Grief and Loss in the Time of Coronavirus

“Embrace your grief, for there your soul will grow.” – Carl Jung

“We all grieve in different ways. Mine
is probably different from most people,” my sister explained her need for
privacy to the Rabbi after our father died at 93 of complications from
pneumonia on January 4, 2020. From January to April the world has changed.

A World of Grief

As our family continues to grieve our
father, now with the pandemic, there is grief all around us. People are
experiencing many different forms of grief as they lose loved ones or cannot be
together with loved ones who are suffering.

Each day, I learn of different

  • A
    friend’s sister-in-law was just diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
  • Another
    friend, who was helping a relative recover from a liver transplant in India, is
    stuck there and cannot return to her family in Washington DC.
  • A
    friend who cannot visit her 100-year-old Russian aunt who speaks no English and
    is in a nursing home in the US.
  • An
    undocumented friend and her husband with no source of income who cannot apply
    for emergency aid.

My own daughter just had a very
difficult labor and birth this week, 500 miles away, and I could not be there
to help because I am over 65 with a pre-existing condition.

The Losses Only Pile Up

There are other losses from
non-life-threatening situations that can also impact us deeply: postponed
graduations, missed family gatherings, and even the cancelation of a planned
trip abroad.

Daily experiences have disrupted our
lives in smaller ways like getting a haircut or going to church or synagogue.
There is no hierarchy of pain; no misery Olympics to determine who is suffering

Therapist Lori Gottlieb says that some of these
losses get pushed inside, and we fear others will judge them as insignificant
and expect us to “buck up.”

Stages of Grief

Many of us know about Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief: denial, anger,
bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Research validates the presence of
these stages while some question the sequence of reactions.

Another approach, the “tasks of

offers more of a menu of responses that are similar to Kubler-Ross’s stages.
Along with emotions, there are physical conditions: tiredness, tightness and
constriction in the body, increased short-term memory loss (blanking on
people’s names) or even tunnel vision (losing peripheral vision and awareness
of things around you).

A different selection from the menu is
prepared for us daily by our inner selves.

What Can We Do?

Here are a few tips on handling your
feelings of grief and loss.

Allow Grief to Surface

When it arises in ourselves and others,
we can recognize our own, our family’s,
and friend’s stress responses
. Cry, if you need to, write about it, share it with
someone you trust. Your feelings are real, and in the long run, you will heal
when you acknowledge and accept them as part of life.

Live in the Present

Being is more important than doing.

We are in a very difficult moment, and if we can just “be,” we will feel less anxious and take the needed steps to move ahead. While it may be hard to try to not worry about the future, staying in the present means to take care of ourselves.

We can let feelings emerge but avoid
imagining the worst possible scenarios. We can adjust our expectations for
productivity and prioritize being present by meditating and practicing trauma-informed
mindfulness practices
If you have trouble meditating, try doing Zentangle, a simple and calming art

No Judgment

Try not to judge others in how they
are handling their feelings or managing their sense of loss. Grief is very
personal. For each of us, our personal sense of loss at this moment may be
different, but sharing with others in non-judgmental ways will help.

Find Gratitude in Grief

Three months after my dad died, some
days grief comes in waves of emotion. At other times, grief feels frozen
inside, unreachable. Even after a day that had felt completely normal, grief
rears its ugly head. On other days, I feel acceptance and life is moving on.

While I continue to grieve, I am
grateful that we were able to be at my father’s side to ensure he knew he was
loved and sing to him as he struggled to breathe. Even that may not be possible
for people who are separated from a loved one at this moment. Yet, we can still
find gratitude in our hearts for their lives.

Also, I am grateful that our newborn
grandson, Anteo, is safely home with his parents after a few days in neonatal
ICU. As we open our hearts, we feel, we find healing, and by reaching out to
others, we find support or simply a compassionate ear.

As Brene Brown said, “You do not have to do it alone. We were never meant to…” and, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of courage. And courage is not doing something because you are fearless. Courage is doing something because you may be afraid, and you do it anyway.”

How do you handle the grief and loss
that is everywhere around you? What are you grieving? What losses are you
experiencing in this troubling time? What can you be grateful for despite the
circumstances? Please share with our community and let’s have a conversation.