Grief and Loss in Quarantine

Here’s the hard and unfathomable thing about this pandemic- people are still losing family members to causes unrelated to COVID-19.

Cancer is still happening.

Heart attacks are still happening.

The thing I think we may forget is that loss is not limited to Coronavirus in this pandemic and what’s harder is that we can’t even physically be with our people who are grieving. We can’t go to funerals…we can’t go to burials…we can’t even hug them.

If you are someone who has lost someone during this pandemic or you know of someone who has lost a loved one in the pandemic, we’ve interviewed Nick McCollum with Sage Hill Counseling to give us some insight into how we can move through our grief or support those grieving while in quarantine.

Here are some great insights from Nick:

  • What are some unique things about loss during quarantine?  The uniqueness I notice about losing a loved one in quarantine is that it’s a snowball effect.  You are already dealing with the loss of a loved one (which is hard in its own right) but now on top of that, there is another layer of loss caused by this pandemic, whether that be loss of a job, loss of a vacation or trip you were looking forward to, or just simply the loss of being able to see your people. Things that were never expected to be in the category of loss are now all in that category together. The isolation people are feeling and general anxiety that is permeating our culture also adds to the grief. And it all just builds on itself. Additionally, the open-endedness of this situation makes everything harder- harder to plan for the future and make any plans beyond today.  All of it is hard.  
  • What do you think is something that would help a person grieving in quarantine? It is so important in this very unusual time to feel what you are feeling.  I’m repeatedly encouraging my clients to do this. Don’t numb it with Netflix or ice cream or something else, but allow yourself to feel what you are feeling, sit with it for a few minutes, and put a name to it.  Be specific about what you are afraid of, sad over, or angry about. Be specific about what is so hurtful or painful right now. By feeling it and putting words to it, especially with another person, you’re able to describe what you’re going through. By not allowing yourself to feel it, then you stay stuck in it. We are made to move through and with our emotions; we are not made to hold them in. I think a lot of times, our fear is that if I open this door of sadness, it will completely overwhelm me. When actually if we go through the process of letting the sadness, or fear, or anger out and putting words to it, it doesn’t overtake us forever. Rather, it lets us get what we need out of it and move through it.   Do what is good for you in terms of processing it. Write about it. Talk about it. Get outside and go for a walk with it. Find ways to give movement to the feeling. 
  • How can we love people well in their season of loss in quarantine?  Maybe it’s not that different than how we loved people well before all of this started, except that now we can only call or FaceTime, and be physically distant. In general, I think it’s helpful to affirm others in how hard this all is, and then just ask good questions like, “How are you really doing?” or “What has this been like for you?”. Give the grieving person time to respond, and be willing to listen. If they don’t want to talk, that’s ok. The most helpful thing is for them to know that someone sees them, knows that they are hurting, and is available when they want to talk. Also now is not the time to give advice, though it may be tempting. Simply listening may be the most important and helpful thing you can do. 

Such good words. Thank you, Nick, for providing this valuable insight!

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