Grief and COVID-19 in Amherst, MA—Grief Counselors, Therapists

Grief can often sneak up on a person.  Often it is difficult to identify the experience of grief because “the loss may not seem that great”, or you may just “feel down” and don’t know why? Often in our modern lives people can grieve the disconnected nature of our digital society.  COVID-19 has, for each and every one of us, exasperated that sense of loss in various ways. People who have lost friends and family members who have died from the disease. But the virus has created a sense of loss indirectly as well. I have a good friend grieving the cancellation of his long anticipated wedding.  Another family grieved because their husband and father died in hospital of an unrelated illness, but the family could not be with him because of the hospital’s quarantine due to the Coronavirus.

Believe it or not but many of us are grieving the loss of our livelihood. The loss of one’s job not only causes stress due to financial pressures, but it also is a blow to one’s identity. Our professions are often part of us. We have gone to school, earn degrees and have given years of training and experience to become competent in our field. To have that taken away leaves a profound sense of loss.

The real loss that we all feel day in and day out is the separation from loved ones during this pandemic. Front line medical workers have been staying in a separate part of their homes fearing they may infect their families with the virus, to young children stuck at home away from Grandparents to significant others often are only able to interact by text or Facetime we all grieving the inability to be physically close to one another.

Furthermore, there is also loss that comes from the cancellation of key life events. Students who will miss their chance to go to a prom or walk on stage to receive their diploma. Couples who will need to postpone their weddings or get married at a much smaller gathering than planned, will not experience the wedding that they had dreamed of.

It is important for us to not just dismiss emotions tied to these losses. Rather, we allow ourselves to go through the grieving process. Dr. Curt Thompson offers us a very concise, three-part process for us to express our grief in helpful, therapeutic ways. First, we must articulate what we have lost. We need to state out loud what it is that we lost and why it hurts. What is it about the person we lost or cannot see that we miss? What is it about the event that will now not take place the way that we planned that causes our grief?

Secondly, we need to articulate how the loss is making us feel. Are we sad, angry, lost, lonely? Do we feel helpless, hopeless, and left without a sense of worth or empowerment?

But after we have been able to articulate what we have lost and how it makes us feel, then we need to tell someone else. There is often something very comforting in the interaction with others that can have a very healing effect. Keeping our loss to ourselves and holding our emotions inside prevents this important part of healing to take place.

We may need to repeat this process several times. How many? As often as we need to in order to receive the support we need to bear the pain. How long will this process take? As long as it takes. There is no time limit. And everyone is different. We all go through the process differently at various intervals of time. If the loss is great enough, such as in the death of a loved one, the sense of loss will never go away.

But there is hope. We will find that as we go through the process, our ability to move on in life gets stronger each day. We’ll see that smiles become increasingly more intermingled with the tears. Our ability to endure the pain and continue to function in life gets more consistent. Acknowledging our loss and sharing it with others is how we will all get through this together.

In this difficult time of loss, Thriveworks Amherst has Grief Therapists who have worked with people who have experienced grief due to severe losses.  They know how to walk people through these steps and are willing to help.

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