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

Denial

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

Anger

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

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

Depression

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

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 Memories

  • 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.

Wrapping Up

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!

983 Comments
  • Patricia Cramer
    Posted at 20:25h, 16 January

    Grief is so difficult.god bless my sister in law

  • Roger
    Posted at 11:48h, 15 January

    Good information

  • Rosalina Pacificar
    Posted at 17:51h, 14 January

    Thank you.

  • Eric Pittenger
    Posted at 15:10h, 14 January

    A helpful review and reminder to remain open to others as they go through this process.

  • Dan Washburn
    Posted at 12:26h, 14 January

    Thanks

  • anthony+cade
    Posted at 08:31h, 14 January

    thank you

  • Samara Jones
    Posted at 21:43h, 13 January

    Thanks

  • Rose Varnum
    Posted at 21:19h, 13 January

    Thank you. Good information

  • Pamela Vaughn
    Posted at 20:10h, 13 January

    Thanks

  • Zach Brammer
    Posted at 18:48h, 13 January

    Thanks!

  • William C Potter II
    Posted at 14:52h, 13 January

    Very helpful. Thanks!

  • Debra+Williams
    Posted at 13:54h, 13 January

    Great article. I have had to deal with covid deaths
    In my family.

  • Christopher Voss
    Posted at 13:35h, 13 January

    Thank you

  • Aaron Shapiro
    Posted at 13:23h, 13 January

    Thank You

  • Jonathan Pearson
    Posted at 13:13h, 13 January

    Great thanks

  • Julie stangel
    Posted at 12:52h, 13 January

    True

  • Tamara Owens
    Posted at 03:06h, 13 January

    Thanks for the information

  • Melchora Shores
    Posted at 02:35h, 13 January

    This is very good topic for all of us , knowing the World are fighting these demons virus who hurts the whole world, Thank you

  • Stella Stanley
    Posted at 00:32h, 13 January

    Thank you

  • Jill Berg
    Posted at 00:13h, 13 January

    Thank you for this information

  • Arlou Dia
    Posted at 00:06h, 13 January

    Thank you

  • Bryan C Chavolla
    Posted at 20:28h, 12 January

    good read

  • Amanda Albin
    Posted at 18:25h, 12 January

    Thank u

  • Brian Bailey
    Posted at 10:04h, 12 January

    Good info.

  • Vesna Corlukic
    Posted at 22:22h, 11 January

    Great info!