By Cindy Burdette, LSW, LPC
Grief Counselor

Our clients know that grief affects so many things in their lives — how they feel physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and spiritually. But right now in our community, the COVID-19 pandemic is overshadowing the grief for many of them, and making things even more challenging as they try to manage their grief.

These grieving individuals are experiencing many conflicting emotions as a result of the pandemic. They are missing the person who died even more than normal. This person may have been someone who would have been with them in quarantine, and without their loved one, they feel even more lonely, which makes their loved one’s absence even more painful. On the other hand, the griever may feel relieved that their loved one is not here with them. They may feel glad that their loved one does not have to experience this difficult time in history. On a different day, they may find themselves feeling angry that the deceased isn’t here to help them or comfort them. Anger also becomes an issue when they hear others complaining about being confined with family members, while they yearn to have their family member with them.

We try to remind our clients that all of these feelings are normal. Different feelings may reside in us at different times and sometimes different feelings may reside in us at the same time. The more we resist the feeling, the stronger it will grow inside us. If we can, instead, name the feeling and accept and experience it that will allow it to dissipate.

Things that typically help our clients who are grieving may not be available to them right now. If the loss is very recent, they may not have been able to have a traditional funeral or memorial service (along with the very tactile support from others that often provides). Ann Linnea writes in Deep Water Passage “the cycle of grief has its own timetable. Until that cycle is honored and completed we are moving along life’s path with an anchor down.” COVID19 presents an external anchor that our families have no control over. The things they might normally do to get out of the house and give them a break from their grief (go to the gym, have lunch with a friend or participate in an activity/club/class or volunteer work) have been canceled or closed. They can’t get a hug or a pat on the back because of social distancing.

Together, we have been brainstorming innovative ideas to help those who are grieving manage during this time. Some are very basic, like trying to keep a loose routine in place and trying to get outside at least once a day, even if it is just to walk to the mailbox. Others focus on tending to those feelings mentioned earlier — journaling or talking to a friend or counselor about them. One client is trying to make it a point to reach out to someone she hasn’t talked to in a while at least once a week either by sending a card/note or calling/FaceTime-ing them. Another client has been taking time to organize photos and reminisce about her loved one.

Whether your loved one has died recently or it has been some time since the death, if you are finding your grief more difficult to manage, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Center for Grief Support at 304-264-0406.

Cindy Burdette is a Licensed Social Worker and a Licensed Professional Counselor who has worked with Hospice of the Panhandle for 26 years. She has been in her role as a grief counselor for the last 19 years. She can be reached at (304) 264-0406, ext. 1115 or cburdette@hospiceotp.org