Grief in the Pandemic

After talking with a lot of front line workers and other APTs, the best way I can see people coping currently is to take this all one day at a time and not to try and take on too much. I’ve been the most upset about work, largely about speaking to relatives about their concerns. I do take on other people’s emotions very readily and I’m learning coping strategies for this however I’ve noticed some things I’d like to share.

Small gestures of kindness mean the world to people right now- received this week from the Palliative Care Team

Grief will always be a really odd thing. The best analogy I’ve ever heard for it is the ball and the box theory. You can read about it in more detail here but very simply, imagine that you are a box and your grief is a ball. To start with the ball takes up the whole box touching the sides constantly. Gradually, the ball shrinks but still bounces around touching the sides intermittently. Illustrating that the impact of our grief stays with us but lessens and touches us less often as time passes.

I say over and over again to people that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. I have learnt so very much in the two and a half years of speaking to relatives. No one can tell you that it’s wrong to feel a certain way, or it would be right or better to feel a different way. Everyone moves at their own pace and deals with grief how they need to. People will often apologise for crying or showing their emotions, but people have been led to believe that they need to apologise when really there is absolutely nothing to apologise for.

Important to mention here is that grief doesn’t solely have to be about the death of someone. You could be grieving for the loss of a friendship, the loss of a part of your life, a job for example or just grieve a major change you are experiencing. Grief isn’t straightforward and neither does it have to relate to something tangible or someone in particular, but it can still be a very valid and consuming emotion to experience.

Another important thing, which I think will be more apparent in the current situation, is that grief doesn’t always just get better. It might lessen, but then the ball might stop shrinking temporarily, and it might even grow a little for a while. Grief might revisit you when you least expect it, or when you really feel like you had stopped feeling that way about it. On the whole, grief will improve with time but certainly not be an linear as it may seem or as we want it to be.

Griefcast hosted by Cariad Lloyd is a top recommendation of mine for anyone who is grieving. Each episode she speaks with a comedian guest about their experience of grief, probably the best way to explore these emotions that I can recommend –

The way in which people grieve the death of someone is unfamiliar and strange currently because of the limitations on visiting people and upon funeral attendance. Plus the ban on gatherings or being with people outside of your own household will make these things very hard. Having to socially distance has created a lack of intimacy between people, and it means that the traditional ways of comforting each other like a hug for example are not possible. An already very stressful time for people is becoming incredibly traumatic through being denied the access to aspects you expect when someone you know dies.

Charities like The Good Grief Trust are there to help online and have specific advice for during the pandemic on their website

Looking forward I can only hope that the pandemic means we find other and better ways of doing this. I know a lot of funeral directors are offering online video access to funerals which is a way of feeling connected. Coronavirus means we have to explore the different ways we can do things which are best for people, and try to help or lessen the impact of the grief they are feeling. I think a lot of people will struggle with this for a long time to come and it’s something that won’t be readily forgotten. All I ask is that people are aware of the strange situation we find ourselves in and those who find themselves bereaved need support and love in whatever way you can give it more than ever.

A little side note to end on and for those struggling in general at the moment, my good friend Rachel inspired me to create a jar with notes of things we will do once this is over. Simple things, like getting a cheeky Nando’s and exploring the charity shops in town. I can recommend it for those who might be struggling with lockdown at the moment. If anyone else has any coping strategies or ideas they’d like to share please get in touch.

MG x

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