As we wrestle with the impact of COVID-19, losing someone during these times can be more distressing than normal. Bereavement during a pandemic is something none of us were prepared for. Traditional rituals and practices that otherwise help mourners deal with loss have had to be compromised for the need of maintaining social distance.
Faced with a loss, the need for caution only exacerbates the situation. Furthermore, the absence of support from others, travel restrictions, and social distancing makes it more difficult to deal with the pain and sorrow while in isolation.
Physiologically speaking, it is essential to address and process the grief appropriately to move ahead in life. Rituals and practices like sitting Shiva, visiting family/neighbors, sharing food are all part of collective grieving. However, as the pandemic calls for physical distancing, the absence of public gatherings and lack of human touch can make a person feel lonely and anxious. So what are the options right now? How can we best use the resources that are available to us?
Humans are highly adaptive. Past generations have faced epidemics; however, thanks to technology, we’ve been able to stay more connected. As a precautionary measure, we may be required to be alone – but we don’t have to be lonely.
Utilize Social Media
Grief is a coping mechanism. Traditionally, group gatherings and interactions with family and neighbors have helped mourners come to terms with a personal loss. During the current pandemic, social media is an alternative that offers spaces for people to engage with each other in remembrance of the departed. Social networking websites, personal blogs, and memorial websites are virtual ways to honor a life well-lived. For instance, Facebook allows its users to use profiles of the deceased as memorials.
There are groups hosting virtual workshops, online support groups, and forums to help the grieving express themselves freely and to find consolation in the absence of human interaction.
Focus on what you can control
Losing a loved one leaves us vulnerable; norms like social distancing only make things more complicated. Dealing with the pain alone can make us feel hopeless. Instead, make an attempt to focus your thoughts on meaningful moments and to reflect upon the departed’s positive influence. These are simple ways to remain “conscious” during a stressful period.
Know that you are not alone
Covid-19 has impacted everyone, whether it’s the loss of employment, lack of physical interaction, or the disruption of normal routines. People are missing significant life milestones, like graduations, weddings, and yes, funerals. The only upside is that the entire world stands connected in this collective loss. Despite feeling alone at such a devastating time, know that you are not — and reach out, via a call, text, or online group.
At a time of grieving, self-care is about being compassionate with yourself. Mourning calls up an array of emotions ranging from shock, sadness, guilt, anger. It’s easy to be too hard on ourselves. Self-care during such times is critical because internal support is just as important as external support in your healing. Don’t shy away from indulging in naps, long walks, hot baths, time with a favorite book or movie, writing in a journal…these are small steps that will support you.
Human bonds are nurtured in different ways and physical presence forms a vital part of it. But when that physical presence cannot be ensured, technology can help you to stay connected and gain support in addressing the grief. It may not be as personal as a human touch but the availability of anyone, anywhere, at any time can compensate for the physical absence.