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Lessons Learned About Grieving From the Covid-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a series of losses, from deaths of loved ones to our sense of safety to our social connections. There have been 113,000 deaths due to COVID-19 this year in the United States alone, most of whom were elderly, immune compromised and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. The statistics are grim, to be sure, but the number taken as a whole diminishes in some way the personal experience many of us have had with this pandemic. If you have lost a loved one in home care or hospice due to the coronavirus, you may be struggling with how to come to terms with your new reality. Bereavement services can help you face what you have just gone through. Not only did you lose someone you loved in Alameda County and elsewhere — the loss of which is significant in its own right — but it’s very possible you were not able to see and hug them before they died due to strict isolation rules. This adds another layer to your grief because you couldn’t get closure.

Grief is difficult, but it’s also natural and useful — it’s about turning inward and re-calibrating ourselves to remember: “This is not the way the world is anymore, and I must adapt. Embrace the grief over what you are losing or have already lost. When you can do that, it allows you to let grief do its job, so you can move on, says the American Psychological Association. Research suggests that once a crisis has passed, most people can bounce back and get on with their lives. But grief is transient, too, even when we’re in the thick of it. You should expect to fluctuate between moments of mourning and sadness and moments of acceptance and even happiness. Those who cope well with loss in this manner typically move in and out of those states. Let yourself get distracted and be entertained, and even to laugh and find joy in the simple moments or memories.

Shaking the Sense of Self

It’s very possible that you couldn’t hug or even be in the same room as your loved one infected with COVID-19 due to fears of transmission. This lack of closure and closeness can disrupt and delay the grieving process. Add to that your own hardships during the last few months, such as losing a job, having the kids at home constantly due to the closure of daycares, or seeing your nest egg depleted. There are also intangible losses, such as the lack of social connections, loss of personal freedoms, and disruption in a sense of safety.

These losses lack the clarity and definition of a single point, like a death. But if you also experienced the death of a loved one due to this virus, then you have been hit from both sides. This double whammy can make it difficult to move forward. With the evolution of the pandemic, people have had to confront a series of losses — not just the loss of a loved one, but a living loss as well. And those living losses keep going and going. When you really sit down and think about everything we have all lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems natural that we would grieve. After all, people the world over have lost loved ones, income, and health.

Allowance for grief is obvious and understandable. But what we haven’t made space for is grieving all of the other losses that have happened simultaneously. The ability to do the simple things that have previously sustained our sanity has slowed or ceased. Even though things are picking back up, the specter of the pandemic still looms large. We don’t easily forget the four months of not being able to give or receive hugs and handshakes, go to the gym, go to school and work, or even spend quality time with loved ones. In essence, we have been forced to carry on in the absence of structure, routines, graduations, proms, weddings, birthday celebrations, vacations, and funerals.

Robbed of Closure

If you have lost a loved one in home care or hospice, you not only didn’t get to spend their final days and weeks by their side, you also didn’t get to hold a traditional funeral and grieve alongside well-wishers and family members. This all takes a toll on how we come to terms with loss. It’s as if we have been robbed of something so precious, so sacred, yet there is nothing that can change that fact. To get the closure you need, it’s time to say goodbye. 

Create a closure ceremony for the people to whom you never got to say a proper farewell. Write a note to express what they meant to you. Say what you wish you could have said in person, had you been given the chance. Give yourself grace and space for grief. Acknowledging it, allowing it, and releasing that self-imposed guilt or shame will give you that closure you have been searching for. Grant yourself permission, space, and time to feel all those feelings. Offer gratitude for everything that hasn’t been lost, including yourself. You are still here, and remember, you are not alone.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Learn more about our bereavement services offered to surviving family members of those who have recently passed. Our services range from support groups and grief counseling to workshops and memorials. Contact us today at 888-978-1306. We would be happy to connect you with the right services to help you cope with your loved one’s death.