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How to Cope with Grief and Loss During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Thomas Togioka';

By Thomas Togioka

Posted on February 5th, 2021 in Covid-19

Coping with LossUndoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our lifestyle to a great extent, since we can no longer interact with each other the way we used to or engage in the same activities we once enjoyed. During this period of time, it is completely normal to experience feelings of anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, depression, loneliness, and helplessness. What many people do not realize is that what they experience emotionally is actually grief. Although the majority of people associate grief with the loss of a loved one, grief can also stem from secondary losses as well. Secondary losses, unlike primary losses, refer to the loss of relationships, social support, and recreation. With the preventive measures that were enforced to prevent the spread of the coronavirus throughout the country, people were forced to make drastic changes to their routines. Accordingly, during the pandemic, they can interact with family members only through video calls, they have restricted access to mental health support and they also had to turn to indoor activities, which often create a feeling of isolation. These changes can ultimately lead to experiencing grief.

How to Recognize Grief

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, numerous people in the United States, as well as throughout the world, experience grief as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Grief is a natural response to loss. In this case, it is the response people often have to the loss of social activities, recreation, face-to-face human interaction, and relationships. While they may not have completely lost these important aspects of their routine, they have certainly undergone major changes. Some of the telltale signs of grief are:

  • shock
  • disbelief
  • anxiety
  • denial
  • loss of sleep
  • anger
  • sadness
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite

It is worthy of note that most people who experience these symptoms do not know that what they are truly feeling is grief. Having a name for what they are feeling, certainly helps people who are grieving put their emotions into context. During the coronavirus pandemic, what the majority of people are really grieving is their loss of freedom, as they can no longer act as they used to or enjoy the same activities they used to. They may also grieve their loss of the possibility to form meaningful connections with other people since they are forced to keep social distance and cover their faces with masks when they go outside. However, it is important to know that everyone experiences grief differently.

The Unexpectedness and Unpredictability of Grief

Because grief is a unique feeling to everyone, you may be wondering if what you are feeling is normal. Even if you have felt grief in the past, you may not experience the same symptoms the next time you have to deal with this complex emotion. It is important to note that grief stemming from primary losses, meaning from the loss of a loved one, is very different from the grief caused by secondary losses, for which the coronavirus pandemic is responsible. Therefore, all responses to this feeling are normal and the way you deal with them also varies from person to person. While some people may feel numb in response to the losses brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, others may experience intense feelings of anxiety, sadness, or anger.

How to Cope with Grief

Perhaps the most important aspect when dealing with grief is embracing your feelings instead of suppressing them. Because we live in a culture that expects us to look as if we have everything figured out, many people are tempted to mask their feelings of grief and act as if nothing has happened when they are around others. Nevertheless, this is not a healthy way to cope with grief, as it will only intensify the feeling over time. It is essential to be aware that everyone experiences grief at one point in their lifetime, whether it stems from the loss of a loved one or from a secondary loss, such as the loss of a meaningful relationship. The healthy way to deal with grief is to embrace the feeling and to let it wear off by itself. Going through every stage of grief is crucial in the process of achieving acceptance and moving on.

Unfortunately, people who lost a loved one during the coronavirus pandemic may find it more difficult to grieve, as they may feel as if they have been deprived of the ability to really express their feelings. For this reason, if you experienced a primary loss during this challenging period of time, you may feel as if it did not happen and thereby feel detached from the situation that would have otherwise made you feel overwhelmed with grief. Nonetheless, you should know that this is also a normal response to loss, although you may not experience the usual symptoms of grief. Some people who feel completely detached from such a situation may actually be in the shock or denial stage of grief, during which they may experience the following feelings and physical symptoms:

  • avoidance
  • confusion
  • paling of the skin
  • elation
  • fear
  • shortness of breath
  • emotional numbness
  • physical freezing
  • anxiety

How to Find Meaning After Experiencing Loss

Finding meaning after experiencing grief is crucial, as it will greatly help you move on with your life. Meaning can be something apparently small, such as a goal you wish to achieve, or something deeper, such as faith, which is not always of a religious nature. For some people, this feeling can refer to faith in their own resilience or their connection to their community. Regardless of the way we view faith, it can without a doubt have a positive impact on how we ultimately deal with grief.