During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are experiencing grief, even though they may not have experienced the death of a loved one or friend. This is known as a living loss. It is important to identify these symptoms and learn ways to navigate grief.
What Is a Living Loss?
A living loss is grief without a death. Because of COVID-19, people have lost a part of their everyday lives as they stay at home and limit in-person socializing. Experiencing grief is not limited to a physical death and is a normal response to the loss of the life one used to live before a life-changing event, such as a pandemic.
“People are adjusting to the change of life as they knew it and expected it. They are trying to cope with uncertainty about the future,” said Bonnie Orlins, bereavement counseling professional at Ohio’s Hospice of Butler & Warren Counties. “While it is important for people to express their fears and concerns, it is equally important for them to take time to focus on what they can do and control, and to take time to notice the positives.”
During this time, people are experiencing a variety of losses, including loss of financial security, loss of control, loss of events (weddings, graduations, parties, etc.), and loss of connection to others. These losses can impact our emotional, mental and physical well-being.
What Are Some Symptoms of Grief?
The grief you feel with a living loss can be similar to the grief you feel with a death. People can feel a variety of grief symptoms including:
- Sadness, heaviness and anxiety
- Problems sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness and problems concentrating
- Change in appetite
If grief is not handled properly, it can settle into a depression.
How Do We Navigate Grief During COVID-19?
Strategies to cope with grief are not one-size-fits-all. Some strategies that have been helpful for others are:
- Acknowledge your grief. People tend to be overwhelmed by something they do not recognize. Recognizing the symptoms and admitting the feeling of grief will help normalize the response. It is OK to grieve, no matter the circumstance.
- Take a break from the news. Whether you’re watching the nightly news or scrolling through social media feeds, continually viewing sad and depressing news coverage on the pandemic may feed into your grief. Consider disconnecting for a time.
- Take care of your body. Some ways you can take care of yourself include exercising, lessening caffeine intake, deep breathing exercises, and allowing time for a good night’s sleep.
- Reach out and connect with others. It is important to have strong social support when you’re experiencing grief. Call or video chat a loved one and check in with people you haven’t heard from in a while.
- Focus on what you can control. Grief often makes us feel out of control. Help empower yourself by not dwelling on things that may or may not happen. Focus on controlling your routine, attitude and self-care.