Grieving a Loved One During COVID
If a loved one died during the pandemic or you are continuing to grieve a loss that happened before COVID, you are not alone. While this is a challenging time to stay connected, get support, and publicly honor the life of your loved one, there are ways to do all of these things.
This post has recommendations from people who have personally experienced major losses during COVID or the year before.
There are also tips at the top for processing the many types of losses and missed milestones in 2020.
Tips for Processing Multiple Types of Loss Now
From cancelled graduations, school plays, and high school sporting events to postponed weddings and lost jobs, this pandemic has created multiple types of loss. Here are tips for processing a variety of experiences.
Grief For Beginners: 5 Things To Know About Processing Loss – This NPR article is a good place to start. It includes some fundamental ideas about how to process grief and loss.
Helping Kids and Teens Deal With Grief – General information and practical tips for parents, caregivers and other adults in young people’s lives. This article covers multiple types of loss.
How Do We Even Grieve Right Now? from SELF – addresses the challenges of grieving during COVID, including grief about multiple types of losses in addition to death: the loss of a relationship, job, (and “smaller things” like) routines, pleasures, and a sense of normalcy.
Missed Milestones To Faded Friendships: The Unacknowledged Grief Of 2020 This NPR article – with 5-minute radio story if you’d rather listen – acknowledges the about the simple things we’ve lost and also the missed graduations, weddings, and other losses over the last year. It also mentions an important concept: toxic positivity.
How Black women can create space for grief and vulnerability during the holidays: We may feel pressure to be strong and self-sufficient while grieving, but we don’t have to be. Important and validating article by Vilissa Thompson from Prism
How to Release Sadness: Lessons from experiential psychotherapy. from Psychology Today. Tips from mental health professionals on how to release feelings.
Grief Support and Resources
Refuge in Grief is an online resource by a psychotherapist, writer and grief advocate who lost her spouse suddenly in 2009. The motto is “It’s OK not to be OK” and has lots of tips, reading, and supportive info. A special message from Refuge in Grief author for COVID-19.
Want to support someone who is grieving? Click here.
Grieving During a Pandemic from Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. Practical advice and validation from people who know a lot about grief and loss.
The Ring Theory – “Comfort In, Dump Out” is the motto. This is a model that helps us figure out who supports who about a particular issue, based on each person’s proximity to the situation. A lot of people find it useful for grief and loss.
If you could use some support and would like to talk with someone confidentially now, check out our mental health resources list.
Other Things to Check Out Online
TED Talk: “We don’t ‘move on’ from grief. We move forward with it.” by Nora McInerny. This frequently shared talk has Nora’s hallmark candid style and humor as she talks about grief after multiple losses in a short period of time.
Nora McInerny also hosts a podcast, “Terrible, Thanks For Asking”…not all episodes are about grief, but many are. “Nora McInerny asks real people to share their complicated and honest feelings about how they really are. It’s sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and often both.”
Good Grief Journal’s Recommended 10 Best Podcasts on Grief
Online Grief Support Groups
There are groups for a variety of types of grief and situations, so keep scrolling to see if there’s something that looks like a match.
Verywell Mind, a trusted online source for mental health resources, has a list of their picks for The 7 Best Online Grief Support Groups of 2020. That may be a good place to start. Most groups are free, but some charge a fee. Most require membership to access content or post.
Locally Run Online: Peer Grief Support After Overdose Death
Second Thursdays of the month, 5:30 – 7PM on Zoom
Click here for more info and how to join or contact Laurie, laurieloisel “AT” state.ma.us
Black Women Widows has a website that includes online resources and groups. Some of their materials and support have a Christian focus.
Facebook has a variety of free grief and loss support groups. We can’t specifically recommend any of these, but Facebook groups have been a meaningful way for many people to stay connected while grieving during the pandemic. Most groups have guidelines, so you can see if one or more seem like a good fit for you:
– Grief Support- For people in their 20s & 30s who have Lost a Parent
– Grieving and Surviving the Loss of Our Adult Children
– Grieving Parents Healing Hearts Child Loss
– Suicide Survivors Loss & Support
– and more, including general grief and loss groups, pet grief, and other specific topics. To search for a Facebook group, click on Groups (on the left side of your screen on a computer or via the menu on a phone). Type search terms in the search bar at the top.
