5 tips for coping with loss in a time of isolation
Patient & Family Supportive Services Coordinator - Hospice
Under normal circumstances grief can commonly be an intensely isolating experience. Everyone around the world is experiencing such rapid changes affecting their everyday lives and routines, creating a tsunami of collective loss and grief. Experiencing the death of a loved one during these unprecedented times creates a unique and intense grieving experience and requires people to adapt their coping strategies, rituals, and self-care to comply with necessary social distancing.
Here are some tips and tools for coping through this difficult time:
Rituals which the bereaved normally rely on such as funerals, and visiting loved ones to say goodbye are commonly being taken away from us due to pandemic restrictions. This loss of formal rituals can make the loss of your loved one seem surreal and even more difficult to accept. Remind yourselves that once it is safe to do so you can go ahead with Celebration of Life ceremonies and in-person gatherings. Although postponing these formal rituals is difficult, it is the right and a necessary thing to do. In the meantime, create your own rituals in a safe environment. Alternative options may include lighting a candle in remembrance, writing a letter of the things you did not get a chance to say, planting a memorial tree or asking people on social media to share stories about your loved one.
Support is needed more than ever for those who have experienced a loss. Communicating with others about your grief experience assists you in making sense out of a life that may have ended in a way that doesn’t make sense to you. Expressing the wide variations of emotions that come along with your grief experience is absolutely necessary. Do not bottle things up. Have a plan of who you can reach out to, and schedule regular check-in calls. Understand that people offer different types of support. Reflect on the ways each person in your life is able to support you. Emotional, spiritual, informational, practical and esteem support are crucial in supporting you during the grieving experience.
Everyone is enduring stress and unpredictability during this time. Adding grief on top of already existing stress amplifies these feelings. Give yourself permission to take breaks from your grief to focus on other areas of stress. Financial stress, risk or loss of employment, and keeping you and your family safe all require some of your time and attention as well. At times, you may not be able to grieve in the moment. This does not mean you should ‘push’ your grief away, but rather, to let those surges of grief come, and then let yourself set them aside, too. If needed, give yourself a designated time each day to focus on your grief.
Force yourself during these stressful times to make self-care a priority. Try to keep a routine. Incorporate some distractions into this routine. Maintain personal hygiene, try to eat at least 3 nutritious meals per day. Read, listen to music, meditate, cook, and spend some time outside in the sun. Do things that you enjoy and bring a sense of comfort and happiness to you.
5. Mental Health
Check-in with yourself daily to monitor your mental health and wellbeing. If you are finding the feelings of stress, anxiousness or depression too much to cope with on your own, seek the help of a professional. Inform your physician of your concerns, and also connect with a professional therapist, social worker, or virtual grief support group for extra support. Having a professional provide guidance on your grieving process can offer you a sense of stability during this time which feels very uncertain.