There are many factors throughout the pandemic that have created a sense of loss. Those of us who are graduating don’t get the opportunity to walk across the stage and celebrate with our peers, friends, and family. Others are facing the loss of employment or potential job opportunities that we were looking forward to. Babies are born without being able to be introduced to their extended family and new parents are missing out on that invaluable support. We are no longer able to travel freely and have lost the ability to see our loved ones in person. This list goes on and on. It is normal to grieve the experiences that we were looking forward to and are now missing out on, or as we look back at what we took for granted before the world went into lockdown.
In addition, there is very real pain of losing those who are close to us. When it comes to our loved ones, there is the loss that comes from not being able to spend time in person with our family and friends who are dying. There is also the reality that people are dying directly from COVID-19. With restrictions around gatherings in place, it is more challenging to mourn and celebrate those who have passed away. Rituals that we have come to rely on to connect with each other and heal are no longer possible in the ways that they were before the pandemic.
Grief is a natural reaction that helps us adjust after experiencing a loss. It can impact our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, relationships and how we make sense of the world around us. Whether we are grieving the loss of an experience we were looking forward to, how the world used to be, or the painful death of a loved one, it is important to be supported throughout the grief process. So how can we best reach out for support and support each other when our ability to connect in person is still so limited?
How We Can Support Each Other
So, how can we best support each other when our ability to connect in person is still so limited?
- Start conversations. Listen compassionately without trying to fix or minimize grief and loss.
- Ask questions. It is helpful to be able to ask about feelings and experiences even when they might be painful for us to hear.
- Continue to reach out to reduce isolation that comes with both grief and COVID-19.
- Encourage our loved ones to seek out other resources if they need additional support.
How We Can Care for Ourselves
In addition to being able to support each other through grief, what can we do for ourselves as we work through our own feelings of loss?
- Recognize that your grief process is unique to you. There is no “right” way to grieve.
- Seek out support from friends and family, either in person within public health guidelines or virtually.
- Take care of yourself physically as much as possible. Getting good nutrition, regular physical activity, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule helps our overall well-being.
- Connect to professional services, such as individual counselling or support groups, if you feel that you need more formal support.
We have all experienced some sort of loss throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our reactions are unique, and we all experience grief differently. It is important to recognize both how we can reach out when we need additional help and what we can do to support our loved ones throughout the process of grief.
Article written by Ericha Braun MSW Candidate, Clinical Intern with Michelle Aziz Counselling.
Breen, L., Kawashima, D., Joy, K., Cadell, S., Roth, D., Chow, A., & Macdonald, M. (2020). Grief literacy: A call to action for compassionate communities. Death Studies, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481187.2020.1739780