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Coping with Grief and Loss - Mourning the Changes since COVID-19

Nietzsche is famously quoted “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. During this uncanny time, living with a pandemic in social isolation, we can experience challenges in how life has changed. We each experience our own loss and grief. The loss of social connection, physical mobility, and of my daily routine have especially been impactful to me. I miss going to campus and meeting with colleagues and students. I miss walking to Lavazza in the morning for a coffee or the union for lunch. It has been said that the only cure for grief is to grieve. Grieving the loss of a loved one taken by illness, loss of freedom, loss of attending a graduation ceremony, or loss of being able to complete a research project are examples that are each valid and important to acknowledge.

During this crisis it is important to grieve what has been lost, and it is also important to find meaning and hope in how life has changes. We must find a why to live during such an unsettling time. Finding solace in new forms of connecting with others, utilizing space for being creative, and taking time to care for myself have all been helpful in reorienting meaning in my life. With this I can be hopeful. Hopeful that we can all get through this difficult time, hopeful that we may all gain a greater appreciation for the social connectedness, mobility, and routines that we have all lost, hopeful that we may all be strengthened by this trial and more focused on what is truly valuable and meaningful in life.

Jonathan Ishoy, Purdue CAPS Staff Therapist

Resources relating to grief from COVID-19:

Coping with Grief…Grief Journey Tips

A resource shared with permission from David Schwartz, Oakland University Counseling Center
*Modified with Purdue CAPS contact information 

Recognize Your Loss:
After a significant loss, you may be numb for awhile. Being numb allows us to accept the loss a little at a time. It is important to acknowledge the loss and the pain.

Be With The Pain:
You are hurting. Admit it. Feeling the pain after a loss is a normal part of living and loving. Denying the loss does not lessen the pain, it prolongs the suffering.

Accept All Of Your Feelings, Even The Feelings You Don’t Like.
Fear, anger, guilt, sadness, depression, despair, heartbreak, and an overwhelming feeling of disorganization are characteristic reactions to a significant loss. Avoiding naming and feeling our feelings, will mean our feelings will be expressed in unexpected ways.

It Is Okay To Feel Anger:  
Everyone feels angry at a significant loss. Channel it wisely and it will go away as you heal. Walk, run, and exercise. If you find yourself more irritable, journal and explore what your anger is about. Anger is also a way for some people to avoid feeling the more vulnerable feeling of sadness.

You Are Vulnerable, Be Gentle with Yourself:
Invite help only from people who you know will be gentle with your feelings and can accept all of your feelings.

You Are Not Alone, Seek Comfort As You Need It:
Although you feel alone and grieving is an individual process, you are not alone. Grieving is a sad part of life everyone experiences. Accept support from others. Let them know what they can do to help. Do not expect comfort from a grieving partner as your partner may not be able to give when you need due to their own grief. Weekends and Holidays can be very hard, make plans with others.

Suicidal Thoughts Are A Symptom Of Your Pain*:
Sometimes people feel survivors guilt or that they wish they had died instead of their loved one. Purdue CAPS is here for you. You can call 765-494-6995 Monday through Friday 8:00am to 5:00pm to speak with a therapist, or call after 5pm to use our after our crisis line. If you are experiencing an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency center.

Healing Does Not Occur In A Smooth Line or On A Time Table:
Healing occurs in phases where you move in and out of different feelings. Remind yourself that you can get through this. If it feels like you have been there long enough remember there is no way around grieving. You can only accept where you are in each moment and continue on your journey.

Heal At Your Own Pace:
Never compare yourself to another grieving person. Each of us has our own timing.

Expect Relapses:
There will always be certain things that trigger sadness again. This is normal.

Keep A Journal:
Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper is a good way to get them out and understand them..

Do Your Mourning Now:
Allow yourself to be with your pain-it will pass sooner. Postponed grief will return later.

Tips for Coping:

  • Physical exercise along with relaxation will improve sleep and concentration.
  • Keep a journal: write through your sleeplessness and change the ending of your nightmares.
  • Talk to people; talk is one of the most healing activities. It is how we let go of stress.
  • Give yourself permission to feel rotten and share your feeling with others.
  • Give yourself permission to have moments of happiness or escape.
  • Spend time with others. Resist the temptation to isolate yourself.
  • Get plenty of rest and eat regular meals even if you don’t feel like it.