Updated: Jul 14, 2020
We have assembled a comprehensive guide to help you better understand and cope with grief. Even during the virtual age of COVID-19, there are plenty of resources available to help you feel supported and move forward.
What exactly is grief? And why is COVID grief any different?
Grief is a complicated emotion that comes naturally after someone has faced a loss. This can be the death of a loved one or it could even be related to the loss of a certain lifestyle or relationship. Although experiencing grief is completely normal, symptoms and side effects can affect your physical as well as mental health. COVID-19 has changed grief in part because many of us are grieving for a lifestyle that is at least temporarily gone. So if you are also grieving for a loved one, it may feel compounded and very intense even if you feel somewhat prepared by circumstance.
Common myths about grief:
Myth: Grief is only an emotional process. It’s all in my head.
Truth: While emotional symptoms of grief may include disbelief, guilt, anger, sadness, and fear, physical symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, aching, changes in weight, insomnia, and a weakened immune system.
Myth: Everyone grieves in a similar way with a similar timeline.
Truth: Everyone experiences grief differently and there is no universal way to feel that matches how you feel. Some people take longer to recover than others and some people may not cry but feel the loss just as deeply.
Myth: It is best to be strong and ignore the pain.
Truth: Ignoring your emotions may only complicate your healing process and it is important to acknowledge how you feel. Crying and being vulnerable in front of friends and family are not signs of weakness. It may even help those around you communicate their emotions and support each other in the process.
Myth: Moving forward means that I have forgotten about my loss.
Truth: Moving forward does not require you to pretend the loss didn’t happen, but it does involve some form of acceptance. As you move on, the deceased may become an important memory that shapes your life and character.
Stages of grief:
Denial of the situation
Anger at yourself or someone else related to the loss
Bargaining for what you would do to be in a different circumstance
Depression or sadness
Acceptance and peace over the loss
These 5 stages of grief were introduced by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. While widely accepted and referenced, the stages are by no means universal. Some people may experience some of the stages and not others, or in a different order. We list them here for your knowledge but we emphasize that everyone grieves in their own way.
Online Resources for Grief
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is normal to feel isolated and stressed about your current situation. Facing the death of a loved one during this time may be especially challenging both physically and mentally. However, the internet is a great tool that can help you overcome some obstacles and help you feel more supported in your grief.
Connect with your friends and family:
Your friends and family will be your most valuable asset in managing your grief and feeling connected during the difficult journey. While COVID-19 limits the amount of in-person contact you may have with your close friends or family, video/phone calls and social media are great ways to feel in touch with those who care about you.
Online memorial service platforms like Remebering.live can help you properly honor your loved one during the pandemic. For example, opening a Zoom meeting for a couple of hours, where guests can drop in, is one way to incorporate aspects of a shiva or wake for your loved one online. A virtual guestbook or Facebook post is another way for friends and family to leave warm comments in honor of the deceased.
Join online forums and support groups:
It is sometimes easier to talk about your grief with someone you don’t necessarily know. While in-person support groups are discouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are plenty of online forums and groups where you can share your emotions and hear about other people’s experiences. Just remember that other people’s advice may be different for your situation.
Here are some popular online resources and forums:
Open to Hope is a website that shares articles, books, and stories about dealing with grief.
Light a Candle is a project by A Network for Grateful Living that allows you to create candle groups and allow friends and family to “light a candle” in honor of your loved one.
Grieving.com is an online forum that allows people to share their experiences of loss and support others who may be struggling.
Grief Healing Discussion Groups is another online forum dedicated to the topics of grief and loss.
Grief in Common is an online community where you can share stories, connect with others, receive coaching, and find other resources.
Online Grief Support is an online forum where users discuss their experiences with different types of loss from that of a parent to loss of a pet.
When seeking support from online websites, make sure that you are using reputable sources and platforms that you can trust.
Talk to a counselor or therapist:
A professional counselor or therapist can help you talk about your emotions and guide you through your grief. While COVID-19 poses some challenges in meeting in-person with a therapist, calling a trained professional can be just as helpful in getting one-on-one support. Be sure that the counselor or therapist is legitimate and that you do your research on them before paying for their services.
Other ways to cope with grief:
Turn to religious/spiritual practices
Practice your creativity through writing or art
Maintain your hobbies
Pay attention to your physical health
Plan for any encounters with “triggers” of your loss
When to Seek Help
Grief is a natural process and takes time to gradually ease. If you feel like your grief is persisting or getting worse after a sufficiently long period of time, it may have evolved into complicated grief, PTSD, or depression.
Even in mourning, you are still able to experience moments of happiness. Depression on the other hand is often signaled by constant and inescapable feelings of despair. Complicated grief, PTSD, and depression all require professional mental health assistance and can be dangerous if left untreated. Get in touch with a trusted counselor, therapist, or mental health hotline.
While facing the death of a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic may seem overwhelming and unbearable at times, there are resources that can be found online and among your friends and family to help you manage your loss. Even if you're socially distanced, you do not have to struggle alone and there are communities to support you.