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Dealing with grief during the COVID-19 pandemic

Supporting yourself and others when experiencing loss during the pandemic


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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Losing someone close to us is extremely difficult and experiencing grief during the pandemic can make the experience even harder. Due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, we cannot currently hold funeral ceremonies in the way we would have previously if someone close to us died. This can be extremely difficult for both family and friends of the person who has passed away, as the support we would normally receive through spending time with one another is not available to us. 

Supporting each other virtually, by phone or online can help to care for each other during these difficult times. If you are struggling with your grief at this time, it is important to reach out and speak to someone about it. At SpunOut.ie we offer a 24/7 text support service for anyone going through a difficult time. If for any reason you would like to talk, get in touch today.

Experiencing loss during the COVID-19 pandemic 

Funerals during the COVID-19 pandemic

The current government restrictions mean that during the pandemic large family gatherings are not allowed. This is to help to protect one another and slow the spread of the virus. Although it is extremely difficult if someone close to you dies and you cannot attend the funeral, it is important to prioritise the safety of yourself and your family. Only immediate family are allowed to attend a funeral, and you should not go if you need to self-isolate for any reason. Under the current restrictions, no more than ten people are allowed in the place of worship or at the graveside. Those who do attend the funeral will also need to follow social distancing guidelines. This means keeping a distance of two metres (6.5 feet) apart.

Once COVID-19 (Coronavirus) restrictions are lifted you will be able to properly celebrate the life of the person you lost with your loved ones. Until then, stay in touch via phone or text with those who might be experiencing loss and let them know that you are there to talk if they need to.

For more information on funerals during the pandemic you can read the Government’s Guide for the Bereaved during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Looking after yourself 

Even in more normal times, the loss of a loved one can be extremely difficult and can trigger a dip in your mental health. There is no right or wrong way to experience loss or to grieve and from day to day you may experience a wide range of emotions. It is important to allow yourself to feel and react in a way that is natural to you as this is part of coming to terms with a loss or bereavement.

Stay in touch with others

Unfortunately, we currently cannot be together in groups and because of this you may not be able to be with people who want to support you during this time. Even though you may be physically cut off from your usual support network, they can still be there for you via phone and online. Lean on the support of those closest to you and reach out if you are having a difficult day.

There may be some days when you do not feel like speaking to anyone, and this is perfectly okay. If you are finding messages of support overwhelming, try not to feel pressure to respond. While it is important to stay connected, you only have to reply when you feel ready.

Caring for children who are grieving

If there are children in your family who are grieving, it is important to check-in with them often and answer their questions about what is happening honestly, as children cope better with sad news when they are told the truth. Try to give honest, age-appropriate information to them about the death.

Children's emotions may change from sad to happy in the space of minutes so it is important to let them set their own pace. Remember, there is no right or wrong way for them to experience grief. If you are unsure of how to act, be guided by the children and let their questions lead the conversation. Try not to worry if you can not answer all their questions. Instead, tell them you will find out and try to bring up the conversation again when you can answer them. If it feels right, it can help to encourage conversation about the person who has died and memories of them.

Read more about helping children to cope with bereavement

Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing while grieving

Eating healthy, regular meals and drinking plenty of water can help to support your physical and mental health while you grieve. Although you may not feel hungry, it is important to try and give your body the nutrients that it needs to keep going during this time.

Keep a routine

Keeping some form of routine can also be helpful. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible such as your usual meal-times, bed-time and getting-up time. Exercise such as taking daily walks can also help support your physical and mental health during this time.

Limit news and social media

If you are grieving it can help to try and limit how much news and social media you consume. When you are grieving, regular news can be distressing and cause you more worry about yourself or your family. Take a break if you feel watching the news or being on social media is impacting on your life in a negative way and try to spend time focusing on things that make you feel better.

Take it one day at a time

You may find you have days when you feel okay and the grief is not as bad as other days and this completely is normal. Some people can feel guilty when this happens but there is no need to, how you feel from day to day does not reflect on how much you love or miss the person who has died. Try to be kind to yourself and be aware of your feelings and emotions one day at a time. Ups and downs are all a normal part of grieving.

Ways to help others who are grieving during COVID-19

If you would like to help a grieving friend or loved one, there are ways that you can send your sympathies at this time and support them with being physically together.

You could:

  • text or call and ask your friend how they are doing, ask what might help and listen carefully to them
  • drop food or a gift at the door to offer comfort
  • offer practical help, such as picking up shopping
  • complete an online condolence such as on RIP.ie
  • share photos of the person they have lost
  • write a card to show your support

However you choose to show your support, reaching out is what is important. Let them know you're available not just in the short-term but also in the weeks and months to come. Remember that the person may not always want to reply or talk with you and that’s okay too. Giving them space is important, once they know that you are there to support them they will be able to reach out if they need to.

Feeling overwhelmed by grief?

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Published May 13th2020
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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