grieving during COVID-19
Fear and anxiety are common feelings that people may be experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But, there’s another feeling that people may be facing that might be less expected: grief.
People are grieving over cancelled events, job loss and financial strain. They’re also grieving over the future and what our new normal might look like. Mental health experts refer to this as anticipatory grief, a sense of fearful anticipation or the feeling we get when the future is uncertain.
“We are so saddened by the many families affected directly by illness and loss. We also have to recognize collectively that our lives have changed. This crisis has affected everyone and things have changed dramatically and continue to change,” said Mary Beth Dewitt, PhD, chief of psychology at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “Most of us do not like change, so this represents loss to us. And, we question the loss of our predictability and control as events continue to unfold.”
Feelings of grief may occur, even if a person is not physically affected or directly impacted by the virus.
“Even if we are not physically ill, we still have loss. Many are experiencing the loss of jobs, of certainty, of predictability and all of our systems appear to be less stable.”
We know the world around us will never be the same. But, what exactly we’ve lost and will lose is still largely unknown. This can be difficult to come to terms with.
ways to cope
To begin to cope with feelings of grief, it helps to first identify and recognize how we are feeling.
“All of us are experiencing uncertainty, so recognizing and talking about it can help. We should try to maintain routine and remain connected to others, even if it is virtually for now.”
Dr. DeWitt cautions that children tend to take the lead from the adults in the lives. So, it’s important that adults recognize their own emotions, talk about it and model appropriate coping behaviors.
“It may be good to start a conversation with our children to allow them to ask questions and begin to identify how they may be feeling with all of the changes and uncertainty,” said DeWitt. “It is also important to develop a new sense of normal and establish routines at home. Find new and creative ways to stay connected and engaged with others.”
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