08 Apr Coping With Loss From The COVID-19 Pandemic
Coping with loss from the COVID-19 pandemic is an exceptionally harrowing and emotionally devastating for people. Not only do they have to process the solitary nature of the passing, but they also have restrictions which curtail how they may have wished to honour and remember their loved ones at funerals. In addition, Social Isolation means people cannot physically visit to offer condolence as would be the typical Irish funeral tradition.
A harsh reality of care provision to older people in the community is the dual experience of grief from the loss of someone you have looked after, and also being exposed to the sadness and grief of their family you have come to know as well.
The feelings that may emerge with grief include shock, fear, anger as well as upset and tearful sadness. These feelings can be very intense in the early days and weeks following a bereavement. Grief is the normal response to loss and it is important to acknowledge that people need support at times to cope with processing loss.
Funeral traditions & COVID-19
Traditionally in Ireland, the rituals around funeral and burial provide the opportunity for people to offer condolences, share stories with friends and family and all those who have known the deceased. This provides comfort to people to have ceremonies to pay tribute to the person they have lost – the wake, the funeral and then the months mind. Usually, there are gatherings where people get to laugh, cry and even sing enjoy some food and company of their loved ones to mourn the passing.
With COVID-19 restrictions it is no longer possible to have large gatherings including funerals. It may also be impossible to have people come to the home to offer condolences. However, it is so important for people to support each other and we must find new ways to reach out to people.
- Complete the on-line condolence on RIP.ie, phone, send an email or text to let them know you are thinking of them
- Video conferencing via Zoom or WhatsApp makes it easy to connect visually and is easy to set up – a listening ear is needed for the weeks and months ahead
- Send a Card – either leave it outside the house or post it.
- Offer practical help: shopping in the current environment is difficult – ask them what they need when you go to the shop
Self-care strategies at times of loss
At times of loss self- care is especially important to help cope– for yourself you need to:
- Talk to people – let family and friends know how you are feeling make sure to telephone someone every day.
- Engage with the texts, emails and social media – WhatsApp & Facebook
- Try to keep a normal routine for yourself – getting up, meal-times and bed-time
- Do things/activities you like to do – gardening, You-Tube has Yoga, Pilates, Art classes, crafting, a jigsaw anything to distract you.
- Look after your own health – Eat and keep hydrated
- Try to keep a positive approach
- Seek out humour in TV, Books, People you know
- Limit your exposure to depressing News and Social Media
Reactions to grief and loss are different for everyone and can be physical and emotional. There are no set timelines for ‘recovery’. Everyone is different.
Reach out for Support
There can be situations when grief can become overwhelming. If you are experiencing any of the following – it is time to reach out and ask for support:
- Feelings of helplessness, confusion, sadness, anger, anxiety, apathy and stress.
- Withdrawing from relationships
- Difficulty concentrating on tasks or interacting with others.
- Avoiding social activities.
- Lack of motivation to do things that you usually enjoy.
- Not eating or sleeping properly.
- A sense of not being ‘in control’ of your own thoughts, feelings or behaviour.
- Loss of confidence
- Physical illness.
There are support resources to assist with coping with loss and bereavement available here at The Irish Hospice Foundation
The most important thing for you to remember is to BE KIND TO YOURSELF and accept that You can only do what You can do.