The current Covid-19 crisis has affected so many aspects of our lives, and that includes our ways of grieving.
Without lockdown, losing a loved one can be one of the most intense and difficult experiences any of us will have to face. Our present condition of lockdown has added new layers to this, affecting our experiences of grief in so many ways.
Grief can be very isolating at any time – we can feel that we are going through something that even our closest friends don’t understand. Now that we are all practicing social isolation, and unable to physically meet others in our family or our closest friends, feelings of isolation might intensify.
While it’s hard to replace the support that physical contact can give, now more than ever, it’s important to find other ways of strengthening social bonds and support, and finding people who are able to listen and understand.
On the flip side of that, we might feel a sense of being in a pressure cooker, as we’re locked down with close family members all going through a range of powerful emotions. It might seem as though we can’t get away from feelings, or that people around us are amplifying what we’re going through.
Grief can bring with it a whole range of intense emotions: sadness, anger, anxiety or dread – or alternatively feeling numb and cut off. Disbelief, guilt, stress, relief, distress and panic are all possible feelings.
From our experience, being in lockdown can intensify emotions: it’s as if there’s no-where else to go with them. Uncertainty over the future, and the sense of general unease which coronavirus has brought, can form a toxic combination which just adds to the stress of grief.
Accepting the feelings you have, recognising them for what they are and rolling with them as best you can, might help normalise some of this brew of emotions. Death is often ignored and denied, and while it can feel helpful and necessary at times to detach yourself from your feelings, the pain you have will need to find expression at some point.
Give yourself moments, if you can, in which you allow your feelings to come without judgement.
It might be helpful, too, to remind yourself that these are very strange times, and the strangeness will amplify your sense of loss and grief. In some ways it is normal to feel weird, and not something to judge or criticise yourself for.
Grief can have an impact on your physical body, lowering your defences. Exercising and looking after your physical health is more important than ever under lockdown.
There are practical aspects of lockdown which will affect your grieving process. Perhaps you have not been able to see your loved one before death, and that might make the whole process seem very unreal. Perhaps you haven’t been able to attend a funeral.
All this can add extra layers of strangeness and difficulty.
If you can, try to find other ways to acknowledge what has happened, and memorialise the person who has died. Gather photographs, write down memories, perhaps find a shared online space where you and your family can share mementos and thoughts.
Rituals of grieving are very important, and people are looking to new and creative ways to grieve together. Perhaps you can find some of your own.
Finally, the crisis has brought with it a sense of community grief. We grieve for all those who have died of coronavirus, and the communities who are suffering as a result. We will, all of us, need time to process this grief, and find meaning, healing and hope afterwards.
Here at Grief Matters, we are holding hands – metaphorically! – with all the people and communities who have suffered loss, and we hope that, as we come through these hard times, we can all find new ways to comfort and heal together.
The Grief Matters Southwark team.