One can never be prepared for grief.
Many say it is the most difficult road to travel on this journey called life, however, nothing could have prepared us for the plethora of grief that has been thrust upon us during 2020.
If one could define the meaning of normal grief, what is currently enveloping the planet most certainly stretches outside those boundaries. Covid-related grief is unprecedented, complicated and one where the symptoms and lasting effects may not be known for some time.
Without adding to the heightened level of fear that silently hovers, it is important to start speaking about Covid-related grief, acknowledge that it exists, and be prepared for it. The unplanned journey for those who are left behind needs to be understood and paved.
So what makes Covid-related grief so different and more difficult to treat?
- The loss is often sudden and unexpected. Seemingly young fit individuals contract the virus, even frontline health care workers. It is assumed they will be fine, the next minute they are not, and then, they are gone. They leave behind young, dependant families who would never have anticipated such loss, thus remaining in a state of shock for a very long time. Many are not resilient enough to manage the everydayness of life, let alone know how to process their feelings or move forward.
- One of the greatest humans needs is physical touch. To be with your beloved as they are passing from this life to the next is one of the most beautiful experiences, and for many, a vital part of the healing process. Covid-19 has removed that privilege and as a result, acceptance, and the reality of one’s loss can be delayed when they have not witnessed it themselves.
- Many families are grieving not one, but multiple members. The family system is irreparably broken and in some cases, an entire generation gone.
- When the loss is so sudden and misunderstood, the temptation to blame is heightened. The anger and the frustration is being expressed, or suppressed, in often uncharacteristic, self-destructive ways. The ultimate solution, albeit difficult to do, is to sit with the anger long enough, eventually to discover that its real name is grief.
- Celebrating the life of your beloved and collectively saying ‘goodbye’ at a funeral is also now disrupted due to restrictions on gatherings. The preparation, busyness and support is a welcomed distraction during those early days, and is an important part of the healing process. This too is now gone.
- Covid-19 has created a new level of fear. Fear of leaving your home, fear of being around others, all which will add to an already heightened level of isolation and anxiety for those left grieving at home alone.
So how does one begin the healing process from Covid-related grief?
Making a decision with certainty is the first, and most important step, to almost everything we do in our lives, even when it comes to the grieving process.
Whether it be the loss of a loved one, loss of your own health due to long term effects of Covid-19, or the loss of your business or job. One must intentionally make the decision to live again, even if, you don’t know what that looks like yet.
Begin this task by finding a strong reason ‘why’ your life still matters and also why ‘you’ still matter. It can be very tempting to give up, and is why this is the vital first step that I ask my clients to take.
During my own personal journey of grief, it was my cat Fergus that gave me a reason to keep going, and that was all it took. Begin the process by journaling to gather as much tangible evidence to prove the truth of your “why”.
You are not alone.
One bitter sweet truth about 2020 is that there are many others who have travelled the same road, creating an unusual bond as they all begrudgingly belong to the same group, feeling the same loss.
There is no shame when it comes to grief, this is after all unchartered territory. No matter how resilient you are, it is OK to reach out and say that for now, you are not OK. One day you will be there for someone else when they need you.
Whatever the road you are currently walking, remember to take one day at a time, one step at a time, and if you have to, one breath at a time.