Grief can be debilitating and an extremely difficult emotion to cope with at any age. Imagine being elderly and having lost someone who has been with you for a big part of your life as a partner, family member or friend. The enormity of the loss, coupled with the overwhelming feeling of loneliness would be just devastating. The pandemic has just magnified grief on so many levels. The bereaved are grieving without their usual support mechanisms. Funeral numbers are capped, social distancing is in place, the usual social and cultural rituals have been restrained and people have not been able to celebrate the lives of their loved ones as they once would have. No wonder we are seeing a new diagnosis of a prolonged grief disorder as people are not getting that closure they need.
Signs of Grief
- Sadness and mourning
- Inability to sleep
- Poor concentration and inability to focus
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and low energy
- Inability to experience pleasure
- Anxiety and despair
Stages of Grief
- Denial – disbelief at losing a loved one and struggling to come to terms with it.
- Anger – moving the grief from the person onto anyone or anything else.
- Bargaining –trying to understand the reason why and control the uncontrollable.
- Depression – sadness and regret related to the loss.
- Acceptance – a final stage of acknowledgement and ability to cope.
How to cope
- Your words matter! Acknowledge the loss and support it. Don’t say “I know how you feel” or “it could be worse”. Just “I know this must be difficult” validates the person’s feelings.
- Just listen. Your loved one may just need to talk about old times or even discuss the events surrounding the death. Be patient and just be there for them in the moment.
- Just reach out and offer what help you can. By bringing the subject up, you are not “reminding them” of their grief, it is always there simmering just under the surface.
- Gently and slowly suggest, or try to introduce, a new hobby or project or even a change in their normal routine – over time. Don’t rush or push this. Try to create new traditions as well.
- See a doctor for medication or seek the guidance of a counsellor if your loved one is struggling to resume their own life again.
There are no shortcuts on grief. Feelings and memories will always resurface when you least expect them to, and that is normal. The first Christmas, Birthday and all those special occasions are always the hardest to get through. You just have to move through it at your own pace. While it is important to remember and honour passed loved ones, there is also an opportunity to make new happy memories with those family and friends still here.
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