When COVID-19 began to impact our jobs and our social lives, my initial reaction was that people were going to have a hard time adjusting to a new way of life. Change seems to make people uncomfortable, it can be irritating.
The US was hit by change within a blink of an eye. One day, some of us had jobs. The next day, people lost their jobs as well as their best friend, their mother, or their husband. People from varying demographics, were unfortunately, joining many others and me, in the grief process. In one way, or another.
I wanted to make sure that people felt that their grief was validated. It can often become overlooked for several other issues. I want people to feel that their grief is acknowledged and seen.
But is this possible during a global pandemic? What happens when everything that used to distract us from our grief is taken away? What happens when some of us are forced to continue to work during our grief, due to essential business demands?
I decided to ask a couple of my friends, Debbie (D) and Lisa (L), how they’re doing with their grief, in the current state of the world.
Here are the questions I asked them, along with their responses:
Q: Do you feel that your grief has been overshadowed by COVID? To both yourself and others?
D: “Yes, I feel like I’m being forced to keep myself together because before, like at work, I could call and tell them I needed a few days off with no explanation and they were okay with it because they [knew], but now I’m forced to go to work no matter what. Even if I’m having a bad day they don’t care right now. If I don’t show up to work, for whatever reason, I don’t have a job. Which I HAVE to have a job to provide for myself. It’s been a roller coaster now, I feel like I’m just stuck if that makes sense.”
L: “I have two different answers. Corona related: In my opinion yes. But I’m thinking corona grief, not other types of grief. There have been so many deaths that happened so quickly, I feel like people were desensitized to it (to a point it is being joked about regularly). I’ve definitely caught myself making and laughing about jokes about it, too.
Outside grief: Yes. I think [regular] grief is overshadowed because at this point in time everything is being brought back to corona. It’s like, ‘Oh yes something awful happened, it’s sad you lost someone, this is so sad.. BUT look at this news about the corona’ (if that makes sense).“
Q: Are you thinking about your grief more or less now, during COVID?
D: “I’m definitely thinking about it more often now. I know for a fact I’m falling into depression even more now.”
L: “Less. My mind is wrapped around worrying about family getting sick and following rules to make sure they avoid getting sick. I have definitely stayed up all night from anxieties linked to corona and my family getting sick when before my thoughts were all about the person I have lost.“
Q: Do you still feel like you’re able to grieve? Or has COVID kinda prevented you?
D: “I feel like I’ve been able to grieve in peace. By that I mean, usually I had family over and they wouldn’t let me break down. Now that I’m alone I think about what and why I’m feeling and I just go with it.”
L: “Personally I have had my time to grieve, but someone I am close to lost someone in a tragic way during this pandemic and I don’t feel they have been able to properly grieve. I don’t know how to explain it, but I know they haven’t been expressing their feelings the same way they would if all of this weren’t going on.”
Q: Has COVID allowed you to find healthier coping mechanisms or have you found yourself using unhealthy coping mechanisms?
D: “No and yes. I feel like it made it worse in, a way, at first. Because I felt mentally trapped with myself being at home, not being able to go anywhere. It also forced me to actually feel everything for once and not try to avoid my feelings. I usually wouldn’t allow myself to do that since I always have 1000 things I have to do. It’s both because now I feel like I went back to feeling comfort again just by being in bed sleeping all day.”
L: “Both. I had started to workout and felt good about it but I found myself taking the easy way out and just eating to find comfort (when really it doesn’t make me feel good at all).“
Whether we like it or not, COVID-19 is changing the way we see, feel, and experience grief. It’s natural to hate funerals, I hated Omar’s. The way so many families are going to be deprived from an important part of the grieving process, a funeral or the viewing, is just horrendous.
COVID-19 is not only changing the way we live and function throughout our lives, but it is also changing the way we view and experience death.