The COVID-19 pandemic has caused grief and mourning for a lot of people. I have had a number friends die from this pandemic. I couldn’t attend a lot of their memorial services. At age 70 I have a lot of friends that I will miss. When someone you love dies, it’s natural to feel pain from your loss and grieve. Some will try to avoid feeling pain. It is understandable not to want to feel pain but it is not good to just avoid pain caused by the loss of a friend, family member and unreconciled grief. People that appear to be doing “OK” with their grief sometimes develop depression and anxiety, and may become addicted to alcohol or drugs. Unreconciled grief can lead to a wide range of physical aliments that include fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease and digestive problems.
There is no set timetable for your getting over grief or mourning. You could feel better in weeks but it could last for a few months to a few years. The timetable is different for everyone.
We also have to know the difference between grief and mourning. Grief represents your thoughts and feelings you experience after a loss. Mourning is the outward expressions or signs of grieving. Knowing the differences between them can help you cope with loss.
Grief is a common and normal psychological response following a death or loss. Grief happens shortly after a loss is experienced. Symptoms of grief can include:
Longing to be with the person who was lost
Thoughts and memories of the person
Grief refers to the internal experiences of loss, mourning is an outward expressions of grief. Common examples of mourning are sometimes cultural and can include preparing for a funeral, wearing black, or sharing memories or stories about a loved one. Most of these events give structure to your grieving process. You have to remember there is no formal guide for mourning and can vary from person to person. Mourning can help us to accept and emotionally process death or loss. Mourning can be lengthy and painful but it is healthy. The mourning process allows people to re-engage with their daily life and to feel joy and happiness again.
Some examples of mourning include:
Expressing your thoughts through music or dance
Celebrating anniversaries you shared
Talking about your loss
There are a lot of misconceptions with grief and mourning.
Misconception #1: You should move away from grief not forward.
Society sometimes doesn’t give us enough time to grieve. We are expected to get “back to normal” as quickly as possible. If we continue to express grief outwardly we are often viewed as weak or self-pitying. We are expected to shape up and get on with our life. This attitude leads some to isolate or attempt to run away from their grief through overworking or abusing alcohol or drugs. If you mask or move away from your grief it can create anxiety, confusion and depression.
We should face our grief. We should allow ourselves to feel emotions and mourn. We can talk to others or keep a journal expressing our feelings.
Misconception #2: Grief is mainly about the physical loss of the person who died.
The death of a loved one creates many secondary losses that can include connections to yourself and the world around you. You can feel like a part of you died. You can feel you lost a sense of security. You can feel you lost your future. Understanding your range and depth of your feeling can help you feel more self-compassionate.
Physical compassion can include eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Emotional compassion can include claiming your right to feel a multitude of emotions and the right to talk about your grief. Mental compassion can include asking yourself what you want and being reasonable about what you can do. Spiritual compassion can include starting each day with meditation or a walk in the park.
Misconception #3: After a loved one dies the goal should be to “get over” your grief as soon as possible.
Grief is not something you can solve or an illness you can recover from. We have to resolve to integrate the new reality of moving forward in life without the person who died. Reconciliation will bring a renewed sense of energy and confidence, an ability to fully acknowledge the reality of the death and a capacity to become re-involved in the activities of living. This takes time.
Misconception #4: When grief and mourning are fully reconciled, they never come up again.
You will always feel some grief because of death but it will not always dominate your life. Having these thoughts is not a bad thing.
Remember, there is no timetable for grieving or mourning. Be patient with yourself. It takes time to heal. If after a period of time you still feel you are still struggling you should consider a compassionate grief counselor. You can consult the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC.org).