Why We Feel Grief in the Midst of COVID-19, and Why That’s OK

By Anne Peters, LMFT

Hello! I hope this blog finds you well, and I hope you are doing OK. I say that with the most sincerity. This blog looks a little different than my prior posts. I’m not going to offer five tips or tricks, and we are going to sit in something that does not feel good: grief. Over the last several months, we have experienced a new kind of grief. We are grieving lives that we had a few months ago, and grieving lives that may never look the same. This grief is so significant. For our entire lives, we have grown to know and understand our world, and it’s changing in ways we could have never predicted. Trouble sleeping? Lack of appetite or over-eating? Shortened fuse and easily agitated? Overall feeling of being flattened or that your battery needs recharged by 9 a.m.? Let’s put a name to the root of the problem – grief.

As I reflected on this grief, I kept finding myself recognizing the losses we can actually see, but also the losses that are out of sight and intangible. We have all experienced loss in one way or another during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s really lay out some of the tangible losses we can see day by day: job losses, school closings, restrictions of church and community physical gatherings, lack of social gatherings, and cancelling or postponing important events in life like weddings, concerts, and travel plans. Right along with that, we haven’t been able to have regular face-to-face interactions and physical touch from those outside our home. I’m an adult with many coping skills, but nothing compares to a hug from my mom when times are stressful. What’s more stressful than a worldwide pandemic? Let’s get real. This feels hard.

Now, let’s reflect on those losses that we cannot see, but certainly feel. Something I think we have all felt is a loss of control. Boy, there’s a whole bunch we have lost control over. Outside of that, we are experiencing a loss of predictability, safety, security, and for some (college kids, I’m thinking of you), we’ve lost independence. Outside of this, I’m imagining the grief if you or someone you know has contracted COVID-19 or those who have lost a loved one to the illness. I’m thinking of you, too.

Seeing all of our losses laid out like that feels overwhelming, defeating, and heavy. Can we now understand the power of this pandemic on our mental health? The stages of grief rarely follow a specific order, and we don’t all grieve the same way or experience all the stages. The stages of grief are shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance. I know for me, I’ve experienced several of these over the last several months. And you know what? That’s OK. We are in the midst of a traumatic event, and I truly believe we are doing the best that we can with what we’ve got.

Grief is real. It’s really, really real. I challenge you to reflect on what you’re grieving right now, and validate yourself that it’s OK to feel that way. Then, I want you to reflect on three things you are going to think about differently once all of this is done. What are you most looking forward to? What will you value a little more? For me, it’s my mom’s hugs (sorry mom, so many coming your way). It’s community supporting community. It’s simply being with; being with my family, being with my friends, being with my coworkers, and being with my town. I’ll speak for myself, but I anticipate my outlook on life is going to be overflowing with gratitude and grace.

We are here with you and ready to support you in whatever ways you need. If you would like to talk with someone on our clinical team about your feelings of grief, please reach out to us. Visit LSIowa.org/therapy to learn more and call 888.457.4692 to get started.

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