COVID-19 and social life grief

As the months drag on and the world we live in remains governed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a sense of trying to stabilize in the present by finding  new versions of interaction and routine.

Fears of another lockdown and displays of panic-buying have decreased, yet fear of the unknown longevity of the pandemic remain active. This uncertainty of what the future holds and ongoing limited social gatherings, continue to contribute to the increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression that individuals are exhibiting.  Initially, many individuals anticipated the pandemic would create some short-term impacts, but as we head into the winter months we are recognizing the long-term effects that will continue. Winter often brings more opportunity for seasonal illnesses, shorter windows of daylight to enjoy, and colder weather that deters individuals from the outdoor gatherings that made the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic bearable for preserving in-person interactions. Essentially, we have entered into a period of grief and mourning where we are all grieving the comforts of our old ways of living, interacting, and connecting as we struggle to effectively adapt in the present.

When we hear the term grief we often think of the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and her 5 stages of grief, which include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.  While there is evidence both supporting and against these stages, they are widely known by many. Considering our current state of grief with the coronavirus pandemic, comparison can be made to Kubler-ross’ work as follows:

  1. Denial: “This won’t continue” , & “This can’t be happening to me.”
  2. Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?” “If people weren’t so selfish, this would all be over”
  3. Bargaining: “I would do anything to have my old life back”, & “If only I could go back in time … “
  4. Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything”
  5. Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what is happening”

It is important to note that with grief, it is not always a linear process for everyone, nor do we always pass through all the stages sequentially and in a timely manner. Grief is unique and for some individuals, the stress and symptoms of grief will continue after case counts decrease and restrictions lift, especially if their jobs or relationships have been affected.

With that being said, grief does not have to be endured in isolation just because physical distancing is a new way of life. In fact the key to healthy grieving is to have solid social support. In addition, it is also important to find ways to talk about your grief and ways to connect with others, as they may be experiencing similar thoughts or feelings. The takeaway is to keep checking in on the individuals in your life, find someone you feel comfortable sharing your own concerns and feelings with, and to keep the support going even after this period of lockdown ends.

If you are experiencing the effects of grief including symptoms of depression, anxiety, and social isolation relating to the COVID-19 pandemic and are looking for someone to talk to, then I invite you to reach out and give psychotherapy a try.

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