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Managing Grief During COVID

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Managing Grief During COVID-19: Real Talk with Therapists

Sudha Wadhwani, Psy.D. – Interview with Kelly Moon, MBA, M.S., mochimag.com

1. For those coping with the death of a loved one during isolation, it is difficult to manage grief when
they know they can’t see the person or gain any sense of closure right now. What are some healthy
ways they can channel this grief?

Connecting with family and your support system, as well as partaking in rituals around the death of a
loved one, are so critical to the healing process. Losing someone dear to you is so painful at any time;
on top of that, at this time we cannot even see who have lost or start the process of healing with
others who share our loss, as we could pre-Covid-19. We cannot embrace or touch our loved one or
receive physical support or hugs from others. On top of that, many who are bereaved have to be
quarantined themselves and worry about their own health and the wellbeing of other family
members. It is too much. What we have to remember is that social distancing does not mean
refraining from social connection. In this temporary, new-normal, it is imperative that we find other
ways to connect. If we cannot have physical in-person support, it is even more critical to have
emotional support in other ways….having Zoom funerals, services, and Shivas, for example. Engaging
in group chats, donations, community service, and other activities to honor your loved one.
Journaling, writing letters, going through photos, making albums, listening to special songs, cooking
special foods, lighting candles. Allowing yourself time and space to heal. Making sure to be kind to
yourself and reach out for support and connection with your faith or community.

2. We often hear about the 7 stages of grief (shock, disbelief, helplessness, regret, guilt, anger,
sadness). Is it possible to experience some stages and not others? (For example, 3 days shocked, 0 days guilty.)

What is very important about Kubler Ross’s stages is that they are not linear. They can happen in any
order, vary by the day, or even shift by the moment. They can happen all at the same time. It is
important to allow yourself to feel what you feel, and when you feel it. There are no rules to grief.
And no time limit. It is a journey and roller coaster, and ebbs and flows through the years at different
developmental points in your life.

3. Due to stay-at-home orders across the country, a lot of people are experiencing loneliness on top of
grief. How can folks practice mindfulness to get through this difficult time?

Self-compassion and self-care is even more critical at this time. And finding ways to connect in
virtual ways. You are not alone. We are all going through this together. Most support resources are
now virtual. Professional help is available through a range of telehealth and on-line resources.

4. Being at home with family can be complicated and make it even more challenging to cope with grief
during this time when setting healthy boundaries might be necessary. Do you think setting boundaries
is an important step toward healing and managing grief? If so, for those who struggle with setting
healthy boundaries, what advice do you have for them?

It is very important to keep in mind that each member in the family may be grieving in different
ways and that there is no one right way to grieve. Validate and support one another. Listen to
understand each other’s grief journey and give each other space to be where you are, respectively. It
is important to respect each other’s boundaries and need for space at this time. Some may grieve
more outwardly, while others may grieve more inwardly or privately. Some may want to talk about
the loved one who passed. Others may not. Find those members who may be at a similar place as
you are and share your grief process with them. This is not easy in families. Openly communicate
where you are and what you need…and listen to each other.

5. Do you think culture plays a role in how we experience/manage grief?

Culture plays a part of who we are, how we think, and everything we do. One’s faith can be very
helpful in the grief process. It is also a source of community to help you feel connected and less
alone. Join with others in virtual ways so you can provide support to one another.

6. Anything else you’d like to add?

It is healthy to seek help. Be mindful of your expectations of yourself. Allow yourself time to grieve
and feel what you feel. There is no “supposed to” in the grief process. It is a journey.