Grieving during the Covid-19 pandemic

Overview

Bereavement is often an extremely lonely and isolating time, and when you add that to the pandemic, it can feel worse because of the stress and anxiety that is felt worldwide.

Read Time: 6 Mins

During these unprecedented times, the process of bereavement and grieving has been challenged in a way nobody could have expected. Losing a loved one is never easy, and oftentimes being able to reach out to friends and family has helped many people who grieve. For example, holding a funeral would be an important step in the grieving process, which allows friends and family to have the chance to remember all that was the best in their life just gone, and perhaps some physical closure.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a newfound difficulty to reach out, gather and mourn together. Whether a funeral has already been planned but is seen cancelled, or the inability to meet loved ones during lockdown, those are all restrictions that put a brake on the grief process and leave those who grieve with only isolation and the loss of all that is familiar in their mourning process and rituals.

Therefore, it is important, now more than ever, that we adapt and find new ways of being emotionally present. Here are some things to remember, whether you are grieving or someone close is, that can help cope behind closed doors.

Please keep in mind that your emotions and reactions are all valid as they are part of the grieving process. It is different for everyone, and the following advice is to be adjusted to one’s own needs.

Remember that it is ok not to be ok.

Feeling lost, alone, angry or other emotions is not a surprise. It is often uncontrollable, and that is ok. Part of being human involves experiencing emotional pain. Nonetheless, recognising them and allowing them to happen is a step towards healing. It is okay to try to survive first, and worry about externa things later, no matter how long it takes.

Some things are out of your control, but others are not. You have to remember that your love, hope and self-care are inherently within you and can provide you with the strength to overcome the isolation.

It is crucial to take the time to be kind with yourself, because you are dealing with both grief and uncertain times. Accepting that you feel a range of emotions throughout a day, whether good or bad, and telling yourself that it is ok is a form of kindness and compassion towards yourself.

“It’s okay to not feel okay. It’s also okay to experience those feelings later from triggers or just memories. That will happen, regardless of the time that passes. That’s okay. It’s all okay, and with the act of self-compassion, our healing will continue” ~ Charity Collier, founder of Meditating Together

Remember to reach out to others.

Talking to people you know and love will always be important, especially during these times where it is easier to withdraw into isolation. Whether you live alone, or with other people, staying in touch with friends and family can help you stay in the present and keep you from drowning in your thoughts.

There are new ways to express your feelings of grief, and technology has never been as needed as now, thanks to (healthy use of) social media, phone and video calls. Nothing can make face-to-face conversation more intimate, however the other forms of communication can also make you feel a little better. You can speak to someone about your fears, or have a light-hearted online group chat with some friends. You can schedule a time every day or week to speak to someone about anything. Remember that the form is yours as long as it helps you connect and feel less alone.

“Grief can make you feel isolated in normal times, so under the circumstances it’s especially important to try to feel connected with others. Technology can facilitate this and help you to grieve collectively, as you would do at a funeral and wake” ~Dee Holmes, Senior Practice Consultant at South East Relate

Remember to look after yourself.

Routines and rituals have been disrupted, and it can be difficult to find a way back when grieving. You might feel overwhelmed and find yourself unable to hold back from negative turmoil. Beware of complex grief, which can be understood as the ‘trauma of losing loved ones without being able to say goodbye as time goes on’. The fear of reaching a point where you can’t move on is real and valid, and looking after yourself is the only way to avoid this pit.

Trying to limit the amount of consuming news and unhealthy use of social media can help you focus on other activities and reinvest your emotions into something more positive. When you are feeling overwhelmed, looking after yourself by trying to create new routines. This can give you a break from focusing on the sorrow of the memories every day. This can be in the form of writing, watching Netflix, reading, praying, meditating, cooking, running errands for a friend in total isolation or even talking to neighbours over the wall. This will send a sign to your amygdala (part of the brain that responds to fear) and reassure it that you are in a safe place. It is normal to feel like it’s impossible to get on with your life. Remember that whatever you need to do to take care of your mental health is positive and a step towards healing.

If you are living with other people, do not be afraid to set your boundaries and space as tension can rise after a prolonged length of time and impact your wellbeing. It is ok to feel more sensitive to different triggers, but being aware of these triggers can help you say no and build up coping mechanisms. 

“Grief is incredibly personal and each loss we experience is like our own fingerprint – unique to each of us. But one thing that absolutely unites us all is the isolation, threat and the loss of all that is familiar in this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It has changed everything we do; how we live and how we die.” ~Lianna Champ, Funeral Director and Author

Self care isn't selfish quote

Remember to seek out support.

Bereavement is often an extremely lonely and isolating time, and when you add that to the pandemic, it can feel worse because of the stress and anxiety that is felt worldwide. For some people, the need to talk to someone more objective or just to have someone to cry out their grief to with no fear of judgement can be reassuring and help them to get out of the negative spiral.

There are many support organisations you can contact with trained professionals who can talk to you confidentially, and many private therapists who are still working online or over the phone.

Please refer to the references below to find those organisations and helplines.

Whether you have lost someone from the virus or during the pandemic, you might feel like your world has been turned upside down. Covid-19 is everywhere in the news, and with the holidays coming, uncertainty and isolation can be scary. It is necessary that we accept new forms of grieving but without forgetting the essential, looking after yourself and reaching out to loved ones.

Stay safe, take care.


Helplines

–        Relate is offering webcam, phone and Live Chat counselling, for support and advice about grieving during lockdown.

–        Cruse Bereavement Care provides support after the death of someone close including face to face, telephone, group support, as well as bereavement support for children. Phone: 0808 808 1677 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) / 0845 600 2227 (Scotland)

–        Hopeagain (Cruse for young people) – support for children and young people affected by the death of someone close. Phone: 0808 808 1677 (Mon-Fri, 9:00am-5:00pm)

–        The Compassionate Friends offer support, understanding and comfort to bereaved siblings and parents after the death of a child, of any age, from any cause. Phone: 0345 123 2304 (daily 10am-4pm and 7pm-10pm). Northern Ireland: 028 8778 8016 (daily 10am-4pm and 7pm-9.30pm)

Need Support?

Visit our Helpful Websites page for links to helplines and other centres. There’s no shame in asking for help.

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