Grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19

February 17, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Within the past year, it’s possible you or someone you know has lost a loved one to COVID-19.

In the summer of 2020, a group of sociologists estimated that nine people will experience the loss of a close relative (defined as a grandparent, parent, sibling, child or spouse) with each COVID-19 death, according to a December article in the Washington Post Magazine.

But our grief is not just limited to the loss of life. The pandemic has brought job loss, changes to how our children go to school or how we work, concern over the loss of freedoms, restrictions on gatherings and changes to our former daily routines — all of which may bring on feelings of grief.

“People wonder why they’re feeling sad, anxious and angry,” Pauline Boss, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota who is writing a book with the working title “Ambiguous Loss in the 2020 Pandemic,” said in the Washington Post article. “It’s because we’re grieving.” We are grieving our normal lives.

Grief can cause us to feel numb, angry or unable to feel joy or sadness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some reactions of grief may include anger, disbelief, shock, sadness or anxiety. Loss of appetite or difficulty sleeping are also common symptoms of grief.

The traditional ways of dealing with grief after the loss of a loved one have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and those changes can compound our sense of grief.

Funerals or visitations are limited. Gathering with friends or family to offer support to each other following a loss has become difficult during times of social distancing. Many people were unable to be with their sick loved ones in their final moments due to visitation restrictions at hospitals.

If you’re mourning the loss of a loved one to COVID-19, it is important to find a way to recognize your grief and find outlets to help you deal with your sense of loss.

Early in 2021, the nation mourned together as ceremonies were held across the nation to remember those lost to COVID-19. The Washington Post article noted memorials have sprung up across the country to honor the lives lost, as have support groups for those mourning the loss of a loved one or other losses due to COVID-19.

In Park Ridge, a city council member suggested the city create a memorial to those lost to COVID-19, according to an article in the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate. The City of Chicago also developed a virtual memorial to remember those lost to the virus.

If you’ve lost a loved one to COVID-19, or if you’ve experienced another loss related to the pandemic, here are some ways to work through your grief:

  • Find ways to honor your lost loved one. For example, put together a memory book or a virtual memorial online filled with photos and stories of your loved one.
  • Ask others to share their stories about your loved one.
  • Make time to participate in an activity that has some significance to you and the loved one who died.
  • Stay connected with friends and family. Talk to a trusted friend or relative about your loss.
  • Consider creative outlets, such as art, music or writing, to help deal with your grief.
  • Develop a daily routine. This can help provide a sense of purpose and normalcy. Be sure to schedule time in your day to do something you enjoy or connect with family or friends.
  • Maintain healthy sleep habits, a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine.

If your grief continues and hinders your ability to carry out daily functions, consider seeking professional support through a counselor or therapist. Get help from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we know that over the past year, many people are struggling with grief associated with losing someone to COVID-19. We want to help. Edward-Elmhurst Health is offering complimentary COVID-19 Loss Support Groups for adults ages 18+ who are struggling with the loss of a loved one to COVID-19. 

These 90-minute support group sessions are held once a week for six weeks virtually, using Zoom, and are facilitated by members of our Spiritual Care Services team who are experienced in supporting those who have suffered loss. Groups will have a minimum of five people and a maximum of 10. Morning, mid-day and evening sessions are available.

If you would like to join a group, please email covidsupportgroup@eehealth.org or call 331-221-0879 with the following information:

  • Your name and relationship to the deceased
  • Your email, home address and phone number
  • Preference of participation in morning, mid-day or evening

You will receive a reply within 24-48 hours. Session login information will be provided upon registration confirmation.

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