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.
“We are experiencing a ‘new normal’ and we are not sure what it will look like as we continue to navigate through each day,” said Kimberly Walker, bereavement counseling professional at Ohio’s Hospice of Miami County. “Life may forever be changed from the life we once knew. The familiar is now unfamiliar.”
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 a 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, viewing sad and depressing news coverage on the pandemic only feeds your grief. Instead, disconnect 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 getting 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.