Dealing with the loss of a loved one is a difficult, painful and unpredictable process at any time, but for people facing grief during the coronavirus pandemic it can be harder than ever before. Pandemic restrictions have kept people away from their loved ones during their final moments, limited celebrations of life and prevented physical support and comfort, often increasing feelings of guilt, sadness and isolation. If you are grieving the death of a loved one, while also facing the fear and anxiety of a pandemic, here are some strategies to help you cope:
Acknowledge that pandemic loss is hard. COVID-19 has added a whole new element to grief and it can be helpful to recognize this challenge. Living in a pandemic means that there are regular reminders of illness and death, fewer distractions from your grief and a lot of uncertainty on top of the already difficult feelings that come with a loss. Also, finding closure can be hard when almost every ritual for mourning loved ones involves social connection and many of these traditions are limited right now. Keep these extraordinary circumstances in mind if you feel like you are struggling and try to be as kind to yourself as possible.
Reach out virtually. The pandemic has shown that digital connections can be surprisingly powerful—even if nothing can replace the personal touch of a hug. If you’re organizing memorial services, a live stream recording, virtual celebration of life or digital guest book can be good outlets for shared grief. After services, staying connected to family and friends is especially important and regularly scheduled chats through FaceTime, other technologies or phone calls will help you feel less isolated. If you are overwhelmed, consider attending an online grief group or make a virtual appointment with a grief counselor.
Create your own rituals. Funeral or memorial services during the COVID-19 pandemic are often only open to immediate family members and travel restrictions have impacted many events. If you weren’t able to be a part of a memorial, it’s still important to take time to grieve and remember the person that you lost. Try to find rituals or moments of remembrance that you can do on your own like planting a tree in their honour, cooking their favourite meal, creating an outdoor memorial, making a playlist of music they loved or lighting candles. These types of activities will bring back good memories and celebrate the person you loved in a way that works right now.
Prioritize self-care. It’s always critical to take care of your physical and mental health when grieving and even more so as you also face the challenges of a pandemic. While difficult, try to think through what your mind and body need to help you cope with your loss and build these self-care activities into your daily routine. Eat regular meals, get enough sleep, exercise, limit your alcohol intake and try relaxing activities like taking baths, journaling, listening to music or meditating.
For many people that are experiencing grief during the pandemic, they have found it helpful to plan for something down the road—maybe on an anniversary of their loved one’s death—when hopefully the COVID-19 pandemic is under control and restrictions are a thing of the past. For now, be kind to yourself, stay connected with family and friends and get help if you need it.