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How to deal with grief during the pandemic?

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Written by Kriti Dugar

Coping with a loss is never easy, and the pandemic was a hard time for people worldwide. People dealt with all kinds of losses, from the loss of jobs to the loss of social connections to the death of loved ones. It led to feelings that one was unable to speak of, unable to deal with.   

Pain, sadness, and grief, unfortunately, became a part of life. The pandemic also changed what it means to mourn and deal with such unsettled feelings. We could no longer walk to our friend's house for a cup of coffee and a pick-me-up in the middle of the day. Crowded funerals where people shared stories and cried on each other's shoulders were replaced by scaled-down or virtual versions, where goodbye sometimes means staring into your laptop screen. 

It was challenging and complicated, but it was also a new reality that everyone had to figure out. It often helps people just be heard when they are facing grief in their lives. Read more to understand how to overcome grief. 

If you or your loved ones need to speak to someone, please know that you can connect with us at Cadabam's Hospitals. Our helpline number 9741476476 is available to you 24x7 for access to our experts in mental health who can help you in coping with grief and loss. 

How to deal with grief during the pandemic?

Grief is an extremely natural response to loss. Grief and loss are intricately linked. It may get messy and challenging and on some days you may need to put your brave face on and head out. However, it would be best if you remembered that coping with grief is a process, and here are a few ways to cope with grief :

Give yourself some time:  

Grief is an emotion without any fixed expiry date. The response and the experience is highly unique to each person. It would help if you gave yourself enough time to understand your grief and all the emotions you are feeling. You may experience loneliness, regret, or anxiety more intensely, but it is normal to feel so. Do not be harsh on yourself.

Do things you love:

Often grief tends to drain people's energy. It leads to dissatisfaction with ourselves and others, and can further push you into depression. It is essential to focus on things that can make you feel better in such scenarios. Choose things that make you happy. 

If you want to sleep, eat chocolate, or exercise, do it. It is essential to focus on things that you love or that move you out of the rut of sadness, and eventually make you happy.

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Be part of a community:

The pandemic has been a harbinger of all types of losses. Communities or support groups are an informal way to gather together and share your grief. Often sharing stories and meeting people on a similar boat can be therapeutic. 

Support groups typically meet once or twice a month. They are aimed at facilitating otherwise tricky conversations to happen more freely. Virtual gatherings or support groups have also gained immense popularity during the pandemic. 

Create a memory or ritual:

The best way to get over a loss is to remember the good times with your loved ones. You can think of making a beautiful memory book, planting a tree, cooking your favorite meal, or even organizing a picnic in the fond memory of your loved one. The day could also be a special occasion that you celebrate every year. It will distract you from the pain and help you cater to new ways to deal with your grief.  

Accept the grief :

Loss is never easy, but acceptance can make it better. It is not easy to reach the acceptance stage, where we no longer feel the pain of loss. It often helps to see pain and grief as a universal experience. 

Everybody loses something every step of the way, and it is important to acknowledge those losses around us. We all need to accept the grief and be patient with ourselves. 

What is grief?

Grief can be the most common reaction to any loss in personal and professional life. Everybody experiences it in their life, but it is also extremely personal. It may not follow the same pattern. Instead, one may feel angry, empty, withdrawn, or lost. However, most often, grief broadly passes through these stages :

  • Denial: In the denial stage, the state of reality gets shifted. You don't believe in the occurrence of a loss which helps you deal with the pain. It is most often the body's natural defense mechanism. 
  • Anger: When you experience loss, anger can be one of the most common emotions expressed. People often use verbiage like - 'Why me?' 'Where is God?' etc. However, research points out that anger is one of the necessary stages of healing. The earlier the expression of anger, the sooner it will fade away. 
  • Bargaining: Bargaining is a stage of fake hope where you try to negotiate with God/Supreme Power to change the event so that life reverts to normal. You seek a different outcome from a higher power to minimize pain. 
  • Depression: When you finally come to terms with the loss, it could lead to isolation from your social circle, retreat from relatives and friends, refusal to go to work, etc. Depression tends to set in, at this stage. 
  • Acceptance: The final stage is when you begin to accept the loss. It doesn't mean you are not in grief anymore. Instead, it refers to acknowledging the significant change in your life, which allows you to cope with the loss and move forward in life. 

How to identify grief?

Coping with grief during a pandemic can be extremely stressful. When dealing with grief it is important to be mindful and aware that we are in a different stage in our lives. Acceptance can be extremely crucial for coping and moving on. Common ways to identify when you are dealing with grief are :

  • Profound loss in one's life like loss of a relationship, death of a loved one, etc. 
  • Changes in daily routine. 
  • Manifestation of pain/loss in behavioral, emotional, and physical symptoms. 

How does grief manifest?

There is no fixed format or formula for grief to manifest when experiencing loss. Everyone reacts and experiences grief in a different unique manner. It can manifest in physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. 

Physical symptoms:

It is strange that grief not only affects our emotions it affects our bodies too. Due to the stress, you may experience 

  • Exhaustion or feeling out of breath
  • Physical ailments like chest pain, headache, or even stomach ache
  • Increased heart rate
  • Low resistance to any sickness and skin problems too.
  • Oversensitivity to sound and light.
  • Panic attacks.

Emotional symptoms:

One's emotions may be overwhelming and frightening during a loss. Emotional symptoms can include:

  • The anxiety leads to worries about one's mortality.
  • Irritation and a feeling of despair. 
  • Feelings of detachment. 
  • Depression 

Behavioral symptoms :

Grief not only affects one physically and emotionally but tends to affect one's behavior. You might experience:

  • Restlessness or hyperactivity. 
  • Lack of concentration due to overthinking
  • Insomnia or even nightmares and flashbacks are common if someone has died due to a tragedy.
  • Loss of appetite leads to changes in your weight. 

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Finding meaning after loss:

Loss can disrupt lives and leave a sense of numbness, hopelessness, or even despair. Finding ways to sustain yourself, to be happy again, is when you begin to find meaning. Loss is what has happened, but the purpose that you derive from it is what you can make happen. 

It helps you no longer feel stuck, move forward, and live life again. For instance, when you experience loss, you may change your communication patterns with people around you. Many people use a loss in their lives as an opportunity to create something purposeful and meaningful in their lives. They find the good from the worst. They could write stories, make paintings, give speeches, and inspire others. 

It is a way to become more resilient and helps you move away from pain to meaning. Surprisingly, a loss can add so much meaning to your life. 

The road ahead

In the new reality of the pandemic, it is essential to grieve what has been lost while trying to find hope and happiness. Life can change, so finding solace in new forms of connecting with others, being creative, and taking time to care for yourself is better. 

With this, we are hopeful that we can all get through this challenging time, hopeful that we gain a greater appreciation for social connections, being able to travel, and even mundane routines. Hopeful that we may all be stronger and more focused on what is truly valuable in life.

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