How to deal with grief in this covid season?

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How to deal with grief in this covid season?

Grieving the loss of a loved one is difficult in any season, particularly now during covid. Since April 2020 I have lost a childhood friend, an uncle, and an elderly woman friend, who was my Sunday school teacher when I was in my early teens. Though none of these died directly from covid, grieving them has been more difficult under covid restrictions. The following is a map of the grief process with special emphasis on the uniqueness of grieving in this season. These are not steps or stages separated from each other, rather flowing overlapping cycles progressing towards the end goal of grief. The map of the journey of grief, involves the following processes: Shock, Disbelief & Numbness; Powerlessness & Abandonment; Anger & Rage; Guilt & Blame; Fear & Anxiety; Sadness, Loss & Depression; Acceptance & Renewed Hope; Surrender & Release.

  1. Shock, Disbelief & Numbness: During the shock and numbness cycle the news of someone you cared for dying seems unreal and difficult to actually believe. The greater the attachment to them the harder it is to absorb and comprehend. Essentially you don't want to believe it. “This can’t be!” Confusion and disorientation leaves you feeling numb and unsure. Denial of the loss lingers until the body is seen and other facts are gathered. This news becomes an attack to which your autonomic nervous system reacts to by putting you into “fight or flight” response. This releases overwhelming anxiety as heart rate escalates, respiratory rate escalates, and the shock takes over. Essentially, you feel frozen in time with a growing sense of unreality. In this covid season this first cycle can linger even longer given the restrictions on viewing the body, having a funeral or even a memorial. The personal support normally received from others is less concrete due to social distancing measures. Reach out to others as best you can, you may be surprised where your support and help comes from.
  2. Powerlessness & Abandonment: You may not realize how important it is to be in control of things until you are rendered powerless and feel out of control. When someone you loved passes away you can feel hurt, rejected, and abandoned. If the death was unexpected, sudden, a suicide, or legally arranged, these feelings are even more intense and difficult to process. You will likely feel desperate to find out how this happened and why? “I need to understand!” What caused them to die like this? If they died of covid were they neglected? The attempt to regain some control is in getting your questions answered. This may lead you to frustration during this season as covid restrictions hinder your attempts to get answers and make arrangements. Take control of what you can in the “here and now” and try to face each day at a time, or each hour of the day at a time, or each minute of the hour at a time.
  3. Anger & Rage: The hurt and frustration of the previous cycle added to the loss itself easily manifests in Anger & Rage. “This was not supposed to happen!” “Why did God let this happen?” “Why didn’t somebody do something?’ You can even feel angry with your loved one for dying and leaving you behind. There is a saying: “Anger is love that’s been offended”.  The expectation of Love is not easily changed. You can be angry at the unfairness of life. Anger & rage seek expression, hopefully in a form that will not offend others or more deeply offend you. The energy of anger may be harnessed to solve problems, produce fruitful outcomes, increase determination, and fuel perseverance. What legacy did my love one leave behind that I could throw myself into and honor their life? It’s normal to be angry; it’s normal to mourn. Cry out to God like King David of old, expressing to Him the unfairness and injustice you are feeling!
  4. Guilt & Blame: You can be angry with yourself, fueling guilt and self blame. “I should have noticed something! Why didn't I do something?” In the midst of injustice there is a search for responsibility. “Someone is to blame for this!” “Someone has to pay!” This too is normal. You can feel guilty yet not be guilty, so the task is sorting out true versus false guilt. If you are guilty of something seek forgiveness. As the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:9 “If you confess your sin He is faithful and just to forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness” God offers forgiveness upon confession. He alone can cleanse your soul and refresh your spirit. You then need to receive this gift of forgiveness and then give this gift to yourself. You can also visit the grave or ashes of your loved one and confess to them, seeking their forgiveness.
  5. Fear & Anxiety: Loosing a loved one will leave you feeling distressed, raw and vulnerable. “Who else may I loose?” Fear of further losses can cause a greater sense of alarm. You will want to protect those you still have in a greater way than before your loss. Your own mortality can rise up in fear. Anxiety symptoms like: loss of appetite, shaking inside, poor concentration, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, insomnia, nausea, dizziness. These are normal experiences of anxiety. See the blog “how to deal with anxiety during covid?” You can equip yourself to decompress and de-escalate the fear and anxiety. Pray for God’s supernatural peace to flow within you, calming your spirit and strengthening your soul through this crisis of loss.
  6. Sadness, Loss & Depression: You may have feelings of sadness welling up at unexpected times. This is normal in grief. Allow yourself to be sad and lonely. There will be reminders of your loved one that will trigger memories of the past. Take the time to mourn, allowing tears to flow. Look for safe places to reflect on your loss and allow full expression of the sadness. You can refer to the blog “how to deal with depression alone?” for further practical help. Mourning and sadness will cause fatigue to set in at times. You have to take care of you and allow yourself to mourn without staying distracted and escaping the pain. This cycle of grief is one you will journey through. You will not feel this way forever! There is hope ahead even when this is unseen.
  7. Acceptance & Renewed Hope: There is a myth “time alone heals all wounds”. This is not true for grief. Grief is work. The work of grief involves some of the following:
    1. Accepting and facing the loss and pain.
    2. Remembering the loved one in mourning.
    3. Using pictures of past memories that can be cherished.
    4. Writing and journaling your feelings, thoughts, images of your loved one. You can write to your loved one, yourself, God.
    5. Crying and expressing emotions, thoughts along the way.
    6. Writing a letter saying goodbye, expressing how they are missed, asking forgiveness if necessary.
    7. Visiting the grave or ashes to speak to loved one, reading letter as part of necessary closure.
    8. Getting support, coaching, counseling for the grief process.
    9. Doing something meaningful in memory to carry the legacy of your loved one.
    10. Celebrating occasions like holidays, birthdays, and anniversary of passing.
  8. Surrender & Release: You can decide to release your loved one, surrendering them to God’s care in heaven. This may take a lot of grief work and time to get to this destination. You may cycle back to prior phases several times before taking this decision. You cannot move ahead into the future without surrendering the past. You must focus on the loved ones still living, reconstructing your life and relationships. You can learn to walk with a limp or function with a missing limb, so to speak, with the support of others and your creator. You can join a support group for survivors of Grief. Be patient with your grief process! No one grieves the same way. Don't let others tell you where you should be at this point. May God bless you and bring you comfort and strength on this journey.

CONFUSED? HURTING? STRUGGLING? WORRIED? SCARED? GRIEVING? CAN'T SLEEP?
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I am available to offer support for any type of guidance and counseling emergencies during COVID19 crisis.