Grief during COVID-19

Distancing measures and social isolation make grief even more challenging.

The reason I talk so much about ‘healthy’ grieving is because I know from personal experience how debilitating unhealthy grieving can be. I also know one of the factors contributing to unhealthy grieving is isolation. In these times of distancing and  isolation, what can we do to try and make sure our grief is healthy? And how do we support our family and friends who are grieving?

A few months after my dad died, I moved to Abu Dhabi with my partner and our children. While our time did end up being a great experience, the first year was the most challenging of my life. I had travelled a lot and always wanted to live overseas with my children, but the timing was really difficult. There was no one there who knew that my father had just died of cancer, that I’d spent the last couple of years watching him go in and out of surgery, facing the many challenges, sitting with him through his final months. There was no one there who knew that both my parents were now dead, and I was the adult in my life. There was no one who had known my dad.

When you’re meeting new people, making new friends, you don’t really want to start the conversation: ‘oh, and by the way, my dad died a few months ago, do you mind if I spend the next hour crying in front of you?’ So although I could still go out and about in the world in ways we can’t at the moment, I was extremely isolated at a time when I needed people more than I’d ever needed them before.

So the first thing I want to say to you if you’ve come across this blog post is: I see you. I don’t pretend that I truly understand what you’re going through at the moment. But I know that if you are facing the death of someone you loved then you are probably finding it more confusing, more overwhelming and more lonely than a death in more normal times. 

I am currently writing some more lengthy pieces on grief and grieving, but in the meantime, I thought it might be useful to provide some links to some articles I’ve read recently that might help you to understand what’s happening, and point the way to some good advice and useful resources.

  • First of all, beyond blue has this comprehensive list of national help lines and websites, offering:  immediate help if you are in a crisis situation; information; counselling; and referrals.
  • From The Irish Hospice Foundation, a great series of pieces about dealing with grief during COVID-19: one about grieving in exceptional times; an article about supporting teenagers who are experiencing grief at this time; one about helping children; and one about planning a funeral in exceptional times.
  • This article on The Verge gives an overview of some of the challenges you might be facing, and has some links to useful information. It’s reasonably light-on, but it’s a good place to start.
  • This article on a site about Jewish mourning and this one from an Archdiocese both have some good suggestions for ways to support people you know who are grieving.

I will update this list as more is published. If you are in Adelaide or South Australia and looking for help to organise a funeral or memorial service, there is more information on my website here or please feel free to get in touch by phone, email or through the contact page, details here.