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Losing a Loved One in the time of COVID-19

COVID-19 is the griever’s perfect storm. Lucy cannot stop picturing her mom in her last moments. Miguel cannot face going to the grocery store with “the pandemic still out there.” Gloria believes her son will walk into the house at any moment. Robert cannot fathom how to honor his dad with a memorial service.

It is through understanding what our challenges are that we can find new ways to navigate loss. Consider these five common challenges and new ways to navigate loss:

Challenge 1: As with most sudden losses, it may take time for the loss to set in.

It is common to feel like your loved one could walk through the door at any moment. Or that you may wake up from a nightmare soon. It takes our brain time to catch up with the reality that someone we love is gone.

  • Try this: Journaling your thoughts and experiences will help your loss set in. Feel free to write these things down and then tear them up. They are meant for your processing only. If you feel led to share them with a friend that is ok too.

Challenge 2: Due to physical distancing restrictions it is hard to plan memorial services.

These services are important for your processing of the loss. Honoring your loved one will bring comfort to you and all who knew them.

  • In recent months, many mourners have found that family only memorials provide great times of sharing and processing. It is ok to keep a service to the family. If you decide to keep it small, it may make it easier to send a letter to anyone that knew your loved one informing them of your decision.

  • Some mourners find other ways to include others that would like to attend the service but cannot. This helps others feel included in honoring your loved one even if you cannot all be together. This is completely optional.

Some ideas for including others:

  • Allow people to send you their favorite memories instead of attending. Set the letters in a pile and read one when you need encouragement. It is ok to never read them and instead just be aware of who sent one so you can thank them.

  • Create an online space where people can post memories. Feel free to reply to these posts or ask a friend to comment or reply on behalf of the family on this page. Many families convert their loved one's Facebook page for memories.

  • Plan an online service to honor your loved one. Don't feel pressured to do this, but many mourners have found that a comforting message and music is a nice tribute to their loved one. If you keep the online service short it may feel more doable to you.

Challenge 3: Normal ways to distract yourself and cope may not be available right now due to the pandemic.

Challenge 4: Sadness over not being able to say goodbye may be overwhelming.

  • Try this: write your loved one a letter. Express your heartfelt last words by reading your letter out loud to them. Envision their response to your words. Pick one encouraging statement, that they use to say. Repeat this statement to yourself if you feel sadness over unspoken words again.

  • Find some other ideas for expressing difficult emotions here:

Challenge 5: You may have constant reminders of how they died in the media when you wear a mask or use hand sanitizer.

If you are having flashbacks of the way your loved one died it may take some intentional time reliving these last moments to reframe them or navigate them. When you are ready to process them seek a counselor specializing in grief to help you.

  • Until you are ready to deal with them try this: Find a calming memory that you can go to when you need to escape the reminders. Picture watching the waves wash onto the beach. Picture the wind blowing through trees. Picture yourself sitting in your most comforting chair.

More ideas to consider:

Your Turn

Which new way of navigating your loss will you use to overcome a challenge?

For more ideas on how to navigate your loss check out my book:

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