Coping with the loss of a loved one while social distancing

Published 12:30 am Saturday, June 27, 2020

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Coping with the loss of a loved one can be challenging in the best of times, but many people have had to confront such challenges at a time that is unlike any other in modern history.

By the start of the second full week of May 2020, the World Health Organization reported that roughly 279,000 people across the globe had died from the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Many of the 215 countries, areas or territories that reported cases of COVID-19 implemented social distancing measures in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. While such efforts no doubt saved lives, they also left many people without traditional means of grieving their deceased loved ones. For example, in March the Church of England limited the number of people who could attend funerals to immediate family members only, while restrictions on gatherings in the United States made it difficult if not impossible for more than 10 people to grieve together in person.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that grief is a normal response to losing a loved one. In addition, the American Psychological Association says that research has shown that social support can help people recover from such losses

Though traditional funerals and family gatherings may not be possible as the world responds to the COVID-19 outbreak, those who have lost loved ones can embrace various strategies to cope with their loss even while stay-at-home orders remain in place.

  • Host calls with family members and friends. The videotelephone and chat service Zoom has helped millions of people stay connected with loved ones while social distancing. Schools and universities even employed the service when in-person classroom sessions were canceled to stop the spread of the virus. The CDC recommends grieving families employ such technology to connect with each other in the wake of a loved one’s death.
  • Share stories. Grieving family members are urged to share stories and pictures much like they would during wakes and funerals. Share them during group conference calls and/or via social media, emails or other modern modes of communications. Connecting in such ways can ensure no one is forced to grieve alone.
  • Seek support from your community. The CDC recommends seeking support from faith-based organizations or other trusted community leaders and friends. While in-person church services may not be available, many local religious leaders have made themselves available to congregants and even non-congregants who may need help grieving. Local community organizations may have grief counselors available to help people cope with loss.
  • Take part in an activity that meant something to you and your deceased loved one. The CDC notes that doing something in memory of a loved one can help people cope. For example, plant flowers in honor of a deceased parent with whom you shared a love of gardening.

Confronting the loss of a loved one during the COVID-19 outbreak can be challenging. But families can still overcome this challenge even if they cannot gather together in person.