anticipatory grief is when we begin grieving before the actual death or loss. Some are anticipating financial loss, loss of jobs, loss of homes. Who of our loved ones will be diagnosed with corona virus? What will the “new normal” look like? How do we tolerate the unknown?

Ambiguous Loss

We are experiencing ambiguous loss as well. Ambiguous loss is when it is not clear what exactly has been lost, and there is no real closure or understanding. What is forever changed and what remains the same? We are living with so much uncertainty about what’s next. Will there be closure? What does closure look like after a pandemic? What will change once we gain control over this virus? What will remain the same? It’s all so ambiguous!

Helping Yourself

Through many years of supporting individuals and families who have experienced loss, I have learned that people find ways to rationalize or lessen the pain.  Of course this is understandable, as our natural inclination is to move away from pain. There are different ways individuals might do this, such as rating or comparing their loss to another’s. They tell themselves it could be worse. My work has taught me that when one grieves the loss of a significant other, his/her pain is great and he/she has a right to express that pain without limitations.

Sharing feelings and concerns with family and friends can connect us to them. Sharing our vulnerabilities with those we trust can bring us closer together. Outwardly expressing these thoughts and feelings helps us heal and feel better.  Knowing we are not alone in our fears and concerns can be comforting and help us to feel less alone.

It’s helpful to focus on the things we can control. Fortunately, we have technology that allows us to see each other and communicate with each other.  Agree on a family time to FaceTime or Zoom, schedule a happy hour with friends, check in with loved ones via text or email.  Take advantage of this time to catch up on projects that you have been trying to get to or simply take more time for self-care. In addition, journaling can be a great way to identify feelings which can provide comfort.

How I Can Help

As a therapist who has been trained to recognize and understand different grief reactions, I can guide individuals and families as they navigate these uncertain times. Although each person’s grief is unique, there are certain recognized needs that mourners must address in order to adjust to their loss and rebuild a life of meaning. I listen, support and guide my clients as they move toward a place of healing.