Loss and Mourning in times of COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed everything around us. The complete social structure has been forced to undergo a massive change. Death was believed to be the ultimate leveller; it treated everyone the same. But due to the pandemic, even that has changed. You can postpone marriages, cancel travel plans, but cannot do that with birth and death. People who lost their loved ones during the past few months have had a very difficult time dealing with their loss. The forced, and much needed, restrictions on public gatherings made it even more difficult as many of the family members could not be present at the crematoriums to attend the funeral rites. The rites and rituals associated with death ceremonies prevalent in all cultures across the globe were primarily established with the purpose of providing a strong social support to the grieving individual/family so that it helps them to adapt to life without the deceased. It was even worse for those who lost their loved one to COVID-19 as in many cases, they were not allowed to touch or even see the deceased as they were taken to be cremated directly from the hospitals to prevent the spread of infection. Not being able to touch or see your deceased relative, being unable to hug the other people who are grieving can leave a lasting emotional impact. 

In addition to all this, the unfortunate stigma arising from the mysterious nature of the virus and false information floating all over social media left the grieving family members feeling isolated and ostracised by the society. As Alice Byrne writes, “there is an acute sense of emptiness when you are forced to grieve in solitude.” It is in fact, in challenging times like these we need to support each other the most. Losing someone to death affects each one of us in a different way. Anxiety and a sense of helplessness are two things that most people experience. Feelings of anger and denial are also experienced in the early stages of grief cycle. The sadness creeps in eventually. The process of grief is a natural one and people should be encouraged to process or express it, rather than suppressing it. If these emotions are not processed/expressed appropriately, they can lead to complex mental and/or physical problems.  Hence, here are few useful ways for you to cope well during these challenging times: 

1. Let yourself mourn and cry for your loss. There is no shame in crying, even if you are a male. Talk about your feelings with a close friend or family member. Some people even prefer to write down their feelings in a diary which gives them an outlet and helps to channelize their emotions which can be extremely therapeutic. 

2. When you feel sad, do not try to avoid it. Feeling sad is a natural and healthy part of the process of grieving. Instead of hiding your sadness under the mask, acknowledge it and let yourself feel sad for the loss you’ve experienced. 

3. Talk to other family members about the good memories you have of the deceased. It will help you mourn, give a sense of closure, and keep their memories alive. Arrange for virtual prayer meets as group gatherings are not allowed; knowing that he/she was loved by so many people would give you the strength you need during this difficult phase. 

4. Feelings of self-pity can come quite automatically at such a time, but do not encourage it as it would do you more harm than good in the long run. 

5. Take care of your sleep. Emotional strain makes one tired and hence, undisturbed sleep is very much essential for your health. Make sure to sleep and wake up everyday at a set time. Take a healthy and balanced diet; eat light but have all meals. 

6. Seek professional help as it would help you to deal with the situation appropriately and in healthy ways. Grief Counselling and Supportive Therapy are widely practised by psychotherapists as they help an individual better adapt to their changed situation. Through therapy, all the emotions are processed appropriately, the person goes through the grief cycle and adapts well to his/her life’s changed circumstances after the loss. 

7. Stay away from addictive substances.  Do not consume too much alcohol or any other addictive substance. It may temporarily numb the pain, but afterwards, you will feel worse.

8. Build Resilience as it is a protective and healthy trait when it comes to handling difficult circumstances.

9. Acceptance of what has happened, no matter how hard or painful, is the ultimate way of handling and growing from it.