Pandemic changes the way we experience grief and loss
Take a moment to think of the things, activities and people who bring meaning to your life. Got them? Chances are that one or more of them have been threatened or lost during this pandemic.
Social distancing is keeping us apart. Events are being postponed or canceled altogether and businesses have closed — all creating losses in our lives. When important attachments are threatened or lost — no matter what or whom that attachment might be — we grieve. Simply put, grief is our reaction to loss. Grief is not only about death; grief is experienced with any significant loss. Today we are experiencing loss of jobs, loss of personal connection, loss of freedom and autonomy, and loss of rites of passage (think proms, graduations, births), among others as well as loss through death.
We live in a society where grief is often viewed as weakness or as something that needs to be pushed aside, buried or “gotten over” in a few days or weeks. However, especially now during this unprecedented time of loss, we need to move past that way of thinking. Grief is normal and healthy, and we need to acknowledge and honor it. We need to allow ourselves and others to mourn. That is, we need to respond to the grief — acknowledge it, express it, and process it — in order to adjust to “new normals.”
With gatherings being prevented due to COVID-19, grief is now more complex, which makes it even more crucial that we attend to our own and one another’s grief. It is true that grief is personal and unique to each individual. It is also true that grief is social; that is, there is a collective loss and grief of communities, of nations, and of the world. This is why rituals and gatherings are so important. There is an energy, and a healing, that takes place when we come together as friends, as family, as community. Therefore, in spite of the fact that we cannot gather in person, it is even more important that we reach out to one another in other ways. You may not be aware of it, but many people around you are grieving.
Here are some helpful tips to utilize in this time of loss:
- Understand that grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss.
- Acknowledging and expressing grief helps to adjust to new normals.
- Talk to others, whether it’s those you are able to be with in person, or via telephone or video. Email, text or use social media if you must, but in person, phone and video are recommended.
- Do something to connect and share your experiences. Be open to being “real.” Sharing experiences and support is beneficial to all parties involved.
- Journal your thoughts and feelings.
- Get creative. Paint, draw, write poetry, lyrics or stories, sculpt, etc.
- Get physical. Go for walks, do yoga, clean up trees and messes from our latest gift from nature (and be sure to allow yourself to grieve those losses as well).
The coming weeks and months will be difficult. Let us not make it more difficult by not allowing ourselves and others to acknowledge and honor the myriad of losses and the extensive grief that is happening. Together, we will get through this, and together we can grow and become stronger as a community.
While Pine Tree Hospice activities and grief support groups have been suspended, and the office is temporarily closed to the public, staff is still available to provide limited assistance. Please do not hesitate to call our office at 207-564-4346.
Lisa Joy White, MA, CT is the bereavement & education coordinator for Pine Tree Hospice.