Coping with COVID: Strategies for GrievingBy Seasons | May 28, 2020
Processing the death of a loved one is difficult no matter the circumstances. However, there are real reasons why grieving can be harder now due to the Covid-19 pandemic:
- Some of us have lost multiple family members, friends, or community members within a short period of time
- We are unable to visit our loved ones in their last moments of life
- It’s more challenging now than ever to have important life-closure conversations
- Rituals of living and dying are being canceled and postponed
- There is not the same level of support for those who are grieving
While grieving has additional challenges right now, there are reasons to be hopeful and steps you can take to help you grieve and manage the wide range of changes in your life.
Don’t Fight Grief and Don’t Hold onto It
The pain of loving and losing is universal and normal. Grief can often feel like waves washing over you. Sometimes these waves happen gradually with meaningful reminders of our loved one who died, or they can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. If we try to fight these waves, grief will always find a way to keep showing up. Conversely, if we try to hold onto them grief can keep us from moving forward with life. To grieve well, we must allow ourselves to feel the pain of loving and losing, but also must learn to let it go when we’re ready.
Tell the Story
Research has demonstrated repeatedly that telling the story of how your loved one died can be healing. This might seem counter-intuitive when the thought of sharing this story seems so painful. However, telling their story jump-starts what Dr. Dan Gilbert calls your “psychological immune system.” You can share this story with one of your Listeners (see below), a support group, or even write it down.
Utilizing Rituals as Critical Stepping Stones
Rituals of living and dying help us emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. These rituals are being put on hold or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and consequently we’re missing out on a critical stepping stone in our adjustment to loss. However, creating new rituals is still possible and more practical than you might realize. This can be as simple as lighting a remembrance candle or creating a memorial in your home by placing an important photo and memento in a special place. These rituals do not need to be elaborate to be helpful.
Use Your People Well
Divide the people in your life into three categories: 1) Those who Listen; 2) Those who Do; 3) Those who provide Respite. You can write them down or just think about who fits in which category. Your Listeners are those people in your life who listen well and can attend to your pain in a caring way. Your Doers are those who will do anything for you – any favor, errand, or task that you need. Your Respite folks are those who you can laugh with and take a break with. When we really think about it, we need all three of these kinds of people. The hard part is using them well. You don’t want to call a Respite person when you need a Listener and you don’t call a Listener when you need a Doer.
Love Lives On
A question we often hear is “What do I do with the love I still feel in my heart?” We’ve learned that while death means our loved ones are no longer physically here, the love that we feel for them continues to live in our hearts. While we might talk about life-closure, we no longer talk about relationship-closure. Instead, we might say that closure is for bank accounts, not for love accounts. Learning how to maintain an enduring sense of connection with our deceased loved one is often a necessary step on the path toward healing.
Open the Door to a Hopeful Future
It can be hard to talk about hope when we’re experiencing so much pain. One thing we know is while grief doesn’t always go away it will become more manageable with time. In time and with good self-care, we grow to find new meaning, purpose, acceptance, peace, and growth.
Seasons is here to offer hope and support during a time of profound change in your life. We have bereavement specialists who can help support you and connect you to resources that can help. At your convenience you can visit the Seasons Patient & Family Information Hub for free on demand educational videos and articles by clicking here.
About the Author: Joshua Magariel, LCSW, is a National Director of Patient Experience at Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care. Josh specializes in grief and loss education and support as well as marriage and family therapy. Josh is a national presenter and author on creative applications of attachment theory in grief therapy. Josh earned his B.A. in Religious Studies at the University of Kansas and his MSW at the University of Denver. Josh has completed an AAMFT accredited Certificate in Marriage and Family Therapy from the Denver Family Institute. Josh is a ten-year veteran of hospice having served in patient care, bereavement, leadership, and education.