Coping with the ‘Pandemic Wall’ is something that all of us are doing. When we talk about grief and loss, we usually think of death and dying. However, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, we’re seeing many types of loss and grief. Below is a list of different types of losses people may be experiencing right now:
- Economic security: The pandemic has resulted in large unemployment numbers, a fear of further job loss and an economic recession.
- Health: Fears of contracting COVID-19 have led to increased health risks for the most vulnerable. Of particular note is secondary harm for people who need care but are avoiding hospitals, or for those who can’t access their doctor easily due to increased demand due to the pandemic. This situation has also highlighted existing and persisting health inequalities. The heaviest burden of this pandemic will be felt by those facing the greatest economic, health and social inequities.
- Food security: Food is both a necessity and a source of comfort. The financial crisis, closure of social services and increasing pressure on our safety net has resulted in a growing number of Canadians living in hunger.
- Friends: Despite the virtual connections available, for many the inability to connect with friends and family in the same physical space has led to isolation and loneliness. Humans need connection.
- Ceremony/tradition (graduation, funerals, weddings):The traditional markers for milestones have been cancelled or shifted online, leaving many with unresolved feelings.
- Stability/safety: The home environment does not provide safety and security for everyone. Cases of domestic and child abuse are currently on the rise.
- Sense of personal freedom: While physical distancing measures are now a necessity, they may leave individuals feeling like a prisoner in their own homes.
- Future dreams: With the turmoil of the pandemic, many have put future plans and hopes on hold. This loss of hope can be particularly painful.
- Death: Many have lost a family member or friend to COVID-19.
- Academic stability: For parents and students alike, the added stress of homeschooling, concerns about impact on their future education and uncertainty of when and how schools will reopen has created great strain.
But how do we manage all of this loss and still do what we need to do in our daily lives?
- Name it. In naming our feelings as grief, we can begin to understand the underlying emotions it brings and address them. Emotions are not right or wrong. However, we need to recognize that we’ll experience such feelings as denial, anger, frustration and sadness, and that we need to feel the depths of our pain in order to work through our grief. Responses to loss and how people experience and express grief vary greatly by individual. It’s also important to remember grief is a process, not an event or a race. With support and the willingness to do the difficult work, we can get through it.
- Validate it. We need to recognize all feelings and acknowledge them as important without judgement. Suppressing our feelings or feeling guilty for having them doesn’t allow us to take steps to resolve them. Encouraging ourselves and those around us to mourn all losses, big and small, is key.
- To assist in further understanding the difficult journey of grief, Dr. William Worden developed The Four Tasks of Mourning. Again, these are not linear, and everyone’s journey is unique. While the tasks were created around mourning the death of an individual, they can also be applied to other loss.
- They include:
- To accept the reality of the loss.
- Experience and process the pain of grief.
- Adjust to the world without the deceased or with the loss.
- Find a way to maintain a connection to the deceased/loss, while embarking on your own life.
- They include:
- Celebrate the good. While COVID-19 has brought great uncertainty and loss, we can also find meaning in the good it may have brought into our lives: closer ties, time for reflection, realization of what is important to us and what our priorities are. Spending time writing in a journal and acknowledging the things for which we’re grateful can be a simple yet valuable exercise.
- At a time when life feels particularly chaotic, setting a routine is important and ensures we have a mixture of social, physical and educational activities in our day. Routine doesn’t mean rigidity, but it can offer a sense of control.
- Self-care. Time constraints still exist. Virtual work, study, child and elder care, and even socializing can result in a hectic schedule. Ensure there’s still time for self-care (however that may look). Taking a walk, exercising and meditating are all ways we can be kind to ourselves. A sample meditation is available here.
- Avoid comparing. It’s easy to compare ourselves to individuals who are coping differently with the current situation. Especially when we’re already feeling low, it can drain us of our limited energy and can lead to resentment towards others and towards ourselves. Instead, focus on your own strengths and coping strategies. Listing your strengths and issues you have overcome is an effective way of highlighting and celebrating your own ability to cope.
- Lean on friends/family. Encouraging students to socialize virtually is important. Free applications like Zoom and FaceTime provide a platform for human connection. For those that have developed “Zoom fatigue,” a simple phone call may provide that needed human connection.
- Seek support. Now more than ever, it’s important to reach out and seek the support of professionals. Find information on services available through the Canadian Mental Health Association here.
Although the Pandemic is taking a toll on all of us, there was some good that happened in 2020! see below for an article about some of the good that came from an unprecedented year:
Looking for more resources on coping with grief and loss during the pandemic? see below: