Grieving During a Pandemic
By: Manuel Cruz, LMFT
As we approach the two-year anniversary of a Covid-19 pandemic, I spent some time reflecting on the last twenty-four months and how much has changed personally and collectively. I thought about family members, friends, and even clients whose lives have been forever changed and even now continue to be impacted by this disease. I have read about and witnessed firsthand the increases in anxiety, depression, isolation, domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse since the beginning of the pandemic. One topic that is often elusive but, by sheer numbers, has forced its way into our conscious awareness is grief and loss. Most of us have either lost someone to this terrible disease or know someone that has. Others have suffered from the loss of careers, relationships, physical abilities, and even mental stability, all of which have resulted from this pandemic.
Much has been written about the unique experience of grief and what helps people effectively get through their loss. The difficulties lie in navigating this process in the world of Covid-19. The barriers to grieving properly for many began even before their loved ones had taken their last breaths as they were often forced to do so alone with no family beside them. Many funerals were postponed for weeks, and when they did occur, they were often limited in size. Families were not able to come together afterward to grieve for fear that they too could get sick and suffer the same fate. This fear, anxiety, and sadness can become so intense and overwhelming that it becomes the focus, and we push grief aside. Some families and individuals have been so impacted that their main goal is just survival with no time for grief each day. Some have suffered multiple losses making it challenging to grieve one before enduring another properly. So, where do we turn, and how do we pick up the pieces and keep pushing forward in such a difficult time.
Grieving properly during a pandemic may be more challenging, but it is still possible. Much that has worked before is still possible now. Connecting with others can still happen. Although it may not always be face to face, it is essential to lean on your support system following a loss. If the grief has impacted your ability to function at home, school, or work, then finding a professional with experience working with grief and loss may be the extra support you and your family need to get through the difficult moments. Some families who have gone through loss together find that having a space to express these emotions can be helpful. Others may find that writing letters to lost loved ones can be beneficial, significantly as Covid-19 has cut many lives short, and a lot of us are left with “what ifs.” Talking about loved ones that are gone can be extremely difficult, but it is a necessary part of the grief process. Whatever the form of expression or support received, both are vital to be able to work through this process on both an individual and family level.