How to Cope if You Have Lost a Loved One to COVID
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19, you might struggle to cope. Find out how you can grieve in the most positive way.
If you lost a loved one to COVID-19, wondering how to cope with covid deaths is a legitimate question. Even if you have lost loved ones before, this is unprecedented.
The death of a loved one is always challenging. In addition to grief, you’ll need to handle practical details. Whether it’s arranging their funeral, putting their home up for sale, or trying to navigate their last wishes, it’s a lot.
Despite how overwhelming grief can be, there’s often comfort in rituals. That’s a big reason why ritual is such a huge piece of many religious ceremonies. Rituals provide context, add meaning to events that seem overwhelming, and assure us that we are not alone.
However, these comforting rituals are something the coronavirus pandemic has taken from many. If you’re wondering how to grieve in this uncertain new world, you’re not alone.
Why Is It So Challenging?
Grief is always challenging, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it much worse. In order to move forward and figure out how to cope, it’s helpful to understand why.
For starters, the coronavirus pandemic has been hanging over our heads for over a year now. That’s over twelve months of waiting for the worst to happen.
As the CDC and other government entities established groups that were most at-risk, all of us started ticking boxes in our heads. Perhaps it was an asthmatic, highly social grandparent that first came to mind. Maybe it was a parent with heart disease.
Maybe the person who was most at risk wasn’t the loved one lost. Either way, the worst thing that you could anticipate—what we’ve all been afraid of for over a year—finally happened.
There’s a sort of crushing relief. The worst has happened, but what do you d when the hammer finally falls? That’s a question that millions of families are asking themselves these days.
Another element that complicates coronavirus grief is the widespread scale. Millions of people have died. Maybe multiple people in your social circle have died.
With this type of communal grief, it makes it easier and harder. It’s easier because you know you’re not alone. There are millions of other sufferers who have lost loved ones to this pandemic.
It makes it harder, though. In some countries, the previous death tolls should have been a warning. The pandemic should have gotten under control before your loved one died.
This can cause anger to surge and may start to spiral and compound your grief. It’s always a bit worrisome to see someone in the grocery store wearing a mask improperly.
Coping with Compounded Grief
But grief can concentrate this worry, and make it so much harder. You may find yourself lost in a sea of questions: don’t they know that they’re putting people at risk? Don’t they care?
Another issue is the fact that you’re already grieving. Loss and small trauma have been steadily accruing over the past year, and this is true whether you’d previously lost a loved one or not.
Experts say that the loss of our old lives is a form of grief. In between the frustration, anger, and constant worry, we’re all grieving. Even as countries ramp up vaccination efforts and COVID cases fall, life will never be exactly the same as it was before.
Losing Traditional Support Systems
When it comes to coping with psychological trauma, such as grief, support systems are everything. For most people, connection with that support system was severed a year ago.
Of course, there is always FaceTime. Snapchat, Zoom happy hours, socially distanced walks in the park, you name it. Humans have always been able to adapt to circumstances and come up with alternative solutions.
It’s not the same, though. And our brains know it. We’re hardwired for social connection, for the ability to share stories and physically connect with others.
With the loss of that support system, even if you don’t live alone and connect with friends often virtually, you may already be feeling vulnerable.
When you add a tragic loss, the emotional weight on your shoulders is doubled.
Losing a Framework
There’s also the loss of the grieving process. In Victorian days, there were strict grieving protocols. For instance, depending on your relationship with the deceased, you might wear black for a certain period of time.
Then, as time passed, you might progress to wearing white. After a long time, your wardrobe would gradually shift back to normal.
While these protocols might seem overkill today, they provided valuable structure. Clothing provided an outward symbol of grief.
It was very different than modern approaches, where you’re lucky to get a week of bereavement leave after a close relative passes. Historical approaches also provided a framework.
Today, our framework is simple: attend a funeral. Go to a reception afterward. Take care of all practical matters.
There are other traditions, too—sitting shiva if you’re Jewish, taking a casserole over, offering to clean someone’s house if you’re close to the bereaved family.
All of these frameworks have been canceled or altered. Your friends and extended family can’t travel for the funeral. All of these things make the process so much harder.
Give Yourself Grace to Cope
Remember that you don’t have to make all the decisions right away. Time may be of the essence, but give yourself some slack.
Maybe cremation is the best option. Or, your loved one might have wanted a traditional burial. If you’re unsure of their wishes, go with your heart. That’s all that they would have wanted.
Due to the global nature of this pandemic, consider reaching out to COVID-19 loss support groups. Other people who have dealt with the same thing as you can be an invaluable support system.
It may also be worthwhile to plan an event for when it’s safe to do so. This gives you something to look forward to and also puts a date on giving yourself some much-deserved closure.
If you need help with end-of-life decisions, contact us today. We’d be honored to help you cope during this time.