The Coronavirus has brought about lots of changes that required us to quickly adapt our lives. Losing a loved one is always a challenging experience that evokes a multitude of emotions. Losing a loved one in the time of a pandemic can bring along a whole other layer of complications, unexpected feelings and sense of loneliness.
Loss brings about grief, which is a complex mixture of different feelings. It can include pain, hurt, anger, disbelief, guilt, uncertainty, numbness, irritability. You might also notice changes in your behaviour, possible tiredness, less enthusiasm for activities that you enjoyed doing before, forgetfulness or even physical illnesses.
Mourning is the act of “remembering with care and sorrow”. It involves the accepting of the loss, the experiencing of pain and grief, a gradual adjustment to life without the loved one, the reinvesting into other outlets and to find a way of continuing life with the memories we have.
Mourning has a subjective element, where the mourner experiences feelings of grief, and sometimes can be accompanied by an identity crisis of not knowing who we are without them in our lives.
Mourning however also includes a social element as well. Different cultures have different mourning practices however the common theme between them all is communal practices or rituals of mourning, be it the washing of the body, a memorial service or dinner between loved ones.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many who experienced a loss of a loved one during the past few months had limited or no outlet to mourn their loss with others. There may also have been limited opportunities to see them prior to their death to say goodbye. The pandemic restricted the possibility to close the life cycle of the loved one and make it harder to begin the process of transitioning on to a life without them. This can evoke feelings of hurt and despair, even a feeling of not being sure if they died.
This pandemic is therefore challenging us to find new ways of grieving and honouring life. It’s important to find a way of mourning that satisfies the need to face the loss, remembering what was and accepting that some of your mourning rituals may need to be postponed to a later date or changed completely. Technology can be utilised to connect with other mourners to grieve and mourn together, you can organise a memorial service or a virtual funeral service. This need to be creative and finding new ways to mourn might be challenging and tiring however it will support you to not be isolated in your loss.
It’s also important to remember to allow yourself the time to process the deep loss you have suffered, be it by taking time to be on your own or doing activities that you find soothing and comforting. Take the time you need and delay any big decisions you have to make to a later date when you feel more supported.
Feelings of grief are rarely linear and can be cyclical in nature. One moment you can experience pain, the next anger, then a feeling of being able to cope, and then sadness again. This is a normal part of grieving and it can take months to fully accept your new life situation. Remember to seek help from family, friends or even professionals when things become overwhelming or you feel like you cannot cope.
For further information on grief and how to cope with moving on, the British Psychological Society produced a booklet on supporting yourself with coping with grief in the time of Covid-19. This can be accessed by following the following link.
British Psychological Society. (2020). Supporting yourself and others: Coping with grief in the time of Covid-19. https://www.bps.org.uk/sites/www.bps.org.uk/files/Policy/Policy%20-%20Files/Supporting%20yourself%20and%20others.pdf
Sabar, S. (2000). Bereavement, Grief and Mourning: A Gestalt Perspective. Gestalt Review. 4(2). 152-168.
Weir, K. (2020). Grief and Covid-19: Saying goodbye in the age of physical distancing. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/grief-distance
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.