Loss in the Time of COVID: How to Cope & Support Loved Ones
Losing a loved one is amongst many people's deepest fears. The passing of someone we care about, whether it's a family member or a friend, can be unbearably painful. The one glimmer of positivity during a loss, however, is that the bereaved are typically surrounded by their support system. People show up with homemade dishes, attend memorials, and lend an patient ear.
Now, however, that isn't always an option with social distancing still a necessity in many areas due to COVID-19. This is particularly true when a household member passes from COVID and the rest of the family needs to be in quarantine.
In this post, we're going to discuss how dealing with the death of a loved one during COVID-19 and supporting your friends who lose someone is different than before, and what you can do instead.
How COVID Has Changed How We Cope with Passings
This is a question that many have been struck with for the first time since COVID-19 started making its way around the world: How are you supposed to comfort a grieving widower when no one can be around him since he tested positive for the same virus that took his wife?
Even if neither party was contagious with COVID, in areas with active outbreaks, it's still not safe for everyone to gather. This is particularly true when there's an immunocompromised or high-risk family member.
During active outbreaks or if a family member is positive, it's just not safe to gather around a bereaved loved one the way we normally would. Memorials may not even be possible; if they are, they might be for immediately-family only.
This is particularly true since family gatherings are one of the biggest causes of COVID-19 spreading, with people letting their guard (and their masks) down around people they trust. It's important to remember, however, that most people have several days where they're sick and contagious before they become symptomatic; someone could be sick without realizing it, putting the entire gathering at risk.
How to Cope if You’ve Lost Someone from COVID
If you've had to go through the devastating experience of losing someone you love from COVID-19 or during lock downs, we see you. Isolation following a loss can feel impossible and be overwhelming.
Accept company however you can. Sit on the phone with friends or family, or hop on FaceTime. Consider setting up a movie night with friends using apps like Scener that allows everyone to tune in and watch remotely.
If you have a pet, make the most of that. Hug them, and consider let them sleep in bed with you. Get affection where you can.
If you know that you aren't positive for COVID and have someone you trust who you believe has been safely social distancing, form a "pod" so you can spend time with people you love in-person. If you have a child who is struggling with the loss, this can give them someone else to reach out to, too.
Look for online therapy and grief support groups as well. These can be exceptionally valuable, and therapists are widely offering online sessions right now.
How to Help Someone Experiencing a Loss from COVID
If someone that you care about is experiencing a loss from COVID and you're unable to see them in person, there are a few things that you can do to help.
First and foremost, just be there for them. Be on the other end of the phone, text chain, or FaceTime session. Let them know that you're there when they need it.
Send practical gifts like gift cards for food delivery or grocery delivery, especially if they're stuck social distancing and are unable to go themselves.
Personalized memorial gifts are also a great choice, which show that you care and can help honor the life that was lost. Options include personalized wind chimes, memorial stones, and or sympathy care packages with a compassionate note.
Last but definitely not least, help them find the resources that they need. This may include helping them arrange a burial or even to find help for their child's difficulty with online learning. Something even as simple as hiring someone to mow their lawn if it was a housemate's or spouse's job can be an enormous relief.
Losing someone you love (or supporting someone you care about through their loss) is never easy, but COVID has made the grieving process significantly harder for a large number of people this year. Ultimately, finding connections and support however you can-- even if it's at a distance-- is essential to facilitating the healing process.
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