PASSAGES:  A journey towards hope and healing

McSwain-Evans Funeral Home          Vol. No.          Special Edition


Grief and Loss Within the Covid-19 Pandemic By Leigh A. Ringer, LMSW, AfterCare Coordinator

Our daily lives amidst the novel Corona virus pandemic are anything but normal.  For those who are grieving the loss of a loved one during this time—whether due directly to the virus itself or by other means—the pandemic presents stressors and challenges that are unique to the bereaved.  In response to those challenges, we are using this time to address those and to present some ways that may be helpful to you in navigating through this chaotic time within your own grief journey.

The many day-to-day disruptions that have occurred have been startling and far-reaching.  Many are working from their homes if they are working at all; those in the healthcare fields are faced with intense pressures and very long days; parents are dealing with children and teens who are learning remotely from home; businesses deemed ‘nonessential’ are closed; going out to eat or to a worship gathering is no longer happening; we are inundated at every turn each day through the media about the numbers, the deaths, the political and bureaucratic decisions and ramifications; the economy is floundering and erratic at best, and the list goes on…

What about this presents challenges unique to the presently bereaved?  Obviously, now when a loved one passes, traditional visitations have been eliminated due to contagion concerns.  Grieving individuals are unable to receive the physical presence and comforting support of a simple hand squeeze, a loving hug, or a reassuring pat on the arm. The bereaved are challenged with limiting family and friends who can attend the actual funeral.  Social distancing is ever present.  Some can live stream the service for others, but no one will tell you it is a strong substitute for being physically present and involved.  

Those who were already in the throes of grief prior to the onset of the pandemic are also impacted in numerous ways. The pandemic has ramped up everyone’s levels of stress and anxiety, but these are certainly compounded for those already experiencing them in their current states of grief.  

It is a lot to deal with, no doubt.  In the ‘normal’ processes of grief, no two people are impacted in the same way.  Our grief journeys are as unique as our relationship is to our loved one.  No two people are reacting to the daily realties of the pandemic in the same way either. When reading the helps on the following page, know that some of these suggestions may work more effectively for you than others.  It may take some experimenting to see what is most helpful for you.  Also, feel free to share these helps with others who may be struggling during this time, whether they are grieving the passing of a loved one or not.  There are multiple ‘losses’ and griefs large and small that are being felt in this pandemic time alone.  The following tips can be helpful to anyone right now.

Tips on Coping Within the Corona Virus Pandemic

* Step back and take a breather.

It is easily tempting to obsess over the onslaught of media coverage that bombards us every day.  Stay informed on the important issues and information, but refrain from reading every article about the pandemic, listening to every newscast and reading everything you see online.  It is already a stressful time!  Choose to step back and breathe.  Long, deep breaths are good for the body in dealing with pent up stress and anxiety. Try to live in, and ground yourself, more in the present than allowing yourself to worry about the upcoming days ahead.  

*Remind yourself daily that you have a choice as to your response.

When things feel out of control, it is easy to simply react rather than to choose a response to the stressors around us.  While we cannot control many aspects of our daily lives at present, we still have control over how we CHOOSE to respond.  Acknowledge those feelings of fear, worry, anger, anxiety and stress, as that is important to do, but when they begin to feel stifling, choose to let them go for that moment! Decide how you wish to respond in a way that is calm, helpful and positive.

*Promote the positives and recall them several times a day.

As in all situations, an “attitude of gratitude” can be an immense help in how we choose to cope with the landslide of changes that have occurred in our lives, both from the absence of our loved one as well as from the virus implications.  Write down several things you are most grateful for in that moment.  Revisit those mentally through the day, especially when overwhelming moments occur.  Out of a grateful heart, we can think more clearly. Gratitude promotes physical health as well.  In our grief, it is easy to lose sight of our blessings, but they are there. Being mindful of our blessings helps our minds, bodies, and spirits.

*Focus on promoting healthy relationships and interactions with others.

Nothing in our lives puts our values in as clear a perspective as happens when we are grieving.  Relationships are the most important things in our lives.  Slow down to nurture meaningful relationships. Think about those whom you need to reach out to that you have not done due to the normal hectic paces of our lives. Make a point to call or write them a quick note.  When interacting with those who wait on you at a grocery store, a takeout restaurant, or at the bank drive-thru or gas station, be mindful that everyone is experiencing fall out from the pandemic.  Kindness and patience go a long way.  We know it is helpful to us during this time.  This also goes for those home with spouses, children or others for long periods of time. 

*Make intentional self-care a priority.

Grief wears on our bodies and souls.  So does the current state of the pandemic.  Realize you have been dealt a double whammy of sorts.  Prolonged stress wears on the immune system and leaves you more susceptible to illness and injury—the last thing you need on your plate right now. Do what you know to do for yourself.  Create a routine for your day. A sense of routine helps us feel more in control and eases anxiety.  Get up and go to bed at the same time. Try not to “emotionally eat”.  Avoid binges of sugar, caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy snacks.  Try to eat healthy, balanced meals and establish regular eating times.  Get out of the house and go for a walk, exercise, journal, drink plenty of water, read Scripture and pray.  Enjoy a minimum of 20 minutes of sunshine and fresh air each day.  You know what to do.  Just determine in your mind to do it already.  Be a good citizen and obey the rules and regulations put forth by the federal, state and local authorities.  Lives depend on it. 

*Keep an eye on the bigger picture.

While there are many uncertainties that we are all dealing with currently, one thing we do know. This, too, shall pass!  The pandemic will eventually run its course, and this pressured time for all of us will end.  In time, our ability to be with others and to return to jobs, to collective worship, to shopping and dining and other recreational activities will resume.  Take each day one day at a time. Change, be it positive or negative, is simply a part of life. It will not always be this way.  The heaviness of your grief will not always weigh upon you as heavily or intensely as it does right now.  You are not alone.  Others grieve.  Others struggle.  Others are impacted in ways both similar and different to your own reality.  You will get through this one day at a time, one moment at a time, one step at a time.  We will.  Like in many things, we may learn through this that we are stronger than we ever imagined.



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