04 Jan Grief in the Time of COVID-19
The New Year is a time for optimism and hope. A time of resolutions. A time to be proactive. So an article about grief probably doesn’t scream “Happy New Year!” to you—and that’s understandable.
But the truth is, grief now plays a bigger role of our daily lives. COVID-19 has claimed the lives of over 5.4 million people globally. In the United States alone, we have lost approximately 820,000 people to the disease.
The Delta variant ravaged the world just as we were getting accustomed to the idea of “returning to normal” (remember Hot Vax Summer?). And now the Omicron variant, which is four times more transmissible than Delta, is spreading across the globe at a startling speed.
(The good news about omicron is that its symptoms are less severe—especially amongst the vaccinated and boosted—and has the potential to turn COVID-19 from a pandemic to an endemic.)
Chances are, you know someone who has been sickened and possibly died from the coronavirus. How do you deal with that? First, let’s look at grief and its stages.
The 5 Stages of Grief
When in the midst of denial, the first stage, you create and cling to a false reality:
- There must be some mistake
- The diagnosis is wrong
- This isn’t really happening
When denial passes, anger arrives.
Anger can manifest in many forms, such as lashing out at loved ones (or anyone nearby). What anger does is it creates a connection to the reality that denial had blocked. It provides an anchor, a focal point, a distraction from the painful circumstances you’re forced to endure.
Bargaining is focused on regret and best described as the stage in which you use a lot of “if only” statements.
- If only I did more to help them
- If only I’d encouraged getting vaccinated
- If only I could trade my life for theirs
By this point, most people know about or have experienced depression, and it is the stage of grief that can be the most difficult to overcome. That’s because when you’re stuck in a depressive cycle, you feel incapable of doing much of anything. You separate yourself from friends and loved ones—the types of emotional support you need the most.
Acceptance does not mean the emotional pain of loss goes away. It just means you are no longer denying it, angry about it, trying to bargain your way away from it, or cocooned in depression over it. Think of acceptance as the point where your healing begins, not when your grief ends. By the time you’ve reached the acceptance stage, you are better equipped with the right emotional tools to navigate a future without the person you have lost.
How to Deal with COVID-related Grief
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some excellent resources specifically geared towards overcoming grief related to COVID-19.
Here are some pointers directly from the CDC:
Connect with People
- Invite friends to call you
- Host video calls
- Write emails
- Create a virtual memory book
- Build a website
- Plant a tree to honor your lost loved one
Ask for Help
- Seek out grief counseling
- Call your Proactive Health Management Health Coach 1-855-498-4643
- Use your PHMP Membership to connect with a behavioral health specialist—for a $0 co-pay—on the MDLIVE app (Android and iOS).
Check out the CDC website for the full list.
There are many ways to handle grief, and it’s sad to say, but many of us will need these resources in the coming days, months, and years. Despite the inherent gloominess of this week’s Knowledgebase Article, there is hope here.
If you have any helpful tips on how you’ve handled the grieving process, leave them in the comments section—you never know how much your personal insight may help others unless it’s shared!