How COVID Is Impacting Our Grief
It would certainly be an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives. One of the most under-acknowledged ways that COVID is changing our world is our ability to grief, mourn and deal with loss--whether those losses are from loved ones who have died from COVID-19 or from other cases. Let’s take a closer look at how COVID-19 has impacted our grief and what we can do about it.
Difficulty seeing loved ones in cases of fatal illness
Before the pandemic, if a loved one was dying in the hospital or in a hospice situation, you could visit them before their deaths or even be at their side as they died. Unfortunately, because of health restrictions caused by the pandemic, that is almost never possible--especially in cases where the patient is dying from COVID-19. The inability to see loved ones before they die in the hospital makes people feel as if they were unable to get closure; there are things left unsaid, in addition to the feelings of helplessness and sadness at the idea of a loved one dying alone.
Lack of physical reassurance during grieving periods
Most people want physical reassurance and contact while they grieve a loved one’s passing. This can mean everything from hugs to simply having someone’s arm around your shoulder as you sit in the funeral home. Unfortunately, social distancing and the potential of spreading COVID-19 has made it difficult to get physical reassurance during grieving periods. This can lead people to feel more alone and less comforted than they normally would as they mourn.
Funerals are limited or prohibited
Funerals are an essential part of the grieving process for many people. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has interrupted our normal funeral process by making it difficult and sometimes impossible to hold a “normal” funeral. Funerals may be limited to the direct family members, or even only 1-2 family members. Instead of large gatherings where people can come together, hug, share memories and share in grief, it is often a quicker and more “sterile” feeling event.
Bodies may not be viewable in some cases
Depending on health and safety regulations, family members may not be able to view their loved ones’ bodies or they may not be able to view them in the normal manner expected before the pandemic began.
What Can Be Done?
All of these disruptions to the grieving process are making it difficult for many people to process and manage their feelings of grief. This can lead to increased mental health problems as well as an inability to go on with normal life.
There are ways to mitigate this loss of grieving expectations through adaptive rituals and technology. We can use audio-video systems like AFTR to live stream funerals and grave sites; we can set up digital memorials; we can host Zoom meetings where people can share their thoughts and grief; we can send flowers and tokens to those who are grieving, and much more.