The last few years have been about survival—COVID-19 emerged on the scene and changed life as we knew it. Nearly three years later we are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and attempting to navigate our new normal.
We’ve all become accustomed to personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and social distancing; however, not much has been addressed about our individual PPEs—for example, how we protect ourselves emotionally from the ravages of a global outbreak.
Continue reading as we discuss all we’ve lost the last few years and walk away with a plan to move forward from pandemic grief in a healthy way.
Effects of the Pandemic
It’s important to acknowledge that while the pandemic affected 100% of us, we all had our own unique experiences.
For some it was simply an inconvenience—we retained our careers and salaries, and life wasn’t much different except for not being able to go out in public. Others lost their job and income, or had to begin working from home while putting their children through online school. Even worse, far too many had a devastating experience as they lost a loved one to the virus.
While there hasn’t been much research on the effects of the pandemic, what we do know is this:
- There was food insecurity in children who were used to getting two meals each day at school.
- Individuals living with an abusive partner who used to get some respite when one of them went to work, were no longer getting a break.
- Extroverts who had to leave their college dorm and live at home experienced loneliness and depression.
- The depression rate and suicide rate has increased in the last two years.
Grief Caused by the Pandemic
We were unprepared for a global outbreak like the one COVID-19 ensued. The change was a force without warning.
No matter if you lost a loved one or lost your job during the pandemic, all losses are significant. Some of us may be grieving for life as we know it—worried if it will ever go back to normal. Others may be grieving for fellowship with the unknown toll of social isolation.
There is no right or wrong way to experience it, but there are a few universal ways you can cope:
- Acknowledge your losses and feelings of grief.
- Consider adding new habits to your daily routine.
- Stay connected with friends and family.
- Remain in the present and focus on what you have control over.
The Role Funerals Play in the Pandemic
As a grief counselor for over three decades, I’ve met with thousands of people who have lost a loved one. COVID-19 has changed the trajectory of grief for most people who have experienced loss during the pandemic—I’ve actually never seen anything like it.
What I have learned through my experience helping these individuals move through their journey with grief is the importance of having a funeral or memorial service. For a solid year, the pandemic took this away from people. It took away the surviving family member’s opportunity to say goodbye and honor their loved one with a service.
Funerals play a large role in the start of the grief process. They offer a chance to have a last mental picture of the one we lost, to receive support from family and friends, and to remember their legacy. Now being able to plan and attend funerals again allows families to grieve in a healthier manner than the past several years.
Ongoing Grief Support
It’s important to remember the grieving process has no set timeline. To help guide you through your grief journey, subscribe to our weekly grief support newsletter for all the information you need to heal.
Julia is the executive director at Cornerstone of Hope. She has 25 years of experience in the bereavement field as a hospice social worker and clinician.