As the coronavirus pandemic stretches from weeks into months, you may find yourself irritable, easily angered, depressed or crying for no reason. But there is a reason. It’s grief. You may be grieving the loss of a friend or loved one, or maybe you’re grieving the loss of “normal.” Jennifer Taylor, director of Golden Age @ Home, a Big Bend Hospice organization that supports caregivers and their families, says understanding how grief works is key to coping with it.
Social Distancing and Grief
People are still grieving the loss of family and friends, Taylor said, but the difference is that many people are doing it on their own, without the direct, in-person support of friends and family. Tech can help with some of that. Taylor said she and her staff help clients and families with Zoom, FaceTime and other solutions that allow for not only telehealth visits but also virtual visits with friends and families.
She said she and her staff don personal protective equipment to visit a senior at their home to set up with the technology for a connection with a doctor via telehealth, then flip to a Zoom meeting with family and friends. It allows them to recap the doctor’s appointment for everyone while also getting in a visit with some tech support and, more importantly, the energy that comes with a personal connection.
“It gives everyone a sense of someone in the room,” Taylor said.
Generations of Grief
The pandemic, Taylor says, seems to be affecting her seniors less than their middle-aged children and caregivers.
“The older ones are doing better,” she said. “They’re watching ‘Gunsmoke’ and hunkering down.” Despite a few hiccups getting used to new technology such as telehealth appointments and Zoom meetings, they’re doing fine. “They’re living life how they’ve lived it for most of their lives,” she said. “They’re reading a book.”
It’s the younger generation, the busier generation, that seems to be having more difficulty coping. Taylor said they appear to be mourning a loss of connection and a loss of control. “Those are the ones I get 27 texts from.”
Anticipatory grief is having a reasonable expectation of loss and grieving that loss before it happens. Taylor said she’s seen a spike in anticipatory grief during the coronavirus crisis. An example is feeling sadness or anger over not being able to visit an elderly parent at Easter when you suspect it’s the last Easter you’ll have with them.
Normally, Taylor said, they’d encourage people to sit down face-to-face and talk through these feelings with the parent. But people aren’t able to do that now, and tech just doesn’t work well with these kinds of conversations.
“You want to keep things light because you’re on Zoom,” Taylor said.
Grieving the Loss of Normalcy
When you lose a friend or family member, it seems to change the whole world. The pandemic actually has changed the whole world, and everyone’s feeling some level of stress.
“The first thing for everyone to understand is that this is different, and it’s different for everyone,” Taylor said. “Everyone in the whole world just got a new job and is in training.”
As you’re coping with the new normal, Taylor said to remember to take care of you first, then your family and then the community. Putting kindness into the world, via your family and community, can be a powerful coping mechanism.
“Put some trust and faith in the world around you,” she said. “It’s the same thing our good, loving mothers taught us. Walk your own path. Be proud of your own path.”
And if it gets to be too much, remember that everyone who was there before is still there now.
“Reach out and ask for someone,” Taylor said. “Just one conversation can change how you see your situation.”
Supporting the Grieving
Remember that, pandemic or not, the grieving grieve on their own schedule, Taylor said. When it’s convenient for you to call or stop by might not be when the grieving person wants a visit or support. The best thing, she said, is something uniquely suited for social distancing – a handwritten letter sent through the mail.
“You may have to text someone to get their address,” Taylor said. “But they get to open that letter and read it and digest it on their own time.”
Taylor lost her 19-year-old son 22 months ago. She said she just now opened a book with a thoughtful note in it and it helped her so much that she immediately reached out to the friend who sent it.
And you can still do some of the same things, like dropping off groceries and reaching out to the Sunday school group, the neighbors and other friends to encourage them to reach out with a note, a visit from the sidewalk or a phone call.
“It doesn’t hurt to schedule care,” Taylor said, just make sure it’s not so much that the person feels smothered.
Bevis Funeral Home has grief-support resources available anytime you need them. For more support, or for questions about connecting with our team during social distancing, call us at (850) 385-2193.