The Unspoken Impact: Understanding Grief Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people all over the world in different ways. In many countries (including the U.S.), things are slowly starting to return to normal or adopt a new normal. However, the effects of this virus will linger for years to come.
It may not feel like it now, but everyone who has gone through this period has been a part of history. This situation is a pandemic that will be recorded in textbooks and news programs forever because of its global impact.
While it’s easy to focus on things like social distancing and words like “quarantine,” there is an unspoken impact the coronavirus has caused. As a result, a lot of people might find themselves grieving during these strange and uncertain times.
Experiencing Loss of Life
If you’ve watched the news at all, you know about the growing number of people all over the globe diagnosed with the virus. Unfortunately, thousands of people have also died as a result of it. In the United States alone, at the time of this writing, over 80,000 people have died because of the virus.
If you lost a family member or friend due to COVID-19, the grieving process had to begin immediately, and unfortunately, still during times of doubt. This illness seemed to come on quickly around the world as something we had never heard of before. And, just like that, it has taken the lives of so many.
It can be difficult to grieve when the very thing that is causing the grief is lingering. But, giving yourself time to process what has happened and what’s continuing to happen can help you through the process and offer you some closure.
Facing Unexpected Loss
Grief is about more than just losing people. You can experience grief when you surrender a home, go through a divorce, or lose a job.
There have been many different types of losses associated with this pandemic that many people have never had to experience before.
Loss of employment has had a significant impact on many American families. By the end of April 2020, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was over 14%. While some people have been able to work remotely, others have found themselves entirely without a job. Some businesses have also decided to close their doors for good. Others have been forced into early retirement.
Additionally, there’s a discomfort in the lack of routine caused by this virus. Losing the familiarity of what the day holds can cause feelings of anxiety and depression, and make it easy to want to stay in bed all day.
Finally, many people are grieving the loss of connection. At one point, 95% of the country was under some form of a lockdown or stay-at-home order. Here in New Jersey, we have been hit hardest of all. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are the epicenters for the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak, while the U.S now leads the world having the most cases and fatalities.
While things like Zoom meetings and FaceTime are great for staying connected, nothing beats seeing people and being able to hug, or shake hands, or even speak face-to-face.
Grieving Pregnancy and Postpartum During This Time of COVID-19
Being pregnant or having an infant during this time is a very unique experience. It starts with increased precautions at prenatal visits. Its seems simple, but the loss of the experience for a new dad to be present at the ultrasound and hear his child's heartbeat is hard to describe. Baby showers are also being cancelled. And even more so, precautions taken at hospitals during the labor and delivery process, while well-meaning and likely necessary, can have profound impacts on the labor and delivery process and on the proceeding parental bonds with a new baby.
Add to that, the postpartum healing process can be further complicated, as new parents have weighty decisions to make about who to allow in their house to assist during the early days and weeks. This increases pressure on the new parents and can strain even the strongest relationships during a time of intense transition.
This is a quick and simple summary of the loses and grief a pregnant or newly postpartum parent may be experiencing. This post could never encapsulate all of the possibilities.
The Stages of Grief
The are five identified stages of grief. While some progress through each stage in order, others will hop around, or progress to one stage only to return to a previous stage momentarily. The five stages of grief are:
1. Denial - Typically characterized by avoidance, confusion, shock and fear.
2. Anger - Generally experienced as frustration, irritation and anxiety.
3. Depression - Feeling overwhelmed, helpless, hopeless and wanting to flee the situation.
4. Bargaining - Struggling to find meaning in the situation; generally includes reaching out to others and telling ones story.
5. Acceptance - Characterized by exploring options, putting a new plan in place and moving forward.
It’s Okay to Grieve
The losses created by the COVID-19 pandemic are vast, and many of them are probably very personal. You may be grieving something that wasn’t as impactful to someone else, and that’s okay.
The important thing is to accept the loss you’ve experienced and not feel guilty about your grief. Together, we will all continue to get through this. Right now, it’s essential to work through the stages of grief until you can come to an acceptance of what has happened.
If you’re struggling with any of the losses you’ve experienced during this pandemic and you’re not sure how to accept it, feel free to contact me. I offer a complimentary phone consultation to all potential clients. To schedule yours in a matter of seconds, please check here.
Together, we can work through your grief, the underlying causes, and how to reach a place of acceptance so you can move forward. I offer online therapy and want to help.
To learn more about how counseling can help you in general during your pregnancy, please click here.
BRINGING BABY HOME: A NEW PARENT WORKSHOP IS GOING VIRTUAL!!!! A workshop for couples who are thinking about or planning to have a baby, who are expecting a baby or who have children already. Based on years of research and experience and developed by the Gottman Institute, this 12 hour workshop is designed to repair communication skills and jump start your relationship with your partner. For more information, please click here.
Jennifer Perera is a mom, spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has over a decade’s worth of experience in mental health. She has a private practice in New Jersey, with locations in Cranford and Princeton. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual, group and couples counseling. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with a pregnancy loss or infertility. Her other passion is travelling to different parts of the world and her goal is to vacation in a different locale every time. She also has a great fondness for cats!