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Finding support with grief, loss and death in the time of COVID-19

By Amalia C. Pryor, LCSW

Well, here we are 10 months later in the deep depths of this pandemic. It’s cold, dark and seemingly never ending at this point. With rising covid cases and constant reinforcement in the media of loss, death, sadness– grief is at an all time high as well as loss of our normalcy. Loss can be defined by whatever loss is to us- job, autonomy, seeing friends and family, travel, etc. Grief being the mental/emotional and physical response to loss and to death especially. Once we have bonded to a person no matter the relationship, grief can take over us. I wanted to highlight death during this time, as we cannot shy away from the fact that it is happening at an alarmingly rapid and constant rate due to Covid-19.

Death is a topic that has always been prominent in therapy and daily life, as it is part of the life cycle, but often a difficult topic to discuss, especially when it hits close to home. Death can be dealt with by mental health professionals, pastoral care, social work, support groups and with our close knit circles of whatever we deem our support system. Not only are we hearing about death due to the Coronavirus, but it’s happening in congruence with other types of death as life continues, such as sudden death to an accident, death to long term illness, suicide, etc.

Regardless of how the death came about in 2020, what everyone is finding to be a common ground is how we can cope, mourn and grieve in a time with many limitations that usually include large gatherings such as funerals, celebrations of life, shivas, repast. These are all traditions where we can find immediate comfort and support from our communities. I wanted to share some ideas and ways to still find and lean into support during quarantine and honor the life and legacy of ones who have died in 2020.

*Ask or invite family and friends to call you or host a zoom call. Don’t be afraid to take charge of making plans, it can be empowering and give some sense of a control to an “out of control” situation. Create a food calendar for people to sign up for and drop off home cooked meals or send delivery to your household.

* Hearing stories and people’s experiences with your loved one can be extremely helpful and a positive experience. Ask your community and as well as your loved one’s community to share stories and pictures with you on zoom, email, text message, social media, or hand written letters.

* Host a virtual funeral for family and friends to honor your loved one by reading a scripture or poem, or prayer from within their own households. Some faiths practice a mourning period with multiple observances, so hosting virtual events now and in-person events later may be in keeping with these practices such as a shiva or repast.

* Inquire about religious support from faith-based institutions and find out guidelines to in-person prayer sessions or memorials that can be hosted with limited capacity or a home visit from a priest , rabbi or your preferred religious leader with masks and social distance.

* It’s healthy to plan for a larger in-person celebration in the future in a limited capacity when life is safe again to be around others. This can be a memorial service, spreading ashes,  a candlelight vigil or lantern release or graveside service where it can be done outdoors with fresh air.

Please don’t feel like you have to suffer alone during this vulnerable and unprecedented time. There are many resources to lean into for support.

 Feel free to contact me at amalia.pryor@encirclepsych.com for an intake session if you have experienced death in 2020 or want to help support someone else who has endured a loss.

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