Reflections

GRIEF DURING THE PANDEMIC

DR. LYNDA J. DIMITROFF

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our community in profound ways. One significant impact is the experience of loss and the myriad feelings related to grief. 

Grief is a natural response to loss. It is a multidimensional, unique and individual response that manifests in mental, behavioral, emotional, physical and spiritual ways. The losses related to COVID-19 include illness and death, loss of freedom, separation and social isolation, loss of normal routine (grocery shopping, spending time with loved ones, attending Mass, going to school or work, decreased emotional and physical intimacy with family and friends, job furlough or unemployment, financial security and overall independence.

There has been a limited ability to attend social events, and an absence of important rituals such as birthdays, weddings, funerals, proms and graduations. We are not able to be with loved ones who are suffering, sick or dying. There may be a loss of the sense of hope and future. People may have fears and worries about one's own health.

Many feelings emerge during times of grief and loss: denial, anger, depression, guilt, frustration, sadness, disappointment, impatience, fear, anxiety, hurt, discouragement, unhappiness, being withdrawn, being annoyed, curiosity, boredom, worry, exhaustion, fatigue, insecurity and rage. Overall, there are profound levels of distress, loss of control, and not knowing. These emotions require a great deal of energy to process.

Most of us have never lived through anything like this pandemic. Thus it is important for us to take care of ourselves when we know these losses and grief. (See the list of suggested strategies following this article).

If you need help, or are concerned about someone you care about who is overwhelmed with emotions like depression, sadness, grief or anxiety, or feel like you want to hurt yourself or another, call 911 or 211. The COVID-19 pandemic has created so much grief. Healing from grief takes time. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and remember you are not alone!

STRATEGIES OF SELF-CARE IN TIMES OF LOSS AND GRIEF

  • Create and maintain a daily schedule
  • Eat healthy, balanced meals
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Exercise regularly (even a walk around the yard or neighborhood)
  • Connect with others; talk with them, cry if you need to
  • Share the joys and challenges of your day
  • Enjoy the beauty of summer
  • Limit news intake and social media
  • Pray the rosary or just take five minutes to talk with God
  • Each day, name what you are grateful for, and keep a list