Coping with Grief During COVID-19

Woman comforting friend.

Loss is becoming a part of our everyday lives. 

For some of us, it is the devastating loss of a loved one to a disease we didn’t even know existed a few months ago. For others, it is the loss of a job, which has thrown our lives into financial chaos. And for all of us, on some level, it is the collective loss of losing the world we once knew and having to deal with sudden and unwanted changes in our day-to-day existence.

And because grief is the normal response to loss, experts say we are all experiencing grief on some level right now as we grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. The losses people are experiencing due can also include:

  • Loss of safety

  • Worry about loved ones

  • Social distancing, quarantine, and feelings of isolation

  • Special plans and events that have been canceled

  • Fears for the future and many others

The grief that follows loss comes in many forms too. We expect feelings of shock, numbness, sadness, anger, and anxiety, but there are others, including:

  • Trouble focusing on normal tasks

  • Sleeping much more or less than usual

  • Feelings of anger and irritability

  • Headaches and upset stomach

  • Fatigue or low energy

  • Re-experiencing feelings of past grief

  • Engaging in activities such as eating, drinking, or online shopping to cope with anxiety

  • Avoiding thinking or talking about the pandemic

As thousands of Americans are dealing with the grief caused by the unexpected death of a loved one due to the coronavirus, it is important to remember that, sadly, and unfairly, the coronavirus has completely changed the ways people draw together to say goodbye to loved ones, making it even more difficult to cope.

The good news is that people tend to be resilient in the face of grief. Knowing the signs of grief and ways to cope can help. So no matter what type of loss you have experienced, it is important to remember that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone in this. 

Here are some things that you can do that may help.

Take care of yourself

Focus on the basics and make sure that you are eating, staying hydrated, and getting enough rest. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to get back to normal right away.

Take as much time as you need

Reaching a place of acceptance takes time. Give it to yourself. It takes time to integrate this loss into your life, but this is especially true when your normal daily routines have been disrupted. 

There is no right way to grieve

Try to remember that grief is personal and everyone experiences it differently.

What to do if you need additional help

If you are struggling to deal with feelings of grief, talking to a mental health professional can be helpful. Many therapists are now offering online therapy options in order to follow the CDC’s physical distancing recommendations. 

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline Database (https://www.verywellmind.com/national-helpline-database-4799696#national-suicide-prevention-lifeline) or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) (operated 24/7), for information and referrals if you or a loved one are facing mental health and/or substance use issues.

Remember: We are in this together and we will get through this together too.