Grief is a normal and natural reaction to the death of a loved one. Most of us are not prepared for the long journey of grief which is sometimes devastating, frightening, and often lonely. We may think, do, and say things that are very unlike us. There seems to be no respite, no end to the intense feelings that we experience.
Losing a loved one during this pandemic, is quite different and far more intense especially if your loved one was not sick prior to being infected with the COVID-19. The pain you are experiencing is normal. Their death was totally out of your control, the illness happened instantly and the treatment was isolation. That in itself is traumatizing knowing what we now know about COVID-19.
Our natural impulse is to be close to people we love when they are suffering or near death, yet because of fears of contagion no visitors or family are allowed. It is a very unnatural way of finding closure and very similar to the trauma of 9/11. We are unable to have a funeral which was once a way of processing the death, providing closure and saying our final goodbyes.
When we do not have the opportunity to retrieve our loved ones (such as 9/11, COVID-19, plane crashes, etc.), in the way our belief system wants us to, grief becomes that much more difficult.
It is often suggested to join a support group when grieving, or surround yourself amongst family and friends or community since these social connections are essential in providing some comfort. What we are facing today is grief on our own without any support whatsoever and experiencing it in total isolation. Therefore, the pain can be greater than anything we have ever experienced and it can manifest in nightmares, flashbacks, guilt and shame (blaming oneself for not doing enough), depression, anxiety, etc., to name a few and known as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The expression “grief work” is very true. It may be the hardest work that you will ever perform. It is draining.
A few points to remember:
- It may be helpful to arrange for a vigil service via Zoom or FaceTime, and gather family and friends together as a pre-burial service for comfort, support and hope.
- It may also be helpful to start a chat room on line with others who lost their loved one to COVID-19
- We cannot control the feelings that arise within us. These feelings come from deep inside, but we can choose what to do with them. We can accept them or reject them. To deny only prolongs grief. Remember, what we do determines whether we remain in our grief or survive. Feelings should be recognized honestly, they are not right or wrong.
- There are no choices with grief. You must go through it. The expression of grief is essential for good emotional and physical health even though it is painful and difficult. There are no easy answers or short cuts, no way under, over, or around your grief.
- It is strongly suggested not to make major decisions such as moving, money matters, etc. during the early stages of grief especially while judgment is cloudy. It is recommended you wait at least one year.
- Grief has no timetable
- Do not take on new responsibilities right away
- Surround yourself with people you feel are safe and understanding even if that means doing it virtually
- You do not owe anyone an explanation for how you are feeling
- Plan the proper funeral once the health crisis has been resolved
We do need the help of relatives and friends whom you trust and who will listen when you need to talk. Other times we may need professional counseling. We must maintain social and emotional support at a time of social distancing. How can we do that? We can either get on the phone or group chat. Do not go through this alone.
At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, New Jersey, we work with individuals and families experiencing grief. We are currently offering Zoom, FaceTime or Phone sessions. Please visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com or call 908-322-0112.