How to deal with the grief of losing a loved one during a lockdown
Your health — and the health of those around you — should take priority right now and needs to be kept in mind even while grieving.
Losing a loved one is always hard. And grieving can be extremely complicated, even when everything is normal. Add to that the current environment, and the loss can be even harder on those left behind, physically as well as mentally, than in usual circumstances.
Grief can be all-encompassing. It can take over every aspect of your life for a while - but going through a pandemic means you can’t let that happen yet. Your health — and the health of those around you — should take priority right now and needs to be kept in mind even while grieving.
So, while it may seem like the last thing you want to do, you can't afford to forget to wash your hands or put on your mask because of how you’re feeling.
Yet no hardship lasts forever and this pandemic, the resulting lockdowns and the uncertainty will all be over someday. And then there will be time to gather your friends and family and let them help you heal. You have to make sure you’re healthy when that day comes. So if you want to completely postpone the grieving process - that’s okay, too. Just figure out your needs at the moment and take it day-by-day. There is no rush.
Honour the person you lost
There are many ways to say goodbye to a loved one. Different religions and cultures have different practices and rituals. Whether you’re religious or not, these processes can help distract you in the initial days and then help you get closure.
In the time of COVID-19, we’re restricted in terms of the rites we can perform and the number of friends and family who can attend. But there are more and more stories being shared of people who have embraced technology to honour the dead.
For instance, families are coming together virtually to hear the eulogy and share stories of the person they lost. Others still have set up a universal remembrance time for everyone to come online and light a candle. Obviously, it isn't the same as the comfort that comes from a relative hugging you tightly or a friend squeezing your hand, but it’s at least something.
You can also find your own way of honouring the person you have lost - it can be something deeply personal like preparing dinner for a week using their treasured recipes or picking up an activity they loved, like chess or knitting. You can create collages to get framed when the lockdown lifts, write down their life journey in the form of a short story, wear their old jewellery as a reminder that they are still with you, in your heart and memories.
Creative outlets and journaling are known to help deal with trauma and help improve mental health. Grief isn’t about forgetting someone after all - it’s about learning to adapt to a life without them.
Don’t feel guilty
Not being able to say goodbye because of the travel bans has also resulted in a lot of guilt. Under normal circumstances, you may have been able to sit at their bedside and tell (and show) them how much you loved them. Now, even if you know the time is coming, that isn’t always possible. There isn’t anything one can say to you that’ll take that feeling away immediately. But you will eventually find your own way to come to terms with this - until then, remember that your loved ones would never want you to put yourself in harm’s way for this.
Get the help you need
Physical distancing, while the need of the hour, does not keep you from speaking to people. Talk to your friends and family on the phone daily - it doesn’t even have to be about your grief but just about connecting with someone you love. If not them, call up a helpline to speak to someone. Unburden yourself - just having someone listen to you can help.
If your thoughts get too much and your grief begins to interfere with your personal or professional life, please get in touch with a mental health professional. You can set up a video appointment and it’ll just be like regular therapy, where you don’t have to say anything until you’re ready to. Or talk about the other stresses you have in life, work targets or managing your children. If you feel ready after that, you can also discuss your recent loss.
For more information, read our article on How to protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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