Grieving in Isolation
If you are experiencing a loss or death during this pandemic, know you are not alone. Over 50 million people die each year around the globe. We are here to help.
The coronavirus pandemic is changing the nature of how we grieve. It’s changing how funerals are being conducted as well as how traditions and rituals are performed and honored.
Under normal circumstances after the loss of a loved one, you would reach out to family and close friends and they would come to the hospital or your home. Under normal circumstances family, friends, neighbors and colleagues would stop over with meals, words of comfort, a supportive presence. They would bring food, conversation and physical touch, ensuring that you would not grieve alone.
Under normal circumstances you would engage in traditions and rituals that help to memorialize your loved one, comfort you, and allow you to begin to adjust to their death as part of a caring community. Sadly, these times are anything but normal.
The coronavirus has changed the ways in which friends and family can show up for and support you in your grief. This does not mean that you must grieve alone. Here are ways to still stay connected:
- Reach out to family and friends in an email or text and let them know that calls, texts, FaceTime chats, Zoom (you can have up to 500 participants), would be welcomed and feel comforting.
- Ask your clergy and funeral home if your loved one’s funeral service can be live-streamed (share the link and any pertinent information with family, friends and colleagues).
- Share stories and pictures of your loved one in an email and/or Facebook post or memorial page, and ask friends, family and colleagues to share their memories and pictures with you.
- In your loved one’s obituary, ask for memories to be sent to your address or shared on a memorial page created in their honor.
- When ready, begin thinking of and planning meaningful ways in which you would like to honor your loved one at a celebration of life once social distancing and shelter in place are no longer.
It is human nature to want to — need to — understand why and how your loved one died. To figure out what, if anything, could have been done to prevent their death. Unfortunately, there are times when there will be no answers. Sadly, even when there are answers, it can still be difficult to accept that your loved one has died.
When a loved one dies, your world is forever changed. After the loss of a loved one, it is normal to feel:
- Helpless, powerless, immobilized
- Sickened (feeling faint, nauseous, a rapid heartbeat, sweaty/hot, shaky/cold)
- Overwhelmed (disorganized thoughts: who to call, where to go, what to do…)
- Intensely vulnerable
- Mentally and physically exhausted
- Agitated, angry, frustrated, scared
Please take care of yourself during this time of acute grief.
- Breathe (slow deep breaths)
- Drink water (avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol)
- Eat small amounts of food (whatever feels tolerable)
- Sleep (If you cannot sleep, try to rest, to breathe, to be still, even for a moment)
- Go outside. Breathe in fresh air. Walk (even if it’s just up and down your driveway)
Please be patient, compassionate, and flexible with yourself. Everyone processes, understands, expresses, tends to, and moves through grief differently. Know that you will not stay in acute grief forever. There will come a time when you will feel sad, still, and yet you will also find the courage, the strength, and the will to move forward. To heal. To be present without the intensity of searing pain and hopelessness. There will come a time when you will remember your loved one for who they were and how they lived, instead of how they died. You will find ways to honor and remember them well. You will find ways to adapt and live forward in grief.
If after two months the intensity of your emotions remain constant and pervasive or if at any point you begin to experience:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Painful thoughts
- Difficulty doing daily tasks
- Difficulty caring for yourself, (or others whose care you are responsible for)
- Difficulty accepting the death of your loved one
Get help. Asking for and receiving help takes great self-awareness, strength, and courage. Call your primary care physician, the hospital social worker, or clergy, and ask for support, guidance, and a referral to a bereavement counselor.
If you are experiencing depressive or suicidal thoughts call The Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1–800–273–8255. It is confidential. It is free. A trained crisis worker is available 24/7. You will not stay in deep grief forever. Never give up hope. No matter how hopeless, lonely and overwhelmed you feel…never give up. You will find your way through the darkness. One step at a time. One day at a time.
Websites that offer grief support and information:
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