The Loss and Grief of COVID-19: Real Challenges and Practical Suggestions
Life as we know it has been drastically altered by COVID-19 with worry about whether the world will ever be the same and anxiety about illness and even death cast over daily life. The losses in our daily lives are many including losing the presumption of health to the expectancies of daily life including food security for some. Grief is a normal process through which we all come to cope with and heal from losses in our lives. The work of grief includes: 1) expressing and regulating strong emotions; 2) shifting focus from the real to the remembered; and 3) internalizing and holding the good and positives that were part of lost relationships and experiences. Unfortunately, some of our friends and family may die from COVID-19 and both adults and children will have to process the grief as described above. For most, the grief related to COVID-19 will likely be temporary and more elusive related to missing what we had and did, much of which may return even in a way that is somewhat different and we will adjust to the “new normal”. While most people will not have to face the finality of death, but rather their familiar lives being disrupted and tinged with fear and anxiety. However, for those who must face the absolute grief that comes with loss of a loved one, it is important to provide more support through rituals and other means even if it must be provided virtually at this time.
In this webinar, the discussion focused on the nature of grief surrounding COVID-19 recognizing that grief has no timeline and every pattern of grieving is individual. The presentation provided real and practical suggestions and advice related to how to cope as a family and how to talk to, listen to and help children adjust and be supported. A combination of topic-specific presentations by each presenter and discussion among the presenters was used to present the material in ways that are practical and helpful. Some of the topics discussed were: the developmentally based expectable reactions of young children to the losses of COVID, how to talk to children about illness and death, the importance of structure, schedules and rituals in a time of change, the normalcy of anxiety with uncertainty, the importance of co-regulation in helping children manage emotions and behavior, the self-healing and regulatory power of play, how to cope as a parent, and the critical importance of culture and ethnic traditions in mourning.