May 14, 2020 – Claudia Cole
Losing a loved one is one of life’s hardest challenges many of us face. Whether you’ve lost a family member, a partner, or a friend, it’s a difficult experience to manage. We all know that death is a natural part of life, giving meaning to our existence and serving as a reminder of how precious each day is. Even so, a loss remains feeling like a foreign concept, one that leads to a range of emotions you might find hard to navigate through.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, life as we know it has upended in numerous ways, sadly including the way we mourn those we’ve lost.
With social distancing measures in place across the nation, the visiting procedures within care homes and hospitals have restricted the contact we have with residents and patients. Unfortunately, some of us have lost the chance to spend those final moments with the ones that matter most.
What’s more, the way we arrange funerals has also changed, now limited to small services, often leaving many unable to attend. This can make it more challenging to making sense of the loss. Sue Morris, author of Overcoming Grief, explains:
“When someone is grieving, especially if it is their first experience of a death of someone close to them, not knowing what to expect or how best to handle certain situations often intensifies their grief. Many people report that feeling they have little control over what is happening to them or around them is a significant factor that contributes to their anguish.”
Despite the difficulty, there are some ways to help yourself navigate through grief during this tough time. Experts share their advice.
Accept the complexities of grief
“It’s important to understand the nature of grief because it is far more complex than most people think,” Sue points out. “It’s likely that you will experience many different emotions at once.”
We all grieve differently. You might feel sad, angry, depressed, guilty, or even relieved. The simple fact is that there is no ‘right’ way to do so as grief is an extremely personal experience, which can also be influenced by many circumstances.
Due to the current pandemic, it’s possible you could be denying your grief. However, not having a formal funeral or lacking a sense of normality does not make your grief any less real. No matter how daunting it may seem, it’ crucial to take the time to recognize how you’re feeling and make space for it.
Grief is not something to get over but something you can get through. It is a process that has no time frame. Just remember to be kind and patient with yourself and to seek support from those closest to you or a professional if needed.
Gain support through technology
Grief can often cause you to feel isolated, so under the current circumstances, it’s essential to feel connected.
“We have funerals and wakes in order to bring together a support network that helps the grieving individuals, so it’s important to activate that process in whatever way is possible,” says Dr. Joshua Gordon, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “I think using the same tools to connect with people for other reasons, and we can use to help people mourn.”
Technology is an excellent source, helping you to grieve collectively in the same way you would at a funeral or wake. Through this, you can still surround yourself with a support network, minimizing the feelings of loneliness. It can also allow you to participate in virtual funerals, an interactive and collaborative funeral service online that gives families the opportunity to memorialise the life of loved ones.
Video for Distant Memorials is one of many services that help those affected by COVID-19 while social distancing measure continues to disrupt funerals, creating heartfelt memorial videos for free.
Engage in healthy activities
Like fear, grief can have a physical impact on our body and behaviour, leading our bodily system to spiral into a heightened state of being alert. Julia Samuel, author and psychotherapist who specialises in grief explains:
Establishing a gentle workout regime is a great action plan, serving as a healthy distraction that helps funnel your feelings. This can involve going for a daily walk or even take part in short cardio sessions via YouTube at home.
The aim of this is to help regulate your system, giving you the strength to brave those strong waves of emotions. Just short moderate exercise can ease muscle discomfort within the body, releasing dopamine, a hormone that calms us down.
The body and mind are interconnected, carried by one another, so ensure every part of you is getting as much love as possible at this time.
If you know someone who had been recently affected by a death of someone close, here’s how you can offer support during this tough time.
- Be patient. Everyone grieves in their own way and for different lengths of time.
- Listen. Allow the individual to express their feelings and ensure they are heard.
- Don’t dismiss their grief. Accept how they’re feeling and support it. Never underestimate the emotional pain they are going through.
- Provide ongoing support. Grief doesn’t stop once a funeral is over. Stay in touch regularly and continue to offer your help.