Tips to deal with grief during the pandemic

Sad woman looks away in the night at home

Losing a loved one is difficult at the best of times, let alone during the COVID-19 pandemic, where social distancing and other restrictions are in place.

Given many people are unable to grieve or have contact with a partner, friend or family member during their final moments under current circumstances, psychotherapist and lecturer at Edith Cowan University, Karen Anderson, has put together 10 ways people can express their grief during an unprecedented social moment to help with the grieving process.

“COVID-19 has obstructed the vital usual manner of being present with a dying loved one – at their bedside, holding their hand and speaking comforting words,” Ms Anderson explained, having drawn on research and her own experiences with frontline counselling to construct the list.

“Managing grief and/or persistent or intrusive thoughts and feelings when compounded by physical distancing requires a degree of self-compassion, whether or not the death of your loved one is a direct result of Covid-19, its implications or, is from other pre-existing conditions, or sudden tragedy.”

Ms Anderson’s tips may aid nurses and midwives with their patients, family, or friends are dealing with grief at this time.

Her suggestions include:

• There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grieve in a way that feels natural for you. It will be unique to how you loved the person you have lost.

• Grief by its nature is reflective and isolating… Allow for this whilst also recognising the peculiar abnormal reality in which everyone is now living.

• Do give yourself permission to experience the range of thoughts and feelings that you have whilst always taking care to stay safe. Use rituals that are meaningful to you.

• Recognise that grief will dominate your emotions and thoughts during the early weeks and months. Grief is a process that takes time to adapt and integrate into your life.

• Grief is not a mental health issue but it may become one if it’s not acknowledged and addressed… Maintain good health – daily exercise, normal sleep patterns, eat healthy meals even if you eat less, stay hydrated and limit alcohol use.

• Allow yourself to receive care and support offered by others, albeit this may come through different ways than usual… This can take effort if you are not used to receiving but letting others provide support to you does help to ease grief.

• Ask for help and reach out to others when you need to… During these Covid-19 physical distancing times, try to have telephone contact with someone each day. Talk about your loved one with others.

• Try to stick with your regular routine as much as is possible – getting up and going to bed at the same time is helpful.

• Do not indulge feeling guilty about a funeral which may not have been as your loved one or you wanted. These Covid-19 influenced times are something you could not be responsible for.

• Stay focused on what is important to you – your own loss and grief. Limit the amount of news and social media you [consume] to only the amount you want.

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