COVID-19 & Grief
Meredith English, MSHS
Delaware Hospice Bereavement Counselor
As essential workers continue fighting the pandemic, many are left wondering if there is an end in sight. Collectively, everyone is grieving the loss of many things and normal coping strategies either do not work or are not possible. The sense of normalcy and safety have changed our support systems. Friends and family have their plate full as they navigate their own fears. The constant worry for our children and seniors have many feeling defeated and over time it begins to feel surreal.
COVID-19 has changed the way we do everything and the constant change is exhausting. Those who have lost a loved one could have complicated grief due to the policies in place to keep all safe. Many have been unable to visit with dying loved ones in person. They have unanswered questions as the medical community struggles to fully understand the virus. The funeral or celebration of life is different than families hoped for and some extended members did not get a chance to say goodbye. The families are left with fears about passing the virus on to others or worrying about those who are alone day in and day out. This can delay or prolong the grief as grief is a journey you must walk through, not around.
Through it all we have adapted and changed to the best options we have to be connected. Many have learned how to get online and seek medical help or join support groups. While we long to be in person, we must settle for the next best thing and remind ourselves that we are all doing the best we can and it is 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 are already doing that. However, take some time every day at the same time to journal, read, listen to a podcast, or simply “talk” to your loved one without any distractions. This can help you identify where you are at and 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 it be through phone calls or through texts. Ask them permission to reach out when you are having a hard time. Ideally this would be a friend or peer 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 or installing a new program. Ask for help with grocery shopping. Ask for help with phone calls. They too will feel better from being able to help in some way. For many, this also helps them grieve.
- Print the pictures out. Ask others to send any memories or copied photos they may have. If you are not ready to look at them, put them to the side. All the photos stored on social media or computers, print out and also save to a hard drive. You can use them in a future memorialization project. This is a great time to “be specific” with those who are tech savvy.
- Get help. If you want to feel that you are not alone or just need to talk, do not be afraid of reaching out. Try out a telehealth session just one time to see if it could work for you. Having a video up and seeing a face can still help in a time when we feel so alone.
Delaware Hospice offers free community bereavement services and workshops on various topics and ranges of grief throughout the year. We also offer free resources on our website. For more information, please call at 302.478.5707.