Experts Weigh in on Grieving in the Time of Coronavirus

Dr. Whatley says that this communication goes both ways. Reach out to your loved ones if you’re in a place to support them. “As humans, we are wired for connection and finding ways to connect and grieve together is essential for our wellbeing,” she says. 

Gilliland says grief is “rarely something we do in isolation, and yet we find ourselves in isolation for the betterment of our health,” leaving us with few options to connect. Most of the options, of course, are virtual. 

“Being with your community to process grief is best done face to face. If you can't do that, being on the phone is better than texting and emailing, and that's better than posting something on social media. All of those things are better than isolating and just allowing your emotions and thoughts to spin inside.” 

Grieving in total isolation will just prolong it. Instead, we need to talk to people we love and try to replicate the process in a socially distanced way. “It's how we move through this,” Gilliland says. “And the people that do well are going to be the people that navigate this virtual community.”

Here are a few tips from Dr. Gilliland for reaching out to your community: 

  • Let them know about your loss. 
  • Simply ask if they’d be comfortable with you reaching out from time to time as you grieve. It’s as simple as saying: "I know you're going through a lot, but would you mind if I reach out to you if I'm just struggling or can I send a text?"
  • Try not to be dependent on one person, keep in touch with two or three people you’re close with.
  • Simply ask the people around you if they've got some time to talk.
  • Guard against taking it personal if they don't get back to you promptly.
  • If you’re comfortable, share your feelings on social media. Gilliland says that this gives people the chance to respond and reach out, even old friends you’ve not reconnected with in some time.  

Here are some tips for how to cultivate a community safely amid the coronavirus pandemic: 

  • Start a Meal Train or get a grieving friend a gift card to a local restaurant. 
  • Spend time together virtually if possible using FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Zoom or another video chatting platform. 
  • Go on a social distance walk with a friend or sit at a safe distance apart in your yard to talk. 
  • Ask friends and family via social media to share stories about your loved one. You can even put these memories into a book and keep it to read and revisit, or create a slideshow of your favorite photos of the person you’re grieving. 
  • Create new rituals that make you feel loved and comforted. 

There’s no right or wrong in the way you grieve right now, but as you navigate your feelings and emotions, Dr. Whatley says that habits and mindfulness are especially helpful. “Doing the daily habits for health like walks, getting sleep and eating clean and staying hydrated. Mindfulness is one of the very best tools to practice during times of grief. During these times of grieving, we want to find ways to nourish ourselves and not leave us depleted.” 

Grief doesn’t stop just because we are unable to gather — so maybe next time I won’t cover my camera when I cry in the middle of a Zoom call. I’ll just let my virtual community do their thing. 

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