Ideas for Memorials and Other Ways to Remember a Loved One During COVID
In-person (not online)
– Plant a tree or other special plant in their honor.
– Make a photo memory book – you could use photos gathered from an online crowd-sourced photo album. Consider printing extra copies and sending them to a few people who were also close to your loved one.
– Plan now a meaningful, in-person memorial for the future.
– Create an outdoor memorial spot that people can visit and leave mementos. A special spot on a favorite hiking trail or a local park or a spot in a backyard can offer an opportunity for others to leave stones, other natural items, and photos or notes (if appropriate in the particular spot).
– Cook a favorite meal of theirs.
– Frame photos of the person and put them up. Send copies to other close people missing your loved one.
– Put something special of theirs up in your home.
– Write some of your memories of them. Are there any particularly funny or meaningful moments? Any stories they used to tell from their life that you remember?
See the bottom of this page for tips on reducing risk of COVID transmission at outdoor group funerals and memorials.
– Online Memorial Service
There are a wide variety of websites available that make it easier than ever to create a unique service to honor the life of your loved one. You can also collaborate virtually with others who knew the person or with a friend who is willing to help.
Some online memorial sites are free, while others offer a free version and a paid version that provides additional features. Completely free options: Memories.net, InMemori.com and WeRemember.com. Additional options: GatheringUs.com, MyKeeper.com (free or $75), and iLasting.com (free, $49/year, or $99 for lifetime membership).
– Online Open House
Online open houses are online opportunities for people to connect with each other over a longer period of time. Many people do these with Zoom, keeping a channel open for several hours.
– DJ an online dance party.
– Organize donations to a favorite charity.
– Create a Google Photos or other online album for others to view or add to
– Share a recipe file from your loved one online.
– Create a memorial video, with video clips and photos of the person. If you don’t have time or video editing skills and have the financial means, you can hire someone else to do it too.
There are lots of books out there. Here are a few that came highly recommended:
Black Widow by Leslie Gray Streeter, “A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words Like Journey in the Title”
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving by Julia Samuel. This book became an instant bestseller in the UK, where Samuel lives and practices therapy. It includes sections on grieving the losses of different types of relationships and a section on facing our own mortality.
For Kids: When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown. A validating and accessible book aimed at kids as young as pre-k through elementary school, with helpful basics about feelings, remembering loved ones, and more that may be useful for people of all ages.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a young neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and wrote this best-selling, inspiring memoir while dying.
Finding Joy by Gary Andrews. When his wife died suddenly, a daily drawing became the way Gary dealt with his grief. This graphic novel style memoir shows him learning how to live, grieve, and be a newly single parent through “honest and often hilarious illustrations have touched the hearts of thousands on social media.” The Making of Finding Joy by Gary Andrews – YouTube video
Some more recommendations:
The 16 Best Books About Dealing With Grief, According to Psychologists – from 2019
Grieving? Read These Five Books in 2020. Latch on to validation, comfort, and hope in the aftermath of loss – from the end of 2019
Reducing Risk of COVID Transmission at Funerals and Memorials
Funerals and memorial services are important opportunities to say goodbye to loved ones. Unfortunately, these gatherings can also be high risk for transmitting COVID-19.
Tips for reducing risk at outdoor funerals and memorial services:
- Individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart at all times.
- Everyone wears masks.
- If someone is unable to wear a mask due a medical condition or if they are speaking to the group and have their mask off, additional distance from the rest of the group helps to reduce risk.
- Do not share or pass around objects, such as books, photos, or other items.
- Anyone with symptoms, even mild ones, does not attend or participates remotely.
- Organizers may choose to share a COVID symptoms checklist with people who are invited and ask them to go through the checklist on their own and make sure they can honestly say “no” to all parts of it – without the aid of medications that mask symptoms.
- Avoid hugs. Hugs at funerals and weddings have been traced to specific COVID cases. If two people decide they want to hug each other anyway and have communicated clearly about it, they can reduce the risk by:
- Both wearing masks.
- Maintaining 6 feet of distance except for the actual hug. Talk before and after from a distance.
- Keeping their faces away from the other person’s body during the hug.
- Turning their faces away from the other person’s face.
- Not touching the other person’s face (even if one or both people are crying).
- Washing or sanitizing hands after a hug.