Grieving the Loss of a Loved One During a Pandemic

This title is surreal. It sounds like some kind of utopian novel title or the title of a far-fetched disaster movie. But for all too many people right now, this is their reality. Covid-19 has created an unfathomable situation where the simple act of burying a loved one has become an unspeakable, personal nightmare. We are not able to honor our loved ones as we feel they deserve or experience the ritual that we have come to expect.

grief during covid

And while we are limited in how we physically honor our loved ones, we should never feel that we are failing to show them the respect that they deserve. That respect comes from within us and those that we love and loved us. Finding ways to honor and grieve during this time of Covid-19 may be untraditional but it should never be lacking.

Strategies to Facilitate the Grieving Process

Although it may seem impossible to have a meaningful funeral service without an in-person gathering, it is possible to still respectfully honor our loved one in meaningful ways. This means finding new ways to facilitate the grieving process. Every family, community, crew or department that has lost a loved one during the COVID-19 pandemic is faced with the same challenge.

If you are among those who have lost someone you care about, consider how the person would have wanted you to honor their memory. If you are an immediate family member, the option of a small intimate service is usually available. But if you are not in the immediate family circle but would like to pay tribute, the kindest act of respect can be as simple as a handwritten note of condolence or the sharing of a particular memory with the family or even the planting of a tree or gift in the departed’s name.

Moving Forward is Hard

lady trying to figure out what's next

Remember to be kind to yourself. It is sometimes hard to balance our feelings of loss with our need for action to make things right.

  • Acknowledge that this is hard. Losing someone you care about is already extremely difficult, while current circumstances only exacerbate the struggle. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling without judgment.
  • Maintain boundaries. Although we remain physically separated from others, in many ways our world has never been more connected. In the age of social media, texting and video chats – you may feel pressure to check in with others before you are ready. Take the private time you need to grieve. 
  • Balance loss activities with healthy distraction. Loss activities that help you connect to your grief may include journaling or looking at old photos of the deceased. Activities such as exercise, cleaning, cooking or watching a good movie can also provide a healthy break from the intensity of your emotions.
  • Write a letter to the deceased. If you feel like you never got to say goodbye to your loved one, consider writing a letter. If you did have the opportunity to say goodbye at a bedside or wake, what would you have said? Take your time with this exercise. Consider reading it aloud to someone you trust. 
  • Attend or host an online funeral or memorial service. While funeral services during the COVID-19 pandemic are typically only open to immediate family members, some families are adapting by using video platforms to livestream the service online. While a video funeral can leave much to be desired, some may find that witnessing the funeral in real -remains a meaningful experience. 
  • Do something to honor the deceased. As a gesture of remembrance of the deceased, cook their favorite meal, watch their favorite movie or donate to their favorite cause. Consider telling other family and friends about your action. They will likely provide you encouragement and support.

The pandemic has changed so much of daily life and has forced us to construct new methods of doing things. Although not perfect, and certainly not what we’re accustomed to, there are still ways to celebrate and mourn those we love and bid farewell in a meaningful way.

Think About Grief Counseling

Grief support

If your loved one was part of a Hospice or Palliative Care program, grief counselling and bereavement services are frequently offered. Many people find comfort in these counselling services as they provide a non-judgemental space to process feelings of confusion and loss.

As part of our Hospice program and our Community Based Palliative Care Program, Chandler Hall offers compassionate care through bereavement counselling. Support groups can attend virtual gatherings to help process grief in ways that work during these unusual times. But even before that, as part of our commitment to our patient families, the caregivers at Chandler Hall are committed to helping families prepare for transitions and the imminent passing of a loved one.

There is nothing easy or “usual” about death in the time of Covid-19. But surrounding yourself with competent, compassionate care is the first step to finding peace and peaceful transitions. Please contact our Bereavement Line at 267-291-2276.  A Chandler Hall Bereavement professional will respond to you to help identify appropriate resources such as bereavement groups or forums.

Chandler Hall is proud to share our expertise with the Bucks community so that we can all move forward together, supporting and caring.