Grief and the Coronavirus

I began my deep, indescribably painful grief journey on January 9, 2011. A cold, horrific day that changed me forever. I view myself having two lives. One before this date and one after this date.

The world continued to spin and the people continued to move about it. There was no coronavirus when I began to grieve. There was no coronavirus when I “ignored” my grief. There was no coronavirus when I started “working” on my grief. And finally, there was no coronavirus when I started to “get better.”

Here we are today. March 25, 2020 and the coronavirus has quite literally stopped the world, but has it stopped people from grieving?

Certainly not.

So what about those grievers? Like most scenarios in life, I think there are pros and cons.

 


For those beginning their grief journey:

In the beginning days of grief, your circle of loved ones tend to surround you with support in the form of phone calls, texts, meals, cards, emails, flowers, and lastly, human interaction. They tend to offer to go on a walk with you to keep you company or to take you out to coffee or lunch to help you create a sense of normalcy or to help “get your mind off of things.”

Here enters the coronavirus. Chances are your loved one’s memorial service (if your family has chosen to do so) has been postponed due to large crowds of people being prohibited. And that postponement date is most likely unknown. This is unfair to you, your loved one, and all of that loved one’s family and friends and for that, I am so sorry. We all need the proper “goodbye” and choosing to honor a loved one in a service should be a given right. My deepest hope is that you can find the proper way to honor that loved one before and after isolation ends.

Now onto discussing human interaction. For me, this wouldn’t have been a problem. I sat (quite literally) with a pillow over my head shielding myself from the world for months. But, I’m not everyone, and a lot of people do require and need human interaction in the beginning of their grief journey (and throughout). And I’m so sorry that you aren’t being given that. It’s not fair. You deserve to hug your friends and to go to coffee and the park and all the things that might help you feel just a little bit “better.” My hope is that your loved ones can find ways during this time to still make you feel that interaction whether it be through FaceTime, phone calls, emails, or even chatting several feet away from one another.

Also, if you feel like your loss is being overshadowed by the coronavirus, I’m so sorry. You don’t deserve that and neither does your loved one. I would suggest reminding those around you about your loss if you feel like it’s not being acknowledged like it should be. You shouldn’t have to do this, but as you know, life isn’t fair. It’s not fair to you or your loved one and neither of you deserve this.

For those in the “denial (ignoring)” stage:

Maybe this is how you continue to ignore your loss. Maybe you’re focusing on the collapsing economy that is a result of this pandemic. Maybe you’re focusing on the people who have died from the virus. Maybe you’re focusing on the single mom who’s just trying to “make it by” with her four kids who are now out of school and she is out of work.

If this is you, it’s okay. It’s okay to focus on this stuff. It’s okay to “ignore” your grief. Ignore it, but just not for too long. I ignored mine. Absolutely. I ignored it for months, but then I knew I had to face it and stop ignoring it or I would never “get better.” And I wanted to “get better.” I longed for a fulfilling life.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair that you have to face it and I’m sorry. I really am. But for now, if focusing on today’s crisis of the coronavirus helps you rather than hurts you, I suggest doing that. And when this pandemic is “over,” perhaps that’s the time to stop “ignoring” your grief.

For those “working” on their grief:

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re here and working on making things “better” and now the world has paused because of the coronavirus. But you know what else? I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for “working” on your grief. I’m proud of you for showing up and doing the work. It’s not easy and it’s not fair, but you’re doing it.

If you’ve elected to see a therapist, I’m assuming that you can no longer meet with the therapist in-person, but I hope you can still check-in over video chat. But this still isn’t ideal. For some people, therapy works best in-person, so I’m sorry that’s not happening for you right now. You deserve that. Therapy makes people be accountable, get dressed, get in the car, and just gives people a lifeline. It’s hard to have that taken away from you during your grief and no one should ignore that.

The pro? Maybe you have a little extra time to work on that grief. Maybe you can pick up a new hobby that helps you cope (in a healthy way). Maybe you can pick up the phone and talk to friends more so than you normally would. Maybe you can write down your journey or even write down what you want out of your future or write letters to the one you’ve lost. Or simply color and light a candle. Maybe this time will help you continue working on your grief journey.

For those starting to “get better”:

So you finally feel like you’re getting a little bit better and now enters this pandemic. You’ve done the work and I hope you’re proud of that. Keep doing what you’ve been doing and make time for yourself. Maybe write down how far you’ve come and how proud you are of that. Don’t let the coronavirus overshadow your strength and progress.


I’m thinking about you.

-Amy

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