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July 13, 2020
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Coping with the loss of a loved one during COVID-19 pandemic

By Dr Merisha Seepersad.

Educational Psychologist/Member of TTAP.

While “life goes on” during this pandemic, one overlooked fact is that persons are dying in families due to illness and accidents unrelated to COVID-19, and family members are grieving.

For those who have experienced loss, this is a period where some of the bereaved have to adjust to a new way of living and say ‘goodbye’ to loved ones via Zoom or social media. There are no last looks, whispered words or being able to place flowers on the grave.

In this time of uncertainty, the grieving process has led to heightened stress and/or anxiety levels. Persons are no longer able to receive face-to-face support from family and friends and this disconnect at a time when comfort is needed, can lead to a sense of loneliness and isolation, especially for older folk who refuse to embrace modern technology and look at a funeral service on the computer or phone. This pandemic has forced those who have lost loved ones to adapt to a ‘new normal’ way of life.

To effectively manage grief and loss and to cope with the death of a friend or loved one during this pandemic, the following coping skills are suggested:

  • Acknowledge that grieving at this time is more challenging than coping with loss outside of a health crisis. You did the best that you could with the funeral arrangements and informing as many persons as possible.
  • Practise self-compassion—Be gentle with yourself. Take care of your personal needs and allow yourself to grieve for as long as you want to. Cry. Let the tears come. You grieve because you have loved.
  • Maintain contact with your support system. Although you are not allowed to socialise with friends and family, you can meet virtually via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, FaceTime, or WhatsApp.
  • Alternate between ‘loss’ and ‘restorative’activities. This notion comes from the dual- process approach to grieving which states that individuals transition between loss-related activities such as crying, or talking about their deceased loved ones and restorative activities such as planning ahead and adjusting to life without the person who has died.
  • Have a grief journal where you can express your thoughts and feelings daily. Write memories about your loved one. What jokes do you remember that they told?
  • Make time for your spiritual growth—Reconnect if you need to and develop a personal relationship with your higher supreme being.

More importantly, be safe and keep those around you as safe as you can. Death, grief and loss and bereavement are a part of life. Support others in these times of crisis. Let us be our brother and sister’s keeper.

Related article: Pslam for comfort when you are grieving