The impact of the pandemic on our grieving process
Grieving has never been the easiest process for a person to go through. The interruptive nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the measures taken globally to prevent further spread of the disease, have made it even harder.
Domestic and international travel restrictions have prevented people from being with loved ones and the end of their lives, whether they passed because of Covid-19 or other reason. Many have been unable to attend funerals as well, but even the restrictions against human contact that has left us unable to hold hands or share a comforting hug, have had a major impact on our bereavement process.
Dr. Harvey Chochinov, a distinguished professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, says: “These disruptions can have serious, long-term impacts on the way people process grief… During the course of COVID-19… family members aren’t available to follow what I call a ‘path of least regret.’ That is, they have questions that will linger, because they haven’t been at the bedside [of their loved one], such as: Were they in pain? Were they frightened? Were they alone at the time they died?”
Loss in the time of Covid goes beyond the physical loss of a loved one. Many have lost their jobs and all of us have lost a part of our freedom and our natural human need of socialising and sharing has also been taken from us.
Whatever the loss, we are now obliged to mourn along, if not in isolation. Even though part of the bereavement process happens in solitude, another big part of it takes place within our community of family, friends and neighbours.
Christy Denckla, research fellow at the Stanley Center of Psychiatric Research of MIT and Harvard and a Postdoc fellow in the Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology of Harvard, says that the long-term impact of the current situation may be something called prolonged grief disorder, in which people who are isolated and cut off from the normal grieving process find their lives impaired over time by unresolved grief.
Covid has taken its toll on how children and young people grieve as well. British researchers point out that we should expect a wave of grief among children and young people who have lost a loved one during the pandemic, exactly because of the abovementioned interruptions to our grieving process.
How we can help ourselves and/or another person:
• Acknowledge what has happened and the feelings that come with it.
• Normalise feelings like anger, sadness and fear. Assure yourself and others that everything you feel is not just OK, but also welcome.
• Find alternative ways to remember a loved one that has passed.
• Find ways and make sure to celebrate important days like birthdays and milestones.
• Seek help from a specialist.
• Remember that you are not alone in this!