Grief, Loss and Covid
by Teresia Smith
Grief is an overwhelming emotion for many people. Grief doesn’t only occur after a death. Grief may arise from the death of a loved one, a scary diagnosis or a health crisis, loss of a job, the loss of a relationship, enduring a sexual assault or having to leave their life behind to escape domestic violence or even feeling overwhelmed by so many changes. Victims may find themselves feeling numb and detached from daily life, unable to carry on with regular responsibilities while feeling deeply burdened.
Grief is a natural reaction to loss and is both a universal and personal experience. Individual experiences of grief vary by each person and can be affected by the nature of the loss. There is no right or wrong way to grieve a loss, and no one grieves on the same timetable. Adults and children grieve differently.
This year has been stressful for both adults and children. Sometimes we forget children feel many of the same things adults feel but don’t have the coping skills to handle those feelings well. Due to social distancing, many normal activities have been curtailed and left gaps in our lives. Maybe we aren’t visiting our elderly relatives in an attempt to keep them safer. School is different, sports are different, not being able to enjoy a dinner out, going to a store is different. These are losses our children may be feeling that are resulting in a feeling of grief, and we need to be conscious of that to support them. You cannot always protect a child from the pain of loss, but you can help them feel safe and loved. By allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, you will build healthy coping skills that come in handy in the future.
In addition to encouraging your child to talk about how they feel, trying to maintain a routine may also help. We are creatures of habit, and when things are normal, we feel normal. Continuing regular bedtimes, mealtimes and playtimes can provide a sense of safety for your child. This predictability provides a sense of rhythm and sends calming messages to your child.
Make time to do some fun activities such as playing at a park, talking a walk or even a mini-vacation. Turn off the news. Eat healthy foods. Take a walk. Consider ways you can stay connected such as social media, or for children, maybe a pen pal. Many are using technology such a video chat to maintain contact with those they are unable to visit.
Children often model their parents, so if you are stressed out, they will be, too. Make sure you are practicing self-care, and pay attention to your stress and feelings of grief. Lead by example by sharing your feelings and ways you deal with them. Communication is key. Make sure your children feel safe asking questions. Keep your answers honest but age appropriate. Remember, it’s okay to say you don’t know something, and that you will find the answer and let them know. Children need to hear the message that they are safe and secure. They may worry because they overheard you express your fears to another adult. Reassure them by talking about ways your family is protecting them such as handwashing, wearing masks and avoiding crowds.
Loss and grief will be always be a part of our lives, and helping our children work through those feelings is important. How we handle those feelings will determine whether we heal and move forward in our lives.
Crisis Services of North Alabama strives to create a community where we listen, show compassion for those who are hurting, and encourage them as they travel the road from victim to survivor. If you have experienced intimate partner violence or sexual assault, Crisis Services of North Alabama offers free and confidential services such as crisis counseling, referrals, court advocacy, and support groups. We may be reached locally at 256.574.5826 or our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000. You are not alone.