Grief and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Have you lost a loved one due to COVID-19? You’re not alone.

COVID-19 has resulted in a great number of losses for Canadians. The average work environment has had to deal with several changes and the added anxiety, conflict, and grief caused by the pandemic (Plotkin, 2022, p. 6). While lockdowns were in progress, several standard mourning practices—for instance, funerals and memorial services—were restricted by capacity, stopped, or altered significantly. With each change comes a form of loss, and COVID-19 immediately changed how we live. In several jurisdictions, people spent 18 months without in-person entertainment, sports events, or the ability to go out to eat. They were suggested to stay away from large and small gatherings. Compounded with this daily loss is fear; news broadcasts and social media have provided reports on financial insecurity and health uncertainty. As a result, many people have felt isolated, more afraid, and uncertain about the future than ever before (Plotkin et al., 2022).

Grief is considered the mental suffering or distress that a person experiences resulting from loss and regret, while mourning is how individuals outwardly express grief; it is established in their thoughts and behaviours (Plotkin et al., 2022). Additionally, grief is triggered by several other losses and is not limited to the passing of a loved one. Everybody will undergo grief in a personal way, and their reactions arise from their unique emotional makeup, previous life circumstances, and compounded past experiences of loss (pp. 6–8). Typical reactions to grief comprise the following: anger, shock, challenges concentrating and paying attention to tasks, disbelief, confusion, changes to sleeping and eating patterns, headaches, feeling dizzy, problems with stomach digestion, sadness, yearning for the deceased, important memories about and thinking of the person who passed, and withdrawal from regular daily activities.

Anger and impatience may be somewhat understood by the indecision and lack of predictability that Canadians have faced as places of work have lurched from one COVID wave to the next. Grief is a normal and natural process following the passing, but it may be painful to work through. Grief follows its own timeline, and the journey of grief comprises four primary tasks that persons must move through: first, learning to accept the reality of the circumstance; second, learning to process your emotions; third, making adjustments to your life and how you live it, trying to modify it to your new reality; and, fourth, determining a way to uphold a connection to how things were when you are moving on (Plotkin et al., 2022).

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Plotkin, J. (2022). Grief and the echo mental health pandemic. Plans and Trusts, 1(1), 6–10.