Grief & COVID-19: How We Process it and Move Forward

May 13, 2020

COVID-19 is not only an epidemiological crisis, it is a mental health crisis. In addition to the health and financial anxiety much of the population might be experiencing, we are all involved in a collective grieving process.

Our lives “as we knew them” have drastically changed. We are all losing something. With many of our systems destabilizing around us, having certainty about anything may seem impossible. In addition to these systemic losses, far too many are experiencing personal loss of loved ones due to the same cause.

But grief is natural, and most people are resilient. According to grief and loss experts, processing grief is primarily about turning inward and recalibrating. Learning to accept that the world looks different now, and we need to and can adapt. It’s not only okay to feel grief over what we’re losing, it’s necessary to process and move forward. 

As we process our grief for what “once was”, it’s important to know that grief is transient. Many people vacillate between moments of sadness and mourning, and moments of acceptance or happiness. Experts say that those who cope efficiently typically move in and out of those states as they process their grief.

So how do we help this process along? Name it and claim it. Identify specifically what you are grieving, what aspects of your life you have objectively or subjectively lost, and what you can do to strengthen ties to those aspects of your life. Write it down or share with a support person: name what you’re losing, individually or collectively, and write what personal strengths you have to get you through this time.

Remember to maintain social connectedness. During times of disaster, experts have learned of the increased importance of social supports. Check-in with others, schedule phone calls, use FaceTime or ZOOM to remain connected, or share a socially-distanced driveway conversation with your neighbors. Continue to check-in with people as we return to a more normal existence, for many people, this pandemic will have lasting effects, but our connectedness will increase our resilience.