Losing something or someone is hard. Letting go and accepting it is even harder.
During this pandemic, many of us have experienced losses—of jobs, of family members, of friends, of security, of relationships, of our sense of who we are and how our world works. With every loss, grief is a natural reaction that needs time and space to work through our systems.
Psychologist at Uplift Psychological Services, Dr Katherine Stewart, notes:
‘Loss is a natural consequence of life. The loss of your house in a bushfire, the loss of a loved one to Covid-19, the loss of a beloved pet, a career, a marriage, cultural identity, or the loss of health. At the heart of loss sits grief, the emotional territory that has no map that clearly defines the nature and guidelines of the grieving process. While researchers, including Swiss-American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, have attempted to identify the stages of grief, their models are often seen as general, linear and limited. They can miss the uniqueness of a person’s own expression of grief, whether it’s personal or cultural. People can grieve for days, years or a lifetime. Some people express their grief by crying endlessly, while others hold their breath and swallow hard, and others use their faith to calm the waters. Whichever way grief is expressed, it is all part of the human process’.
There is no one way to grieve and no quick-fix balm that will ease the pain indefinitely. Many times, your grief will subside only to reappear uninvited when a trigger or experience sets it off. It is said that time heals all wounds but some wounds are healed in waves. In the realm of losing a loved one, the current situation of social distancing and the inability to carry out the normal funeral processes can make it even more difficult to work through the maze of grief.
To help you, we have put together some ideas of ways to deal with the loss of a loved one and to grieve in a healthy way. These will not take away the pain, but they may help you to manage it in a way that does the least damage to your psyche.
Say goodbye in your own special way
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one recently, you probably wouldn’t have been able to say goodbye in the usual way that your culture dictates due to social distancing. If that is the case, try to create a space to say goodbye in a way that is meaningful to you. Whether that is lighting a candle and thinking of your good memories of the person, or going for a walk in nature and speaking out loud to them, or perhaps creating a tribute of some sort to them. Saying goodbye will help give you the closure you need.
Plan a memorial service
As funerals cannot be carried out in the traditional manner at the moment, see if it’s possible to livestream the service and send digital messages to be shared with others. Plan to have a proper memorial service when COVID-19 is done so that you can have some peace in knowing that, for now, you are doing the best you can in the circumstances to honour the person.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
As we have mentioned, there is no right way to grieve, no set timeline that is acceptable, and different people deal with things in different ways. Grief is a natural process and you are completely entitled to move through it at your own pace and in your own way. Try not to judge yourself too harshly if it takes you longer to get back to ‘normal’ again because that normal no longer exists. Your world has changed irrevocably and what you go on to create is a new normal.
It’s important to reach out to your support system. If you cannot see them face-to-face, the beauty of technology is that you can still video call and message. If you need time alone, let them know. If you need daily messages of moral support, let them know. Part of being human is our need and sense of community and you can and should draw on your community in times of loss.
When you are going through a loss, remember to give yourself simple pleasures and distractions to keep yourself afloat. Physical nurture like massages, exercise, good food, and mental nurturing like meditations, praying, reading books or articles that either inspire you or help you to process your feelings, can all help you to get through the most painful times. Sometimes writing things down can help. Journaling may take the turmoil out of your mind for a while and put it onto paper instead. None of these will eliminate the grief, but they go a long way to helping you to take breaks from it so that you can survive it.
Overall, give yourself time and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. You are not alone in your experience but it can sometimes feel that way. If you are struggling to get through it on your own and find that friends and family do not know how to help you, perhaps consider talking to a grief counsellor or psychologist (see blogs on how to find a psychologist and how to get a Mental Health Care plan). You can also find support in bereavement groups here: https://grief.com/group-resources/