How To Cope With Grief And Loss During The Pandemic
6 Min Read
It is hard to cope with the loss of a loved one.
Abir (name changed), a 21-year-old boy from Delhi, in his final year of engineering, left home for his last semester in February 2021 when the lockdown and COVID cases started reducing in India. During the last week of April 2021, he was called abruptly by his father to get back to Delhi as his mother was falling sick and needed to be hospitalized immediately. He came back and on 7th May 2021, he lost his mother to the deadly virus. He is left with his father and younger brother – none of his family members could come and visit for the cremation and last rights due to lockdown restrictions. Abir also broke up with his girlfriend over a trivial fight and according to him, he is simply not heading anywhere in his life – no direction, no motivation.
Subrata (name changed), a 45-year-old phlebotomist from Kolkata admitted his younger sister to the hospital when her sugar levels went up due to the medications provided for COVID. He said, “My sister went to the hospital by walking on her own feet but she couldn’t leave the hospital alive… I had to visit the morgue to identify her body. It was my job to break the news to my family that my baby sister is no more.”
Almost on a daily basis, we read about families struggling to find hospital beds, oxygen, or medicines during this pandemic. Family members and relatives have to leave their loved ones all alone in hospitals and cannot be with them at the time of loss because of hospital protocols and safety measures. Some family members are themselves are in quarantine and have to be isolated during such times, and some people face more loss than others.
Facing the loss of someone you love is hard at the best of times. Losing a loved one during the pandemic makes this experience very difficult and traumatic, as it is very sudden and unexpected. The truth is that, we can’t actually be prepared to face grief and more often than not, we fail to comprehend that we are experiencing grief.
How do you experience grief?
You may be experiencing grief if you are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Intense waves of sorrow or physical pain: Sometimes, you might feel hit by a wave of sorrow or experience physical symptoms of body pain
- Numbness: You may feel nothing at all like you’re completely numb. It might worry you enough which can make you feel slow and foggy
- A sense of unreality: At times, the loss of your loved one might feel like a dream or a nightmare, something unreal that never really happened
- Anger: You might feel angry at circumstances such as the situation in the county, the system, etc. You may even feel anger towards those around you
- Guilt: You may feel guilt, and/or regret, and wish you could have done something to help, something to prevent the bad experience from happening
Grief is a deep and personal experience
But some aspects of grieving will happen to you that is universally understood and can help you process what has happened. There are phases of grief but these are not the same for everyone, nor do they follow any order or duration. The meaning, process, and experience of each one of these aspects may be different for each one of us. But it helps to remember you will experience these phases.
- Denial: You may feel shocked and numb. In a time of extreme pain, you might feel exhausted and unprepared to handle what has happened
- Anger: You might feel very angry, for many reasons such as the passing away of a loved one. You may feel they were not given proper care and attention or that you did not do enough
- Depression: You may feel very emotionally distressed. You might find yourself completely at a standstill and exhausted. You may feel empty without a desire to do anything at all
- Bargaining: You may feel helpless about what has happened and wish that things were different. You may think of the ways this might have been avoided
- Acceptance: At moments, it may hit you in waves that your loved one is truly gone, and that things will never be the same
© Grief reactions: Kübler-Ross model; adapted from NIMHANS resource.
How to cope with grief?
Time is the best healer: Grief is a process and takes time – there are no quick fixes
You might feel different on different days, and each time your experience might be unique to you. Thus, take your time to reflect on your feelings as well as your emotions. These are painful and difficult emotions but it’s important that you allow your emotions to come to you, don’t try to hold them back.
Do not isolate yourself: Reach out to those closest to you when in need
There may be several days when you don’t feel like it, but try to call people that are trying to be there for you. Seek support from your close friends or family. With the current lockdowns and the need for physical distancing, you will not be able to meet close friends or relatives. Text them, call them, or set up video calls.
Take mindful breaks every day: Give yourself 10-15 minutes a day to unplug
Find a space where you can sit and pause. Look outside, or listen to music if your thoughts trouble you. Chant anything that is meaningful to you. Take time away from your phone, screens, and social media. Try to limit your consumption of news media – when you are in pain, news can be additionally distressing.
Prioritize your health: Your body needs strength to keep going
Your body needs to cope with the emotions that you will feel. So, even if you have no appetite, try and eat small amounts of food and keep yourself hydrated with water. Your body holds tension and stress within it and so some simple movements throughout the day – such as a walk, or a quick stretch – can do wonders. Try to sleep 6-8 hours a day and it’s okay if you sleep a lot if you find comfort being in bed. Don’t be hard on yourself to get up and do things. You may dream about the person you’ve lost. making the situation overwhelming and heavy. It might make you miss someone dearly. Whatever the dreams make you feel, remember that it is a way your mind is coping. Your mind is healing.
Try some daily rituals: Routines can help you heal
Everyday, try and takes some time to yourself to perform comforting rituals such as keeping journal full of your thoughts and feelings or wherever comes to your mind, reading poems, chanting a prayer or singing s song.
Don’t shy away from asking for help: Everyone needs a hand sometime
Ask your friends, family members to coordinate a date and time to spend time together online, to honor your loved one. Share pictures and memories together. You could also seek grief counseling or support groups to understand that you’re not alone in this and there are so many people going through the same experience as you.
Just remember, the only cure for grief is to grieve… Allow yourself to grow stronger through what you have gone through.
If you or someone you love is experiencing grief and is having a hard time healing, consulting with a Psychotherapist can help reduce the emotional weight. A professional can help you understand what you’re going though and help you with coping as you heal through time.
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