Chapter 3: Grief and COVID-19

Attending to your grief

"All I wanted to do was hunker down in my home when I wasn't at work. I was tired of answering questions about what it was like working in the hospital now with COVID-19. My friends and I started a weekly zoom call and talked about everything but COVID. I can't believe how much it helped my mood." - Social worker 

It is not unusual for grieving people to feel disconnected from others and even to choose to withdraw somewhat from usual social activities for a period of time. Changes to our usual routines and activities are also typical. Even new questions and thoughts about the meaning and purpose of life are common.

Although these are natural and normal responses to loss and grief that are completely appropriate in the short term, they can be problematic if they persist. 

What may help?

  • Remind yourself that many of your fears about the future may never be realized. 
  • Consider seeking out a neutral third party for support (e.g., a mental health professional).  

  • Recognize and acknowledge your grief so that you can respond. This will help you to avoid additional difficulties that may arise if you try to push it away.
  • When past deaths and grief come to mind, reflect on how these may relate to your current situation.
  • If you experience uncomfortable feelings or thoughts, such as guilt, reflect on whether these are helpful or harmful.
  • Be mindful that we all have limits and need to protect ourselves when we are overwhelmed.

Helpful strategy

Sometimes it may be necessary to set your grief to the side to manage an urgent crisis at work. This can be especially true when things are moving very quickly. It may be helpful as you set the grief aside to acknowledge that it is there and to remind yourself to revisit it at a future point when the situation is more stable.

For example, you may want to set aside 10-15 minutes at the end of the day to revisit your grief. This could mean time for yourself to process your thoughts and feelings around the grief, or debriefing with a trusted colleague.